Introduced to the Broom
This famous line was used by Andrew Carnegie in 1885, in an address to the students of “Curry Commercial College” in Pittsburgh. A reflection on what the importance of right attitude and mindset for the young ones entering the corporate world.
I hired an uber recently. As a rule I don’t indulge in small talk with drivers. Usually I am on the phone returning calls. I am also not very comfortable chatting up with strangers.
But this particular day was different. There was some sort of strike/hartal in Kerala. I was returning from the doctor and I got this cab after waiting for an incredibly long time.
I was very grateful that he accepted the ride given the political climate in the city. And I expressed my gratitude as I soon as I got into the car. This worked as a conversation starter.
This is what I discovered about the driver
- He is a graduate who worked in some highly specialized field in the middle east, in the area of quality control
- He lost his job and returned to Kerala. Due to the high specialization of his field he has been unable to find the same work in Kerala.
- The other office jobs he got was not offering as much as he needed to make ends meet.
- He is married and has a little boy. His widowed mother is also a prominent local politician
He joined Uber as he was reasonably happy with the money he made. He started as early as 4:30 am and drove around till 6 pm (sometimes later). His take home was around INR 1500 to 2000 per day.
There are 2 things which you should note here:
- My driver is a graduate with very good communication skills. He would have easily got a job in one of the outsourcing firms in the city; albeit with a huge cut in earnings
- His mother, as I mentioned, is an influential politician. She could have also helped him get one of those “office” jobs but the money would have been lesser
Our guy considered the various options and took the best course before him. In his own words,
“I am working hard. I am making good money. My family is proud of me”
None of the stigma associated with being “just a driver” here. I felt immense respect for him.
Dignity of Labour
In my line of work, I interact with a large number of students who are either in their final year of studies or have just graduated.
On the one hand we have study after study lamenting the deplorable state of education and as a result, the employ-ability of our youth.
While that issue hangs like the sword of Damocles, many of our graduates don’t accept employment because they believe certain jobs are “beneath” their dignity.
My father is an entrepreneur. When he started out on his own, his first venture was a retail outlet in the middle east. The time frame was late 70s — early 80s. The middle east was a far cry from what you see now. Visa problems aside, getting help was out of the question as they were also in their startup mode.
My father was a majority shareholder in the business. He would come 2 hours prior to the opening time and clean the premises. And then change his shirt before the shop opened for business.
Four decades later, when we started out with Fourth Ambit, my colleagues and I have often taken the broom to clean up after we have a party…or sometimes just because the help did not turn up for 3 or 4 days. I doubt if this has even crossed their minds as a “big thing”.
While we would “stoop” down to such levels, I was not even aware that Andrew Carnegie himself had coined this usage of “Introduce to the broom” — where he strongly recommends that when you start on your career, start at the lowest level. Pick up the broom and clean the room if needed. It is only recently that I came across this usage in an article written by Ryan Holiday.
Why it’s good to start at the bottom
When you join a restaurant to be trained as a chef, you are sent to cut onions or peel potatoes for days at a stretch. When you get recruited as an Area Sales Manager from a B-School, you are sent to a territory to work with field officers and learn the tricks of the trade. This way you will be able to appreciate the complexity of the organization. When you go from ground up you will know the system so well, that you will be able to provide solutions based on keen understanding of ground reality and not just textbook knowledge; thereby making you an invaluable asset to the organization.
Unless you pay your dues, your team will never respect you.You do not start your career as a chef by preparing dishes at the Michelin star restaurant. You start with the potatoes.
Sometimes, you may not always be put on the lowest rung of the ladder. At times, it would be just the need of the hour which puts you in such situations. When that happens you jump in and get your hands dirty and you will see that, you are striking gold. You learn lessons on facing challenges head on, on solving issues that seem unsolvable
I leave the new lot of Job seekers with this thought:
- As long as your integrity is not compromised, do whatever it takes to get the job done.
- There are no lowly jobs — only lowly mindset
- The BEST way to get the better role, is to do the current job exceedingly well — even if it is to sweep the room 🙂
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