Most of us work hard at what we do and many of us take satisfaction in doing our jobs. But every day I see society honor only a select subset of professions with extreme reverence and it’s getting a bit annoying. Apparently, some professions deserve holidays while others don’t even deserve a minute’s thought. Of course, jobs whose practitioners put their life on the line deserve extra support and honor. But for those professions whose practitioners don’t put their life at stake shouldn’t be put on more of a pedestal. It’s not that they don’t deserve to be honored and respected, but so does everyone else that does a hard day’s work in a way that contributes to society. They all do things that keep the gears of our society and economy turning. They enable other people to get their jobs done, survive, be healthy, be entertained and to lead happy lives.
In the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “the children are our future;” parents and teachers are important in getting kids educated and started on the right path. But what extra credit do the engineers who design the computers they use and the manufacturing workers who build the school buses get? None.
So as not to offend, I’ll reiterate that I think a fireman or soldier who is willing to put her/his life on the line deserves extra respect. They are protecting our way of life and our safety, both of which are paramount. However, many people who work in these professions never see danger or risk. Should we distinguish between the types? Another way to look at this admiration for professions is to look at who’s willing to do a job. If you can say, “I would never do that job,” then a person in that job deserves your respect. A while ago, I wrote a blog post about how janitors and farm workers should get paid more than entertainers or professional athletes because they do what others refuse to do. They do unpleasant "un-fun" tasks. Actors, artists and athletes may work hard. I don’t want to denigrate their efforts. But let’s face it; despite the long hours and negatives, what they do is mostly fun.
Another factor to consider is scarcity of skills. Some people should be respected more than others because they can do what others cannot do. Engineers, creative types, scientists, doctors go through training programs for which many people can't get admission. If you can say, “I could never do that job,” then a person in that job deserves extra respect from you. Truck drivers and factory workers never seem to get the respect they deserve for the often monotonous or repetitive nature of their jobs.
Scarcity of abilities drives high salaries for jobs needing those abilities. Obviously, our capitalistic society idolizes people that make a lot of money. I would argue that some professionals are overpaid so this concept often gets taken too far. My opinion is that many CEO’s are overvalued. Their contributions aren’t worth $1,000 a minute and although many would argue with me, I really don’t think their skills are that rare. They often rise to the top for reasons far different than talent or capabilities. The high salaries attract the greediest, not necessarily the most competent. They often forget that their livelihood rests on the people that get the products or services to market and allow for profits. But most of them still deserve respect. They usually work very hard in a high pressure job. On the flip-side, If Michael Jordan played basketball better than any other human on the planet during his career and he made tens of millions of dollars for his team, the NBA, and the companies whose products he endorsed, then he deserves every penny he received.
Only professions that make money by unfairly exploiting others or harming others are the ones that should be disrespected for what they do. That is simple. It’s interesting how we give extra credit to professions that put their lives on the line, help children or help others in extreme times as well as those who make a lot of money. I’m often guilty too. But I’m writing this blog post to offer up the idea that we should think differently. Anybody that puts in effort to contribute to society in an ethical manner deserves respect. Pat yourself on the back for all you do regardless of what you do.