Advice for young workers

Disclaimer: There are some exceptions to what I’m about to say. I will say that the more money you make the less likely the following observations will apply to you. The closer to minimum wage you make the more certainly they will apply to you.

If you’re just finishing high school and are about to enter the adult work force your brain is probably full lofty ideas about what to expect. You were likely raised to believe that if you work hard all your dreams will come true and that business are looking for bright, creative problem solvers who are energetically looking to change the world. You may have also had it beat into your head that all humans were created equal and everyone has the right to life, liberty, dignity and the pursuit of happiness. Well, let me save you a few years of slow, painful, confused disillusionment and just pop your bubble right now. All of those promises were lies.

The economic system you will spend the rest of your life in was not designed to help each and every individual achieve their full potential. It was designed to make business owners and investors as rich as possible at all costs. Bear that in mind when you apply to work at a business. Their bottom line is not their workers. Their bottom line is their owner’s and investor’s bank accounts. The people who will be interviewing you understand this, and if they don’t make as much money for their company as possible they’ll lose their job, which is tantamount to a bullet in the head. So the last thing they care about is your happiness, potential or fulfillment.

Managers aren’t generally responsible for improving their company. Those kind of big decisions are made by people who do business on the golf course and never get their hands dirty. The job of your manager is that of a slave driver. They take orders from above and make sure everyone below them keeps their noses to the grindstone. The last thing in the world they want to hear an interviewee say is, “I’m a genius who wants to change the world. I’m a creative problem solver who can help you improve your business.” If you tell a prospective employer anything remotely similar to that all they’ll hear is, “I’m going to question you instructions at every turn and be a huge pain in your ass. Plus, I’ll probably end up quitting when I realize I’m nothing but a disposable cog in a machine that will be worn down, broken and replaced at your convenience.”

If you want to win the interview game, don’t tell your boss how bright and creative you are. Instead, stress how eager you are to serve and how good you are at following orders. You don’t want to come across like you can’t think for yourself, but when in doubt, err on the side of caution. It’s better to come across as an obedient dog than a self-respecting human being.

When you do finally begin your life of thankless toil, remember to live up to the promises you made in your interview. Never tell your boss any good ideas you have for the business. It’s not that they’ll see your potential and realize that you would be better at their job than them and thus feel threatened by you. There’s no chance of you taking their job. Business doesn’t work that way. They’ll just peg you for an insolent brat who doesn’t know your place. So do like your boss does and don’t ask questions. Just take your orders and complete them, and remember, flattery will get you everywhere. Even though, in reality, you and your boss are truly equal from a cosmic perspective, in the corporate ladder there’s a glass ceiling separating your classes. You’re a second class citizen to your boss and a third class citizen to the owner of the company you work for. So address your superiors the way a slave would address their master: by calling them “sir” or “ma’am” gratuitously. And always smile and pretend that the greatest thing to ever happen to you in your life was the day you were granted the esteemed privilege of sacrificing your life to make your employer richer. They’ll appreciate that. They won’t appreciate it enough to pay you a fair share of the profits your work generates for the company, but they’ll appreciate it enough not to fire you and replace you with the next poor person willing to trade their dignity for a paycheck.

If this kind of life doesn’t sound appealing to you then start your own business, and do the future generation a favor: Don’t run it the way your parent’s generation runs their businesses. Give your employees a fair share of the profits they generate and treat them like they’re more important than your next car.

P.S. If you think the point of this post is actually to advocate that young workers should give up on their hopes and dreams and accept a life of indignity and degradation then you have no sense of sarcasm.

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Originally published at on October 4, 2013.