Nothing too small (Published in Republica)

When I was living abroad, I held several part-time jobs such as a food delivery guy, magazine store cashier, and summer camp counselor, to name a few. Why am I listing these jobs? Because there is a value in work, and no job is too small, big, important, or unimportant. I took those jobs because I chose to, and I am proud of it. When you are abroad and have to support yourself financially or spend time efficiently, you have to take up jobs that you are most likely not so comfortable with at first. Additionally, when you start working and earning at a young age, you start to value money much earlier too.

We should be able to look at any work and find it meaningful. From a chief executive officer, bus driver, and street sweeper to a sales agent, government employee, and police officer—each work presents its own challenges and deserves our respect. People making an ethical living should be esteemed and encouraged, especially in Nepal’s context. Most of us are judgmental and critical of what our neighbors, acquaintances and fellow citizens are doing. We have to give kudos to people who wake up each morning and go to work. There are plenty of avenues we can explore to do something meaningful right here in Nepal, and that can contribute to our society and country. The contribution cannot just be measured in money, since giving our time is as important.

When we go abroad, we have to adjust to a new environment and learn how people go about their daily lives there. Being abroad and working in a restaurant, driving a taxi, delivering food or working at a nail salon is looked upon with great value, and many people do not judge you on your profession. What matters is that you have a job and you are making an ethical living. Certainly, if you ask a friend or family member who has lived abroad, or is currently living abroad, they can relate to you some personal examples of what they went through. If not, they are sure to know someone who is going through such experiences. A lot of hard work and sacrifice is required for people to survive abroad, and you cannot bargain too much on what type of work you would like to do.

Our environment and society play a major role in how individuals perceive labor and the type of work people do. Generally, a Nepali student working abroad at the college cafeteria to pay his or her tuition bills is perceived by society and close family members with more respect than the same student working here in Nepal at the college’s cafeteria for the same purpose. There could be myriad of reasons for this cultural phenomenon, but I truly believe that we should encourage and support young people who have the desire to work. If the youth want to volunteer for a good cause, utilize their time in learning certain skills through internships, or just enjoy doing something because they are passionate about it, then we should admire and encourage them.

Many Nepali students desire to pursue higher studies abroad and if they do not get scholarships, they have to find a way to support their education and living expenses. If we do not teach these students early on the value of work and of being independent, they will have a difficult time adjusting to an “odd” job abroad. In Nepal, I see a growing trend of students working and going to school at the same time. I would like to encourage more students to pursue a passion or part time work when in school. After graduating from college, these work experience(s) count a lot on the student’s resume.

Employers will value students who excelled academically and also held a job during school, because it shows certain attributes of the individual in terms of time management, work ethic and financial independence.

A couple years ago, I read a book titled The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. In the book, the author talks about Fred, a postman who goes out of the way to help his customers. Mark cites how he was taken aback by the friendliness of the postman who delivered mail to his house. Some lessons I took away from the book are that no matter what job you hold, how much you value your job is super important. You should feel important doing the job you currently have, because the job itself is important. Whether the postman in The Fred Factor is a fictional character or a real person, we can learn some important lessons from that book, and I urge you to read it. For example, if you are provided an opportunity to deliver paper, you should highly value the responsibility of delivering the paper to your customers, and try to be the best paper delivery person in your area.

Bal Krishna Joshi shared some of his past work experiences at the World Startup Report held at King’s College. He shared how he peeled onions for 10 hours a day when he was abroad to jumpstart his passion of starting Thamel.com. Thus there is no substitute to hard work, desire and will to succeed.

If you plan to contribute your skills and talent in Nepal or wish to go abroad, cherish every opportunity to learn new skills, gain knowledge, increase your network or hone your talent. Most importantly, do the work that is meaningful and important to you. It is neither productive nor fruitful to worry about how the society will view your profession. So go ahead and do the work you are presented with wholeheartedly. There is dignity in every work.

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