Hey 'Occupy', Whatever Happened to Starting at the Bottom and Working Your Way Up?
The gathering known as “Occupy Wall Street” camped out in lower Manhattan is still going strong and it shows no signs of letting up any time soon. Perhaps last week's freak October snowstorm will change some minds.
While the demands of this organization of the disorganized are all over the lot, the college-age kids in the crowd and those who are recent graduates are pushing for the forgiveness of all debt, particularly the hefty college loans that many find themselves saddled with.
And barring a miracle that will forgive those loans, they want and need jobs to pay their debt.
But since the evil capitalists aren’t giving them the jobs they feel entitled to after getting that high priced education, they have no way to fulfill their obligations.
Entitled is a word that doesn’t apply to all the members of the millennial generation but it appears to apply to a large part of the folks who make up the Occupy (fill in your city) movement.
Many say they can’t find jobs. They are angry that their parents and the media sold them a bill of goods that if they got a college education it would guarantee some better level of employment than their peers who didn’t attend college. They are learning a very harsh lesson—in life nothing is guaranteed.
But what made them think that a degree from a four year college entitles or guarantees them to anything?
What skills do they have? What work experience do they have? Is their degree in a marketable skill that society needs like engineering or one of dubious value like ethnic studies? Are they willing to take an entry level job on the lower rungs of the career ladder to gain that vital experience?
Even if they have a law degree or MBA, do they think they should start out as partners in a law firm or senior managers of a company?
That is a second harsh lesson that they are quickly learning. When you enter the workforce, everyone starts at the bottom.
Jerry Seinfeld sold light bulbs by phone. Madonna worked at a Dunkin' Donuts.
And Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard started out as a secretary even though she had a degree from Stanford University. Her advice for success? “Do the best you can at any job and be willing to work your way up.”
I was given a vivid reminder of Ms. Fiorina’s advice on one of my annual trips to Idaho where I took part in “gathering” worlds apart from Occupy Wall Street.
Gathering in Idaho and many parts of the American west is the time of year when the cattle are brought down from the high country summer grazing pastures to lower elevations in preparation for winter.
My hosts at gathering are the Ellis Family, owners of the OK Bar Ranch—Jenn, her husband Shawn and their two grown-up daughters, Kassy and D.J. and teenage son Chandler.
For me this experience only lasts a few exhilarating days but for the Ellis’ and other families like them it’s just another task to complete in a year filled with many tasks.
Kassy and DJ are about the same age as many of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. But age is about all they have in common.
Kassy is a college graduate and is now a registered nurse. But when she graduated with her nursing degree it was difficult finding full time work.
Finally she found a job at the new Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello.
It was an entry level position that many others had turned down because it was a lot of grunt work with a brutal schedule. But she took it gladly because it got her started in her chosen field.
And by taking that tough job she no doubt is earning the respect of her bosses and co-workers. What she learns there will make her a better nurse but more importantly a better person.
The difference between Kassy and the “Occupy” kids goes even further. She isn’t saddled with student loans because she was told at an early age that if she wanted to get a college degree they would have to find the means herself.
And that is just what she did.
When she was 10 years old, using the money she had saved from harvest work, Kassy bought her first cow. Since then she has increased her herd and the sale of the calves all those years paid for her college education.
The young folks of Occupy Wall Street complain about the lack of jobs.
But are they willing to start at the bottom, gain experience and then move up the ladder?
In the final analysis, it’s not where you started that counts. It’s where you end up.
Just ask Jerry Seinfeld.
Patrick Dorinson blogs at "The Cowboy Libertarian" and he can be heard on a radio program with the same name on Sundays, from 3-5 p.m. PT on KFBK radio.