Chapter 51 Summary

No Job Is Beneath You

There is plenty of evidence to prove that young people today feel an increasing sense of entitlement, and that trend is evident in classrooms as well. Pausch sees it first-hand in his classroom. Unfortunately, a large group of seniors have the attitude that they should be hired simply because they have some kind of creative brilliance. The idea of starting at the bottom in the workplace is not appealing to them; they believe they deserve more.

Pausch always tells his students that they should be thrilled to be hired for a job in someplace as modest as a mailroom. They should take the job and, when they get there, they should get really great at sorting mail. It is so unpleasant to hear anyone claim he is no good at sorting mail because the job is so beneath him. There is no job which should be beneath anyone, and anyone who is unable or unwilling to sort mail does not inspire confidence that he can do anything else.

When Entertainment Technology Center graduates are hired for internships or other entry-level jobs, Pausch asks for feedback about how the interns are doing in order to improve the ETC program. It is rare for him to hear anything negative about the employees’ abilities or technical capabilities. If he ever does get negative feedback, it almost always has to do with graduates feeling too big for the jobs they are in; these employees are often looking past their present positions with distaste as they believe themselves already worthy of a corner office.

At fifteen, Pausch hoed strawberries at an orchard, and most of his co-workers were day-laborers. Several teachers also worked with him, earning some extra money over the summer. One day he told his father it seemed as if this job was beneath the teachers. Of course, he was also implying that he was too good for the job as well. Pausch’s father gave him an unforgettable lecture, the “tongue-lashing of a lifetime.” He told his son that he would rather have him work hard to become the best ditch-digger in the world than become some kind of elitist worker who coasts in his job, impressed with his own self-importance.

After his father’s lecture, Pausch returned to the strawberry field. He still did not like the job, but he heard and understood his father’s message. Pausch paid a little more attention to his attitude and worked a little harder as well.