It’s been two weeks since my last blog posting for what was supposed to be a weekly blog. I blame Newt Gingrich. Yes, according to Newt, since I grew up poor, I just didn’t have the work ethic required to write last week. I didn’t have a blogger role model, no examples of anyone who not only shamelessly self-promoted themselves on social media, but also consulted other small businesses and entrepreneurs on how to do the same.
Seriously, I was not in a good place last week. I wrote a rather lengthy blog, titled, “My Open Letter to Newt” and it was motivated by anger at the blatant disconnected, racist ignorance that came from Mr. Newt’s speech. His exact words were,
“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday."
I chose not to post my blog because it was mostly motivated by negativity, I don’t need to defend my upbringing or how poor I was raised, or how many mayors, doctors, and even rocket scientists were borne out of that same poor ghetto on the South Side of Providence, RI.
Growing up, I watched my dad work in a factory, take night classes, and work his way to earning a degree in auto repair. I worked with my father at the family business, a modest auto repair shop that he would go on to sell 20 years later. Today, it’s a Nigerian Credit Union, go figure. I hated working at the garage, waking up early on Saturday mornings, giving up my cartoons to lug a tool box around a junkyard, or fix flat tires, or change brake pads with a floor jack out in the cold. But I’m eternally grateful for that experience, because it taught me the value of a dollar. By 16, I was selling used cars and mastering my pitch and watching my father negotiate invoices with his best customers.
I thank my parents for my work ethic for they provided a great example for me, but ultimately it was my decision to heed their example. We simply cannot point the finger at a group of disenfranchised individuals, at an entire race, or at a socio-economic bracket and make blanket statements. We have to stress individual accountability and responsibility. We have to instill a strong work ethic in all of our youth, both rich and poor, because knowing how to ‘hustle’ is not a socio-economic paradigm. A strong work ethic is something that used to be taught in the family structure, working on a farm or pitching in around the house, or helping to run the family business. Others may say it is something you are born with and you either have it or you don’t.
I’m so glad I waited a week to do another blog posting because I read something this morning. A great, refreshing, article on Gigonomics. It inspired me to pick up this blog again and give it a positive spin. It’s a very different world out there and it will continue to change. Babson College is teaching this new type of ‘work ethic-business’ and its called “The Babson MBA” It not only teaches entrepreneurship, but how to live entrepreneurially as well.
Babson College President Schlesinger referenced the term “Giganomics,” coined by Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and Newsweek. As Brown describes it, “Instead of jobs for life, we rely on a series of ‘gigs,’ some regular, some not. No one I know has a job anymore. They’ve got gigs: a bunch of free-floating projects, consultancies and bits and pieces they try to stitch together.”
“At Babson, there’s a professor who teaches “Giganomics,” who explained to Schlesinger that you need to stop thinking about a job or a classical career. Instead, you need to decide how you’re going to move from gig to gig in a way that marks progress. Today, the world’s already unstable, and so you need to find a way to ground that.”
The idea of studying for a career and landing a job in that career when you graduate is dead. Times have changed. Today you need to stand apart from the millions of other people who have your ability and talents, and the only way to do that is with your work ethic. Your ‘hustle.’ So if they are starting to teach “Giganomics” in college (and it WILL catch on hopefully), what can we do with our young people BEFORE college, and AFTER they graduate to help them become part of the economy?
Teach Young People to Value their Network (before college)
I recently helped my son get a job at a local print shop. He also worked this past summer as a landscaper for my brother-in-law's company. There were many lessons to be learned here, the main one is that you have to have relationships with people in order to network with them. You vouch for people, recommend people, and people offer you an opportunity based on your reputation, or your sponsor’s reputation. I told my son that he can’t let me down, that I had vouched for him, that he must perform well, and that he must be prompt, responsible and accountable. Message: begin building a good reputation as a dependable, hard worker with a good attitude at a young age.
Always think about how you can turn the job or opportunity you have now (whether its a paid or unpaid position) into the next GIG.
If you own a business, employ a college student as an intern, a recent graduate or a veteran. Mentor, inspire. Give back and share the knowledge.
This past summer I offered a non-paying internship for a son of a friend of a friend. Again the network thing is huge here. The young man came with a good recommendation from a long time friend. Did I need him? Probably not, but I gave him a chance. I know that along the way, people gave me chances. I knew that he would benefit by listing my design firm on his resume, more than I would benefit from his contributions in the office. And that’s OK.
I currently use two young freelancers at my firm. One is a recent graduate and the other will graduate in May. In addition to a competitive hourly wage proportionate to their experience and skill level, I offer them life advice, business advice and mentoring. They are allowed to listen in to client pitches and staff meetings with clients. I want them to learn how I operate and how I run my business. I want to teach them my work ethic. Can I run the shop better if I only use more seasoned employees and freelance resources? Perhaps. But giving young people within my network job opportunities is my way of giving back and sharing my good fortune that I’ve not only worked so hard for, but have been given opportunities to achieve. I benefit from lower overheads/lower hourly rates, and they benefit from the additional on-the-job training.
Each one, help one
To small business owners and entrepreneurs out there: we must all do our part to instill a strong work ethic in our youth, whether they be rich or poor, black or white and we can do so by offering more internships, apprenticeships, recommendations and referrals. And to the young people entering school, graduating school, and to the displaced, unemployed or under employed: you might want to brush up on your Giganomics, get on that grind, hustle-hard, never give up and good luck on your next gig!
Networking Advice in Today’s World
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