Dear Young People, Some Advice about Work for Labor Day | Opinion

I want to start off on a positive note, so as not to appear like some cranky old guy dispensing advice to younger people. I'll save that for the second part of this letter.

For all of you who recently finished high school, trade school, junior college, college, or graduate school, and are about to enter the workforce, I want to say, Congratulations! Adulthood beckons and I'm excited for you. And rooting for you.

Actually, I'm counting on you to fund my retirement.

Lucky for you and me, this may be the best time to enter the work force in decades. And you have a massive tax cut, a Republican Congress, and an old, crass, orange man named President Donald Trump to thank for it.

I know. You don't like him. And you didn't vote for him.

A whole lot of people who voted for President Trump didn't like him either. They voted for him because they thought a business guy might just be good for business. What a crazy idea!

No matter your feelings about the man on all manner of things, from immigration to the way he's manhandled the NFL, and even his snarky tweets, the tax cuts he signed worked. For all the predictions that his presidency would be a dangerous and unstable one, the economy isn't buying that narrative. Or the media hype.

That's because the economy answers to a higher authority. The all-mighty American consumer, who powers 70 percent of America's gross domestic product.

I know you've been busy kayaking, backpacking and doing what young people do during your final days of summer. So I figured I'd highlight some recent headlines.

"Consumer confidence closing in on a new record high," wrote Seekingalpha.com.

"US economy grows at fastest pace in 4 years," AP reported.

"S&P and Nasdaq close at record highs," the Financial Times noted.

I'm certain you missed the next two headlines in the last free summer you'll have until you retire.

"Unemployment rate matches lowest rate in a half a century," noted CNN Money.

"The US Labor shortage is reaching a critical point," chimed CNBC.

What does this have to do with you? Well, when consumers are confident about their futures, they spend more. And the economy grows. When it grows at its current 4 percent rate, as opposed to the anemic average of 2 percent of the past decade or so, that's good for businesses, workers, and anyone who invests in America's companies—which is every American with a pension or 401k. Teachers, cops, firefighters and nurses across America are reaping the rewards of this economy, and so are the 50-plus million Americans socking away savings in their 401k.

If you don't believe me, ask you parents. Or grandparents.

The historic tax cuts are working, and not just for folks who own stocks.

Though the media ran headlines just after Trump took office predicting a global recession, the economy grew, and kept growing. As it generally does when the geniuses in Washington DC allow the American people to keep and spend more of their own money.

"What does this have to do with my life?" you're still asking.

Easy, Skippy! I'm getting to it.

You see, when the economy grows, businesses hire more. And when businesses keep hiring, labor markets eventually tighten. And soon, there are more jobs than employees.

That's a good thing, in case you're not familiar with the theory of supply and demand. Or math.

Tight labor markets give workers leverage—leverage to ask for a raise or to find better work elsewhere. Good luck asking your boss for a raise when unemployment's high. You're just happy to have a job.

When labor markets are tight, younger workers have opportunities you might not have if older, more experienced workers were competing for your jobs.

Credentialism goes out the door, and employers take more risks. Which means younger workers get a chance to accrue what matters most in life: experience. Real work experience in the real world.

Which, as you will soon learn, is more valuable than most of what you learned in school.

OK. That's the good stuff.

Now for some hard truth.

There are no safe spaces in the real world of work. No therapy pets. No gold stars or social promotion.

There are winners and losers. Sometimes, your work will be rewarded. Sometimes it won't.

You'll face rejection. Get over it. In fact, develop an appetite for it.

You'll bump into obstacles. Work through them.

You'll be on the wrong side of real unfairness. Choose to be a victor, not a victim. It's really a choice.

You'll get your feelings hurt. Get used to it.

You'll fail. Learn from it.

Whatever you do, don't complain. No one cares.

And don't gossip. No one trusts a gossip.

Some people will tell you, "Do what you love!"

That's dangerous advice. Here's a different take: "Love what you do."

When your social justice warrior friends make fun of you for selling out, tell them that someone has to help fund all the programs they want society to pay for. Making money isn't a bad thing. It pays not just your bills, but the bills of the local schools and local government, and the state and federal government, too.

At that first real job of yours, here are a few words to think about. They seem simple, even archaic. They will separate you from the crowd. And your peers.

Commit: It's not easy, and it isn't fashionable, but commit yourself. Throw yourself into things. Come in early, stay late and add value. Work on a weekend now and then. You'll be shocked by how fast you rise. It may become a career, that first job. And whatever you do, avoid the allure of the gig economy. Your friends may be bragging about the freedom it provides. But you won't develop strong work habits gigging. And you won't learn anything about yourself. Think of the gig economy like you'd think about speed dating. It's looks like fun but in time, it'll leave you empty. You only learn about love, and yourself, when you commit to one person. In the age of Tinder and Instagram, being able to make a commitment—and stick to it—will make you stand out.

Care: There's a great lady I've come to know in New York City named Dr. Pamela Newman, and she's a wildly successful insurance executive. She's built a great team—and a great business—on a simple premise: dare to care. It takes daring to care about your work, to care about your customers. And your fellow workers, too. Care, really care, not just about the business but the people and relationships around you. Care about them as much as you care about yourself. Give it a shot. In the age of selfies, self-promotion and selfishness, caring will truly set you apart.

Compete: In business, there's competition everywhere. Be the person on your team who's completely focused on beating your competition, and not your fellow employees. A story. My older brother was a hard-charging executive at Pepsi. He rose to a high level because he so desperately wanted to beat his arch rival, Coke. On my wedding day, my wife wanted Coke to be the carbonated beverage of choice. A perfectly reasonable request, being that it was her wedding! I warned her that if Coke were served, it would irritate my brother and possibly cause a fight. She thought it was absurd. I explained things. We ended up sneaking in Coke for ourselves, and serving Pepsi to everyone else. That sounds extreme, but the point here is simple: play to win. And not against your teammates, but your competition.

Last, as we head into Labor Day weekend, it's worth considering work's moral significance. It is a good thing. Dare I say, a godly thing. If I recall, somewhere in the Old Testament God provided one day of rest per week, not two.

Work creates value in the world. It gives life meaning. Without work, life and community are unimaginable.

In what may be his greatest unknown speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his take on work. As you proceed in life and sometimes wish you were in a more glamorous profession, keep the words below in mind, delivered as only Reverend King could. And be thankful we live in a country where work is ready and available. Respected and rewarded.

"What I'm saying to you this morning, my friends... If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets like Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, "Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."

Words to remember this Labor Day weekend.

Lee Habeeb is a Vice President of Content at Salem Media Group, and is host of Our American Stories, a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

Dear Young People, Some Advice about Work for Labor Day | Opinion | Opinion