What’s the best summer or part-time job for young people? Cleaning hotel toilets for $7 an hour or working as an unpaid intern in a professional environment?

Over at the Harvard Business Review, Simon Wong argues for more toilet cleaners than internships, and pleads with parents not to make every decision with a view to their childrens’ future careers.

Like many parents, I am troubled by the growing fixation with careers. We seem to be putting young people on the career treadmill at an earlier and earlier age. Choosing extracurricular activities, summer jobs, and even preschool is increasingly undertaken with a calculating eye towards securing career success.

Wong did have one professional internship but says that he learned so much more working in a restaurant, cleaning windows, and being a busboy. These jobs may not have helped his career, but they laid the broad foundation for a successful life. He learned how to interact with a diverse range of people, how to relate to difficult superiors, and the importance of treating the lowest employee with respect. He concludes:

Perhaps the most important life lesson from that period — though not always remembered — was that it didn’t take much for me to be happy.

Potato Peeling and Pot Scrubbing
I’m in complete agreement with Wong. It jives with my own experience of being a milk delivery boy at age 14, bread delivery (using a shopping cart!) from age 15-16, and potato peeler/pot washer for two summers in a hotel.

I left High School one year early to work for an insurance company, where I earned the princely sum of $75 a week for 35 hours work.

After 5-6 years of climbing the slippery ladder in the life assurance, pension, and investment industry, I was converted to Christ and called to the ministry. That meant leaving a now well-paid and enjoyable job, and, at age 22, returning to summer and part-time jobs while I went to university and seminary for six years. These jobs included being a delivery driver, a mailman, and then a goods-lift operator (I still bear the scars).

Irrelevant but invaluable
None of these jobs seem to have any relevance to my present calling, and yet I learned more valuable life lessons in them than in any university or seminary. I now look back with much joy at all God taught me in them.

So, whether you are scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets, carrying suitcases, changing oil, or in a difficult ministry position, be encouraged that our sovereign God has you in the right class in His University, and use the opportunity to scoop up all the credits you can in these unpopular yet priceless courses.