13 years ago when I got my first job as a personal trainer at a local 24-Hour Fitness, I was almost 20 years older than most of the other “new” trainers. Now while it may seem advantageous to be a young, fit, 20-something in the fitness industry, a huge issue quickly appeared that differentiated these “youngsters” from this “seasoned broad.” That difference was work ethic – I had one – they didn’t.
Having no clients initially, I walked the floor, re-racked weights, chatted with people offering tips on better lifting form, spotting heaving lifters (the term for helping keep a person safe and the weights stable when power-lifting), or just introducing myself. I even took protein bars, cut them into bite size pieces and offered them as free samples – helping me to make “supplement” sales which was part of my job requirement.
All the while, my co-workers continued to stand and flirt and gawk at my attempts to garner clients. However, within a month I had a full training schedule, while others did not. My required training and supplement sales were on target too. I remember talking at length with the Fitness Manager (a man in his 50’s) who regularly wished he had five more of me.
I was taught (as was a most of my generation and those before me) to work before play. It was instilled in me that if I finished a job-at-hand and there was more time on the “work” clock, then I better go get something else to do before something was assigned to me, or worse, that I would be let go for slacking. Coming off of the Depression, Americans embraced working. They were thankful for jobs and worked hard to keep them and get ahead. But somewhere between the 1960-1980’s our society’s work ethic softened. Perhaps it was the what about me decade of the 70’s, perhaps it was the evolution of values and family structure that lead to this, but I definitely see a difference in how generations born after the 80’s view work.
I see this lack of work ethic still in many kids, teens, and young adults. School age children are receiving more and more homework these days – and without a proper work ethic getting all that work done is bleeding into long nights and weekends. Turn-over rates on jobs from fast-food to offices are high as well because these kids are easily distracted, have poor time management skills, and are often just plain lazy (not my term, this is what business owners tell me).
With this said, I feel it is an important aspect of parenting to teach our children good work ethics, to hold them accountable for their responsibilities (homework and a few household chores), and that once they enter the work-force (no matter how young) they must be on-time, reliable, and diligent.
With unemployment high, there’s huge competition for jobs – not just from our peers – but from other countries as well. When resumes are apples-to-apples, what can set you apart is your work ethic. Letting our youth know that it’s a matter of pride to have a strong work ethic could go far in helping all of the U.S. stay productive and competitive, or at the very least, make one individual’s career more successful.
Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see nighttime parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that you’re offering your bodies and not your brains or hearts, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match your own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem. Our value should not be tied into how we match up with the next girl, or whether a boy finds us attractive.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know I’ve done my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other. Stop competing, start caring about each other and that karma will reward us all.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are the superior gender! (Wink.)