Last week, President Obama announced plans to make changes to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. The President reportedly wants to mandate that businesses provide overtime pay for those who work at jobs in mid-level management and professional levels. Currently, businesses are prohibited from denying overtime to salaried workers making less than $455 per week. The change that the President is proposing would increase that salary threshold to a level between $550 to $970 per week.
The business world is a very competitive place and there is no better place to fine tune your skills for this competition than what was once called the School of Hard Knocks. The first and most important asset one must develop if they want to excel in this or any competitive venture is a strong work ethic. It is the first critical skill each person must possess if they intend to compete and succeed in our world. It’s your own personal motivation that sets the tone. It’s not about your boss or the government — it’s about you.
Possessing that strong work ethic will determine your intent; are you looking for a job or are you looking for a career opportunity? There are many people who just want a job. They want to show up, put in their hours and get the heck out as soon as the clock strikes. In my opinion, those folks should be hourly employees and should receive overtime benefits when allowed to work over 40 hours. Someone who wants an opportunity to invest themselves in a career isn’t interest in watching the clock. They are looking well beyond the immediate future to years down the road and fully intend to make the most of the opportunities afforded them.
Name one athlete or true professional who would not work whatever hours it took and pay whatever price to not only perfect their talents but also to showcase their skills. Practice makes perfect and the positions the President wants to “fix” will only hinder the motivation of individual looking to make a name and move up. At the same time it will stifle the economy of Main Street businesses by removing the ambition and can-do spirit this nation was built upon.
What the President doesn’t understand, having never been in business, is that government intervention is not the solution to fire up an ailing economy. When you are starting out in a new career, those low-paying salaried positions provide tremendous opportunity to show the stuff of which you are made. Most of the positions the President is referencing are entry-level positions where the agreed salary is based on working certain hours and generally the salary level reflects those required hours. Overtime is the contribution one is prepared to put on the table for the opportunity. Anyone in one of those positions who does not see it as an opportunity to learn and grow is only taking the job as a stop-gap measure until something better comes along.
What they may not realize is they just accepted a position similar to a rookie sports contract, one of those starving young entertainers looking for a show biz break, or a young want-to-be politician willing to work for free on someone else’s campaign. They obviously have shown some talent, now they’ve been given an opportunity in the big leagues. Prove themselves here, and they should qualify for an even bigger opportunity at the next level. Take away the opportunity for that person to go all out learning, growing and pushing themselves while showcasing their abilities and they may never have the chance to excel beyond that tightly restricted opportunity.
Let’s face it: no matter how good you are, you need time and a place to fully develop your talents. Putting binders on that opportunity and you will not allow the natural born leaders who may not have been born into the right family, or handed their opportunity with no strings attached, to rise to the top of their chosen profession..
It has been called the American Dream. This young kid, some forty years ago, went from stocking groceries with nearly no college education to exceeding his dreams by working harder, longer and doing whatever it took be noticed. To this day, I still work 50 to 60 hour work weeks as I continue to invest in my career. I’m not that unique, I know many others who have traveled the same path, but I know for a fact hard working people and businesses willing to give them a chance will be severally restricted if the President has his way with this planned action.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.