I recently visited with a high school “job coach”. This instructor works with local businesses who provide part-time jobs for students to give them an introduction to the working world. Many years ago as a high school business teacher I had a similar program – back then it was called “distributive education.” I found it to be a great learning experience for my students, and some moved right into good jobs with their sponsor employers upon graduation.
I asked the job coach what kind of preparation the student receives before embarking on the job. It was not a trick question, but the teacher was caught by surprise, and really didn’t have an answer. I admitted that my recent experience with school jobs programs as an employer had not been very enjoyable. The student-workers I was assigned were arrogant, lazy, and not really interested in learning anything. It may have just been the luck of the draw. I did my best to get them on track.
At the end of our visit, I offered a suggestion to the instructor. Having been on both ends of the equation – as an employer and a job coach – I think the most important wisdom one can impart to a student, or any job seeker, is an understanding of why a business exists. Most students (and adults for that matter) when asked “why is that grocery store there?” will answer “because we need food.”
And there lies the problem.
I gave my new job coach friend the correct answer: that grocery store exists to make a profit for its owner or investors, who seek to feed their families and improve their standards of living.
It’s a subtle, but important distinction. Yes, we need food. But that doesn’t mean someone else is required to give it to us. Free markets only work when each of us offers something of value to someone else. We must all be producers of wealth or added value. Those who succeed understand this concept clearly. Want to make $5 million a year throwing a baseball? You had better be good enough that people will fork over big bucks to watch you. Do you want to own a business? You’ll do great as long as you offer what a customer wants to buy, at the right price.
Do you want to have a job? Then you had better understand that the only reason someone else will pay you is if you help them make a profit.
And that was my suggestion to the job coach. “Make sure your student goes to the job with the knowledge that his or her purpose is to make money for the employer. And that employers share their profit with their employees – the more you contribute to profit, the more you will be rewarded. The employer owes you nothing, but he is always looking for somebody who will help him make money. When you both are making more money, and spending it, the economy grows and everybody does well.”
A light bulb lit above the job coach’s head. “Why, I never thought of that! What a great idea!”
Yes, it’s a great idea. It used to be what made the world go around. Some may think it’s “old school”, but I’ll put my money on free enterprise, supply and demand any day of the week.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
Big Time, I’m on my way, I’m making it,
Big Time, I’ve got to make it show yeah!
Big Time, so much larger than life,
Big Time, I’m gonna watch it growing!
Big Time, my car is getting bigger!
Big Time, my house is getting bigger!
Big Time – Peter Gabriel
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