I’ve gotten a bit of flack over my “Occupy” rant. Just a quick note: I’m not so unlike you, protesters. I can empathize with the large number of currently unemployed college graduates. I graduated in May of 2002 with a degree in finance. I imagine that the job market for graduates with finance degrees during the summer of 2002 was similar to the job market for asbestos salespersons in the 1990s. I sent out resumes to over 100 companies. I groaned as my search broadened from large financial firms to insurance firms to pretty much anyone who would hire me.
You know what’s weird? I didn’t once think “I should protest these companies who aren’t hiring.” I did think, “I’m obviously not valuable enough to hire.”
My massive search yielded only one finance-related result: a part-time bank teller position. I applied and accepted, effectively tossing my pride into the gutter with the stock market. The bright side: I had no where to go but up. Motivated by a desire to live above the poverty line, I began taking any and every corporate training course that the bank allowed me to sign up for. I spent a ton of time asking my bosses to give me specific things that I could be doing to improve my chances of moving up and/or getting pay raises. I spent my time away from work studying the advice I was given.
Did I think that I deserved better and that the bank was getting a steal by paying me only $7/hour? Yes. Was I wrong? Absolutely. Truth: I didn’t deserve better. I was way more ignorant than I care to admit. I didn’t “deserve” anything. Also, for the education and experience that I was able to obtain (and put on my future resume) I should have been paying the bank to employ me.
Just because you work hard doesn’t mean that the world owes you something for your labor. However, the people I admire most have shown me this: when you partner common sense with integrity and hard work, success inevitably follows…not because you are entitled to it or because it is deserved…but because society desires to reward you with it.
My problem with the “occupy” protests is this: I believe that there are a lot of smart people out there who disagree with me and who are protesting. What if they stopped focusing on what they believe others are doing wrong and focus more on what they can individually do right? They would have a powerful platform. As it is, the protesters are treating the economy as if it is some fat, evil mob boss whom we can convince to stop terrorizing citizens with his dastardly ways if we promote awareness of our cause by grouping together and yelling at him. The economy doesn’t work like that. The only way for the economy to improve is for millions of Americans to individually make the most of every little opportunity through diligent work (like we always have). Is it hard? Absolutely. I’d prefer a protest where the leader says, “Go home. Love your families. Employed or unemployed, successful or down-and-out: work your tails off in every little job you can muster-just like our ancestors did. Watch what happens when we do.” I’d call it Occupy Something Mean