After the Fact: Climbing the ladder

“Only 32 percent of adult employees in the U.S. are motivated at and interested in their jobs.”  So says a Gallup Poll in the February issue of Family Circle magazine. Of that 32 percent, at least half must be nurses and the other half are teachers. How do I know? Well, they sure aren’t doing it for the money! If you’re not a teacher or a nurse but still like your job, you just got lucky and you’re in such a small percentile as to be almost totally overlooked.                                                                                                                                                                             

This poll probably didn’t include farmers and ranchers: if they didn’t like what they are doing, we’d all have starved to death generations ago, but nobody, including the farmers and ranchers, completely understands what it is that motivates them.

It’s interesting to me that people in what we used to consider “entry level” or beginner jobs now expect salaries commensurate with positions requiring greater skills and higher education. Wait ‘til the carhops at Sonic find out that my electrician charges $100 an hour! A recent “expose” about welfare in Dearborn, Michigan reported that a new immigrant, his four wives and children receive as much financial assistance as the salary of a cardiologist on staff at a hospital there.

As most girls “back then,” my first job was babysitting. I could hardly wait until I was old enough to be trusted with the care of children other than my siblings. Then I learned the job included washing a week’s worth of used dishes, running the vacuum or sweeping floors and doing the laundry AFTER getting six kids bathed and tucked into bed. For $.35 an hour. I did it twice before I changed careers: taking in ironing was a lot easier and it paid even more per shirt than one hour of kid-watching. That probably provides insight into my skills as a wife and mother.

Judging from conversations with the Golden Girls at the Alamosa Sr. Center, almost all of our generation worked in a soda bar or coffee shop after school and on weekends.  The pay wasn’t great and tips weren’t even 10 percent, but it was like getting “something for nothing.” Being courteous and helpful was just part of the job, regardless the demands made by any customer. If they didn’t work on the farm, boys were hired at a local “gas station” where they pumped gas, checked the oil and washed the windows of customers’ cars. Not all of us had the elevated jobs like Julia Roberts, who scooped 31 Flavors or Brad Pitt, who walked the streets in a chicken costume to advertise El Pollo Loco restaurants.

Coming from a time when we anticipated having ONE job “for life,” it came as a real eye-opener to learn a “trait” of the millennial bunch is that they change employment every two or three years. We thought more time on the job meant improved performance; they see “too much experience” as stagnation. Where we’d paddle even harder, they just turn the boat around and “go with the flow.” 

“Motivated at” your job was knowing if you didn’t do it, your boss could and would replace you. “Interest in” your job meant you learned, over time, to do it better. And you knew you’d really “arrived” at the top when, instead of answering stupid surveys and polls, you were the one asking the questions.