At the Teen Choice Awards this week Kutcher gave a speech that featured three pieces of advice for young people, all of which were good, but it was his first suggestion that made me stop and cheer. As described by Entertainment Weekly, Kutcher told the audience full of teenagers that jobs are opportunities:
“I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work,” Kutcher said, before describing all the menial jobs he had before striking it famous — including deli worker and Cheerio-dust-sweeper-upper.
“I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job,” he continued. “And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job. And I never quit my job until I had my next job.”
Yes. YES, YES, YES, YES! Get a job, kids. Get a freaking job and do it like it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done.
In this age where everyone gets a trophy, I see so many young people who wave off opportunity. The part-time job isn’t cool, or doesn’t pay enough, or takes away time with friends, or is menial, or just a pain in the butt. But hey, yo, you’re not entitled to an office, or your own computer, or benefits, or a lot of money. You’re not entitled to a title. You’re not entitled to squat. You don’t get anything special because you’re you, no matter how special you are or how many participation ribbons you have. You are entitled to minimum wage work that allows you to learn how to be responsible, follow direction and develop skills. It is completely up to you what you do with it. No one owes you anything.
In high school my mom took me to the mall one day and dropped me off and said, “Don’t call me to come get you until you have a job.” I couldn’t believe it. I was furious, but I had no choice so I went and found one selling shoes at Lady Footlocker for $3.25 an hour. Later I worked in the restaurant at the local Marriott Courtyard. In college at Michigan State I worked at the bar Dooley’s. Let me tell you how much fun it is to work on Long Island Iced Tea night, carrying around trays filled with mugs of the stuff, stepping over vomit, only to get no tips because college kids don’t tip. When I graduated college I worked as an intern at Fleishman-Hillard — no pay, no benefits, no nothing except experience. Then at my first full-time job at an advertising and PR firm in the DC area I hardly made enough money to live so I worked all day as a publicist, ate the 99 cent menu at Wendy’s for lunch because it was all I could afford, and then left that job to head to Tyson’s Corner Mall where I worked at Talbot’s until it closed. I have folded more cardigans than I ever care to admit. Working all day at one job and then late into the evening at another made me VOW that I’d never do that again. I was going to work my ass off to prove myself in public relations and marketing in order to escape that, and I did.
I’ll never forget how angry I was at my mom that day at the mall and how grateful I am to her now, because I learned that I could do things. I had the capability to take care of myself and be at least semi-independent.
And yes, I know these days it’s very hard for anyone to get a job out there, but the fact is that you can figure it out, dear teen. If my 11-year-old can figure out all by himself how to get a job by getting the ladies in the neighborhood to pay him five bucks here and there to do small tasks, you can figure out how to get paid to do some work. Any work. You can have something on your resume. You can learn that you have the power to figure out how to feed and clothe yourself and get a roof over your head someday. You don’t have to love the job — at least not when you’re starting out — you just have to do it.
Kutcher said opportunities look a lot like hard work. He’s exactly right. A job isn’t a fruitless pain in the ass. It’s an opportunity. Thanks Ashton.
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