Pay shouldn’t matter
“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
It took me five years to understand what Confucius meant with those words. I would be a hypocrite if I say I don’t dream of a highpaying job. I have a lot of reasons to dream of one. I did my job well as a student and finished college with flying colors. But for five
years, I stuck to a job with a salary that could barely tide me over for a month. It was the most tiring and demanding job one could
ever have. Nonetheless, it was to me a rewarding experience.
My father’s political connections served me well. Three days after graduation from college, I got a call from an employer who was my
father’s acquaintance. My first job gave me an opportunity to serve my hometown. I remembered what my senior-class adviser had
told me: I should accept the first job offered me whatever the salary. And the salary was just enough.
I enrolled in law school, which made things worse. I had two siblings studying. When I was presented with another job opportunity in
the city near the university where I was enrolled in, I didn’t waste time in submitting an application. That ended my three-month stint
with my first job.
After two rounds of interviews, I got my second job. A former pastor of ours had built me up with my employer, so I easily got the
job—one I never imagined I would hold on to for five long years. From that time on, my life was never the same.
My second job fit me well. It was at a budding college at the heart of the city proper. I was secretary to the school director and, at the
same time, a part-time teacher in the college department. I am a legal management graduate but I managed to earn some units in
education, and I eventually passed the licensure examination for teachers. Thus, part-time teaching was not a big concern even if I
was a law student at the same time. But that was not the only work I handled. I would run out of space if I were to name my tasks
one by one. I was a jack of all trades, so to speak, and a master of none. But I enjoyed it.
I was under four bosses, serving one after the other. It was for me a very nice workplace—nice people around, nice environment, a
good learning avenue for a young professional like me. The only thing that was not so good was the pay. It was just enough for me
to buy my daily meals. There was nothing left for my tuition and my boarding-house fee. I couldn’t even afford to buy myself a luxury
or two. Many times I would run to my parents for rescue. I don’t know why, despite the financial hardships, I stayed on at the job.
In time I applied to a number of government and private offices. I got only one reply—from a private university for a teaching
position. I was close to getting the position but at the last minute, I backed out. Call it stupidity, but I decided to stay at my old job.
At some point, I told myself I didn’t deserve the pay. It was far from a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. But I was too obsessed with
the thought of learning as much as I could from the work. If there were times I got demoralized because of the pay, I kept telling
myself to hold on a bit longer. At times I felt guilty for not considering my family’s predicament. My parents needed help in putting my
siblings through school, and I was an added burden to them. I was too selfish to have denied that help from my parents.
I envied some of my batch mates with high-paying jobs. Some were in the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry, others
were in established academic institutions. When I was asked where I was working, with pride I would respond. Of course, I wasn’t
asked how much I was getting. I suppose they presumed it was high.
On my third year in law school, I felt I was not taking my studies seriously enough. So I decided to quit my job in order to focus on
my studies. That was a couple of years ago. I am now a law graduate, and my siblings are done with their studies, too.
Looking back, I realize what a big mistake I had committed. My siblings and my parents would readily agree with me on this. But on
a second look, it wasn’t a mistake but, rather, a big learning experience. It made me realize that there’s more to a job than the
salary. Most people would put salary as their prime consideration in looking for a job. My last job was not financially rewarding, but I
consider it a worthwhile experience. The lessons I got were precious gems I would treasure all my life.
The key is this: You just have to learn to love what you are doing and live within your means. With a high salary come more
expenses. A pay increase comes with a craving for a better gadget, a better apartment, or a better lifestyle. In the end, we always
feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled—not until we learn the habit of spending less than what our means can permit us to. Unless we put
aside the material gains we derive from our work and start loving our work, we will never find real satisfaction in what we do.
The happiest people are not the ones with the highest paying job. The most fulfilled are not the ones occupying the highest
corporate position. Who knows, they may even be the ones living the worst life. The most satisfied and fulfilled workers are those
who are not after the income. They are those who have learned to love what they are doing and make do with whatever pay they
Happiness and fulfillment in the workplace come from the good relationships we build, the knowledge we impart, the lessons we
gain, the laughter and joy we share with our colleagues. It is in reaching out to other people, in helping them achieve their dreams,
that we find real happiness. Making a difference in other people’s lives is what gives us real joy.
Those who are in the teaching profession derive more satisfaction from imparting knowledge rather than from receiving a high
salary. Those who patiently till the soil are not after a huge income, but without them, we would all go hungry. Pastors, priests, and
other church ministers sometimes receive nothing, but who can ever measure the joy that working in God’s vineyard brings them?
Everyone wants a high-paying job. Who doesn’t want financial security, anyway? But there’s more to a job than receiving high pay. I
didn’t realize that until I got one that paid me less but gave me more.
In a way, I regretted not having pursued a better-paying job. I had a fair share of the stigma attributed to accepting a low-paying job.
But I learned an important lesson: Whatever work we have, we must do it well no matter what the pay is. As long as we love what
we do, then we’re on the right track. As one author puts it, find joy in everything you choose, whether a job, a relationship, a home…
It’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.
Choose a job that gives you joy, not necessarily one that pays you well. For after all, pay is not all that matters.
Richard Laggui Suyu, 27, is a recent laws and letters graduate of Cagayan State Unversity (Andrews Campus), Tuguegarao City,
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