Yesterday, I suggested that work is about more than money. It’s about meaning. And when we don’t equip and encourage our young people to “work” we do them a disservice. We clip their wings. They become disabled when it comes to living a healthy life. They’re unable to be productive adults.
The largest unemployed demographic in the US continues to be young adults, 16-29. The reason is not merely a bad economy, although that hasn’t helped. For many, jobs are readily available. Sadly, the jobs that are available are “too low” for teens to take; they’d rather pass them off to immigrants. (In recent focus groups, adolescents told me that yard work or working in a fast food restaurant is “below” them).
Let me suggest some fundamental benefits that work offers us, as people. When we labor at something meaningful—offering goods or services to our community—we engage in an activity that benefits us far more deeply than financial. Consider this:
1. Good work helps us identify our gifts.
When we get a job, we can experiment with tasks that can confirm where our greatest gifts and talents lie. The closer we get to serving in our “sweet spot” the deeper our sense of satisfaction.
2. Good work helps us develop discipline.
When we work on a job, our motivation may only be the paycheck that’s coming on Friday, but along the way, we deepen our disciplines; we hone our ability to delay gratification and get beyond doing only what “feels good.”
3. Good work raises our self-esteem.
I believe working a job typically ends up cultivating our self-image. We gain a deeper sense of pride about ourselves; a greater sense of dignity; we want to live by a higher standard. One proverb says: He that hates discipline despises himself.
4. Good work provides big picture vision.
When we work, we tend to gain perspective. We can see passed ourselves; we are humbled by it. Activities we assumed were easy are now clearly not that easy. We appreciate money and what it buys because we know the hours it took to earn it.
5. Good works furnishes fulfillment.
Finally, when we work at something we believe in, the reward can be internal. More than a salary, we gain in inward sense of gratification. We’ve added value; we can step back and look with satisfaction what we’ve accomplished. This is a divine gift.
If you know a young person who “just isn’t into working”, may I suggest you talk over these five benefits with them? Perhaps they’ve never seen an adult actually work at a job they love. Or, they’ve never seen a job they felt actually mattered. You and I know differently. Let’s get our young people working again. Let’s model for them what it looks like to enjoy work while laboring at something that counts.