Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the biggest day for retailers throughout the U.S. Some companies have even opened their doors on Thanksgiving to get an advantage over competitors. Who loses? Workers who often have to leave family meals and then have to work on days when their neighbors are getting the best deals.
REI, a co-op retailer for outdoor wear, is taking a very different approach. The company has decided to close on Black Friday and give its employees a paid day off. Rather than fight frenzied consumers at the mall, REI suggests that its employees should enjoy a day in the outdoors. REI is putting its people first, and it should be cheered for doing so.
Today is America’s shopping holiday, Black Friday. Bargain hunters scour print ads and websites to find the lowest prices and best values. They make lists and plan routes to go from store to store. We need to follow a similar method in managing our careers and looking for work.
1. Write down your professional goals for the next year and next five years. Start with salary. Then dig into how you want to work and what kind of responsibilities you want to have.
2. The next step is strategy and planning: How can I achieve my goal? Use your list to develop a strategic plan. For example, is it logical to achieve my salary goal in my current position with my current employer, or do I need to change jobs and possibly take on more responsibility? Do I need to go back to school or get a certificate? Who can help me achieve my goals (networking)? What resources do I need (LinkedIn, career websites, professional associations, alumni groups)?
3. Here’s the most important lesson from Black Friday shoppers: Go for it. We’ve all heard stories of mobs, fist fights, and arrests. None of this is good. However, behind all the negative news lies something very positive. Tens of thousands of people are going after what they want as consumers. What if they did the same thing in their professional lives? A motivated person is more likely to succeed. When looking for a new job or changing your career, take a lesson from the people packing the malls today: Have a goal, make a plan, and go for it.
What if the shoppers showed up and there were no workers? That’s the dilemma the nation’s largest low wage employer/retailer could be facing on the day after Thanksgiving. Common Dreams has reposted an article by Josh Eidelson of the Nation, who reports that Walmart workers across the U.S are discussing a major work stoppage on Black Friday.
Negotiation is all about leverage. Walmart will never need its works so much as it will on Black Friday. A major walk out on that day will send a message. Hopefully Walmart and other workers will hear it. All workers deserve a living wage.
On Sundays, I write a “Sabbath” post that takes its title from the similarly named poems of Wendell Berry. These poems are not preachy or philosophic. Like much of Berry’s writing, they are simple reflections on how we do live and how we should live.
In that spirit, I want to ask: How insane have we gotten that people have to do their “Black Friday” shopping on the evening of Thanksgiving? How selfish have we gotten that we will deny a day of rest to others so we can get a discount?
Our lives have become a mess of schedules and deadlines. Few people work 40 hour weeks. Our time off is a matter of running from place to place. Even the lives of children have become organized nightmares of leagues and structured activities. We seem to have lost the ability to sit quietly and enjoy a peaceful moment. The business lie of productivity where no minute can be waste has seeped into our personal lives. “Are you making the best use of your time?”
Americans should remember the lesson of the Sabbaths our grandparents enjoyed. We need time off to rest and clear our heads. We need that time to reflect on what is really important and what we should be most thankful for. In Berry’s words:
What stood, whole in every piecemeal
Thing that stood, will stand though all
Fall – field and woods and all in them
Rejoin the primal Sabbath’s hymn.
What is that hymn? Peace, which is what I wish all on this Thanksgiving day: Peace.
Writing in Huffington Post, Danielle Tumminio, author of God and Harry Potter at Yale, explores a theme that I have visited in this blog: Sabbath rest. My inspiration has been the thinking and writing of Wendell Berry. Tumminio is inspired by something much larger and frightening: hordes of Black Friday shoppers.
She notes the irony of a country that prides itself on Judeo-Christian values ignoring one of the first lessons of the Bible – on the seventh day, God rested. We are almost crazed in our activities related to Thanksgiving: traveling, shopping, cleaning. Worse still, we now have the crowded, grabbing insanity of Black Friday. Tuminnio reminds us that some time on the couch (with the TV off) would be a good thing.
All I can say to this fine post is: Amen.