“Some people don’t want to win. Some people just want to live.”
So concludes Drew Magary in his column “You Shouldn’t Have to be Good at Your Job” (https://gen.medium.com/). Magary makes several observations and arguments that resonate with me, both personally and as a career services professional. I invite you to read the article in full; here are my thoughts.
Everyone is not a leader. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the professional association I belong to, lists leadership as one of eight competencies every student should develop to be “career ready.” One can develop leadership-adjacent qualities like the ability to take initiative or be decisive without wanting to be a leader of people. As educators, we should make that distinction.
Don’t aim to hire the best team; aim to develop the best team. I think of professional sports; there are hundreds (thousands?) of players in those leagues, but only one team wins the championship. Not every player is “the best” at their position; but collectively, they are the best team. And no one knows at the start of the season who will win out at the end. It takes growth, communication, collaboration, and a bit of luck.
“Low-skill” and “middle-skill” are meaningless terms. Increased specialization in the workforce may eliminate these types of jobs, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t have a talent for it and be the best at it. Not just anyone can do any job, and that goes in both directions. (Case in point: Undercover Boss on CBS.)
You do have to be good at your job. I disagree with Magary’s argument that “you shouldn’t have to be good at your job.” As a matter of self-respect, one should strive to be good and to be getting better in whatever work one does. I would instead argue that you shouldn’t have to be the best at your job.
After you read Magary’s column, I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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