While shopping with my family a few weeks ago I noticed a recruitment poster for a local clothing store. “You’re cool. We’re fun. Let’s work together.” I took a picture of that ad, because I wasn’t sure that anyone would believe that the traditional “Help Wanted” signs would ever be replaced with a promise that work was fun.
I’m a big advocate of work for young people. I’ve advised many parents to stop spending money on psychotherapy and instead introduce their teens to the real world of work. Such experiences teach our kids more about responsibility, self-control, compromise and communication than parental lectures at the dining room table.
Perhaps most importantly, entry level positions give kids a sense of the importance of getting good grades and continuing their education. I dropped out of college for a while and ended up working in California at a fast food restaurant. It didn’t take me long to realize that my parents were right. I returned to school and learned to tolerate aspects of college that were boring for the sake of getting a more satisfying job than making roast beef sandwiches for 10 hours every day.
I realize that the “Me” generation is different in many ways than their parents, and is focused more on social connections and a balanced approach to work. Even so, do we want to set expectations that work is really “fun”?
Here’s what I would tell young people about working as a salesperson in a clothing store if I was doing the recruiting.
1. We are paying you to do a job. Our needs are more important than your feelings. There are times you may be tired or bored, but you still must be friendly and engaging to everyone who walks in our store. We consider it “time theft” if you use your cell phone when we are paying you to do something else, and you will be reprimanded and eventually fired if that behavior continues.
2. Work isn’t always fun. We think that creating a warm and friendly environment in our store translates into selling more stuff and making more money. We like to have fun at work, but please realize that many parts of this job are not enjoyable. You’ll need to stock shelves, deal with difficult customers and fellow associates, work long hours, and do the same thing over and over. You are important to us, but not as important as our customers. We can survive without you, but not without the people who buy our merchandise.
3. Teamwork is important, but this isn’t a democracy. We’ll occasionally seek your opinion but we make all the final decisions because we own the store. You’ll need to be supportive of our decisions and not whine to your colleagues or our customers.
Dr. Ramey, who is a child psychologist and Vice President at Dayton Children’s Medical Center, can be reached at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org