Money isn’t the most important thing about your job.

I’m going to walk you through some of my experiences as a young adult about how I learned that what I was making wasn’t one of the most important things about a job.

Shocking right? I mean that’s supposed to be adulting 101, money is the most important thing in a job. Or is it?

Before I explain why I want to make something completely clear: Money is the most important thing in your job if you cannot make ends meet. I lived in a rural area of Utah and with a wife, a baby, and an extremely careful budget I was able to live off of $13/hour.

It’s not that things were easy, but they were very possible.

If your current job cannot meet your needs, then you need to find one that can. My job met my needs, even if I was stretched thin.

Alright, moving on.

I started working at a cabinet manufacturing shop when I was 19. I had moved back home and gotten the cabinet job as my 2nd job. I was able to get a transfer down to the gas station that was close to my family, and I took the cabinet job to keep myself busy.

On the first week at the shop my department supervisor, Chris, found out I was working two jobs. He told me that working two jobs takes a lot out of a person, and if I needed the extra work I could have as much overtime as I wanted so I could at least stay in one place.

So not only did I get to consolidate the places that I worked, but he also made sure I made overtime wages. So I quit the gas station job and took to the overtime at the shop.

Chris was the best supervisor I had ever had. Not only was he easy and fun to work with, but he was also the last man out the door every day. If I was going to work late, he was going to work next to me, and vice versa.

One night we were rushing to get the jobs out and we had been there hours past closing. I was hungry and more than a little cranky. He used his keys to get into the break room (the office area with the break room is locked up after normal business hours) and brought back some food.

Now there were personal pizzas in the freezer with a jar that said: “$2 a pizza” from one of the other co-workers in the shop. Chris had paid for food for himself, and me, plus some drinks from the vending machine. Altogether maybe $4. He said thanks for helping me stay late, let me at least give you a midnight dinner.

While this was a very simple gesture it made the world of difference to me. It was his own money. It was an act of kindness not required, but given freely, and I honestly felt more valuable to him than to any boss/supervisor I had ever worked for.

It wasn’t just the act, but how he did it. He didn’t do it to collect favor. In fact, it was almost thoughtless. He just did it.

Years later after he had been promoted to higher management he would still wander into our department when he heard we were working late, bringing pizza, or sandwiches and some drinks. These weren’t company paid expenses. These were his personal thank you for going above what was required. He wanted us to know that if nothing else, he cared. 

 

I have never been more loath to leave a job as when I left that shop. I think about working there all the time. But it has almost nothing to do with the company, and everything to do with how I felt I was valuable.

I had turned down jobs with much higher pay in favor of working there. Why? Because the most valuable thing I’ve ever had in a job, the thing I crave most, is the feeling of being valued. As a human being, as an employee, and as a friend. I would have taken a pay cut and still worked there for those reasons.

It’s easy to blame problems in the workplace on your paycheck, or lack thereof. But I’ve found that most problems come down to people not feeling valued. It’s hard to give it your all when you don’t think anyone will notice. It’s hard to be motivated when there isn’t even a thank you said in your general direction.

I think rather than teaching that money is the most important aspect, that it’s basic adulting 101, we should be teaching and showing that being valued is far more important. I honestly don’t believe money is the most important thing in a job. But being valued is.

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