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Making a living and making a stand

Image created by Daniel Burg from Adobe Stock 383920532

Studying the life’s work of Nelson Mandela reminds us of the power of the individual.

It also invites us to think about the opportunity and responsibility we have to live in sync with our core values.

In a world in which many are moving from passive objection to active opposition, e.g., from “I am not a racist” to “I am an active anti-racist,” many job holders and seekers are looking at employer relationships with an eye on finding a fit that not only meets their financial goals, but also aligns with their passions and fits their values. In some cases, workers have a strong desire to help drive positive change in their communities and around the world.

This can mean anything from, “I won’t work for anyone who does not share my faith,” to “I want to work for a company that puts people over profits, produces products or services sustainably and socially responsibly, is diverse, equitable and where everyone from janitor to CEO has a voice.”

The “job” of a corporation is to make money. They do this by buying your efforts and abilities at one price (your salary or hourly rate) and selling your creation at a profit. The risk the corporation/investors take is to do this successfully over time, and for this risk they should be rewarded. 

However, it is also true that they can’t do it without you. 

So, the question is, how much should they share? That question applies to compensation as well as governance and direction. To illustrate this, I wonder, if you asked U.S. auto workers in the 1970’s if they wanted their jobs offshored so that automakers would avoid paying higher U.S.-based salaries, what they would have said?

With that in mind…

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself when starting a job search:

  • If all jobs paid the same, would I be doing this?
  • Is this a career move or just a way to make rent until I find what I really want?
  • Do the people I see doing this job long-term look happy?
  • In other words, what’s the day-to-day of doing this job?
  • Should I start my own business?
  • Should I travel for a year and think about it?

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself when considering a potential employer:

  • What is their position on issues that are important to me?
    • Diversity
    • Inclusion
    • Gender equity
    • Climate justice
    • Pay equity
    • Philanthropy
    • Fill-in the ______________ 
  • Is there room for growth?
  • Will they support my educational goals?
  • Are they philanthropic?
  • Are they good to the community in which they are located?
  • Do they make political contributions and are they in line with my politics?
  • Do I have a voice in corporate governance?
  • Do I have access to a collective bargaining unit like a union?
  • Will I participate financially in the success of the company?
  • Do they lobby politicians and if so for what and why?
  • Is there openness in their business practices?
    • Taxes paid
    • Supply chain transparency
    • Executive salaries vs. median worker pay
  • If I were a customer of this company would I be happy with the product?

Regardless of your personal list of wants and needs, here some resources for evaluating potential employers.

There is a slow but growing trend amongst some businesses that shows they understand they have more responsibility than making money. And, while some of it may be the corporate version of virtual signalling, it can also be a reason for optimism and we can, as employees and consumers, cast our ballots/dollars for the efforts we wish to see succeed.

In other words, if you don’t like what Walmart is doing, don’t shop there.


  1. “We all have two choices: we can make a living, or we can design a life.” — Jim Rohn

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