Paying One's Dues

What actually does paying one's dues mean?

Does it mean that in order to be successful (depending upon what success means to you) one must battle through 80 hour weeks for so many years in order to move up the corporate ladder to a position that pays well...

just because someone before you had to jump through pointless hoops for no reason therefore you need to do this too?

Well, that does seem a little out-dated if one were to ask me but on the other side of the coin, the military still believes in that type of practice because it lays the foundations of discipline and respect and generates good followers and good leaders.

And, while that might be true, is there a better way to do this than to just have people jump through hoops like some sort of fraternity initiation?

We are not looking at the crafts people, but if we were, they have 3 stages that all applicants must pass through:
  1. Apprentice
  2. Journeyman
  3. Master

There is no designated time duration that is assigned to each stage but the point of this progression is to gain enough experience from life to move forward naturally with the one at the top deciding when that time is for each one who has been accepted.

Outside of crafts and trades, let's take a looksee at Instructors/Professors who want to teach right out of Graduate School, either with a Masters or a Doctorate; obviously, they have the educational credentials to teach with all those years spent in a classroom and doing research but the question is, can they teach just because they have earned those advanced degrees?

If we were to talk to most PhD's they would no doubt say yes because they might perceive teaching as simply conveying information to other who may or may not want to receive it. Their lectures may be full of an incredible amount of information but quite possibly be boring as hell that goes “over the heads” of most of their students. They may think that the best way to test for retention is to get the students to memorize.

Are these brand new teachers at the level of Master or somewhere below that level?

So, no one (for the most part because there are exceptions) jumps into their “dream” job right out of college or high school... as, all entry level positions, regardless of hourly rate or salary, will start the applicant out at the bottom.

After I graduated with my MBA, I was already in a position so there was really no place for me to go except to another employer for more money; but, those newly graduated MBAs need to be “groomed” as the phrase goes and will typically spend about 6 months in all the departments of the company to get an idea of what is taking place in that area.

And, since they have earned an MBA, they are certainly educationally and intellectually capable of NOT needing to do that, but the “Pros” at the top of the organization think it will be better for the company in the long run to spend a little time in each one of these areas.

It is called “paying one's dues.”

Let's look at the new sensational singing group, One Direction. They were individual singers who Simon Cowell perceived would be better if they joined forces which they did, proving him right and overnight they were the “talk of the town.” And, they were on talk shows, giving concerts, on tour, etc., and for this young group, they are learning how to pay one's dues.

And, they may have to do this for 2-3 years, if they stay together that long, until they are put into a position where they can call the shot about what they are or are not going to do. And, while they are paying their dues they will all get “filthy rich,” in the process.

Everyone, regardless of profession, experience, and talent must realize that they will need to pay their dues.

In the age of seemingly overnight Internet millionaires, it’s easy to forget that success comes from years of hard work. Even the overnight successes weren’t really overnight. Take Facebook for example. Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook back in 2004. In just a few years it has become one of the most trafficked sites on the internet and has made Zuckerberg a millionaire.

While it seems Facebook is your typical overnight success, it was actually years in the making.  Zuckerberg started programming back in middle school. While most teenagers were playing video games and watching MTV’s Total Request Live, Zuckerberg was hammering out code.

Consequently, when the idea came to Zuckerberg in his dorm room, he was ready with the knowledge and skills to build Facebook. Even after Facebook launched it would take a few years for the site to grow to where it is today.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he posits that greatness comes through adherence to the “10,000 hour rule.” Pointing to people like the Beatles and Bill Gates, he argues that their success came from practicing their skills for 10,000 hours, not through some inherited genius.

So, here is an easy question for you to answer that may have serious but hidden implications if your answer is found out later to have been wrong.

Would you want to go to an Oncologist who just finished paying his/her dues for 12-15 years or an Oncologist who had paid his/her 12-15 years of dues plus had another 20 years of experience behind them on which to rely?

This might be an easier question to answer:

  • Would you want to hire an attorney that had just passed the Bar Exam or an attorney that had been practicing for 10 years or more?
  • Would you want to hire someone right out of college and give them the “keys to the Kingdom,” so to speak?

Believe me, there is nothing wrong with wanting to get to the top as quick as you can, but what are you going to do once you get there and you discover that you have not been adequately prepared to handle the job?

  • Are you going to tell someone that you are not prepared”
  • Are you going to try and fake it and hope that you don't get caught?
  • Are you going to try and acquire quickly what you don't know?

Ok... here is another scenario...

You have just graduated from Harvard with a degree in Management on an Academic Scholarship and return to the South to step into the job of Plant Manager of a company that makes metal tubing for the automotive industry and your company has contracts with all the automobile manufacturers. Everyone on the production floor has over 20 years of experience doing what they are doing and you have none. 

On your first day, you call all the manufacturing employees together to introduce yourself to them and at the end of your introduction and other announcements, you ask the group for questions and they want to know:

  1. When are they going to get a raise and if it will be more than last year even though they know that business has not been robust.
  2. They tell you that the engineering specs are wrong and they refuse to produce poor quality work until they are changed.
  3. They tell you that safety conditions are not according to OSHA and as a result they want to form a union and until you allow them to meet with a union representative, they will not work.
  4. Some of the male employees accuse the female supervisors of sexual harassment.
  5. They also informed you that the old plant manager did nothing but lie to them all the time.

These would be tough situations for an experienced Plant Manager to handle let alone some“ rookie;” and, you are fully aware that your future employment is contingent upon how you handle your responsibility during your first 90 days to 6 months.

You cannot go back to your textbooks because there is nothing in them that addresses any of these situations. However, since you went to school at Harvard which relies heavily on the CASE STUDY methodology of teaching, you may have discussed something similar to this in class, but not exactly. You remember that most of your Professors had only the experience of Academia and those who had “real world” experience only taught in Graduate School.

Don't you wish you had “paid your dues” a little first?

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