Employment is just a bowl of vegetable soup

MANILA, Philippines – One of the first principles I explain to young people seeking their first job, or looking to change jobs (or those entering marriage, for that matter!), is to recognize that any employer (or spouse) is just like eating a bowl of vegetable soup.


Let me explain.

When you order vegetable soup in a restaurant, it is filled with a symphony of different vegetables. You might look at the soup, study a spoonful, and decide you like tomatoes, you like onions, you like carrots, but you don’t like chickpeas or red peppers. This is the wrong way to go about it! It really doesn’t matter about the individual ingredients, because when you mix them all up, you get a unique taste. Hence, the important question is not “What don’t you like or dislike about the individual ingredients?” but rather, the question is, “Do you like the soup or not?”

If you like the soup, keep on eating and don’t worry about what particular ingredients you like or don’t like. It’s total taste that matters.

If you don’t like the soup, well, then, maybe you need to change restaurants.
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It’s that simple. Employment. Marriage. Hell, I would argue that life in general is just a bowl of vegetable soup. It’s got ingredients you love. It’s got ingredients you don’t love. It’s always going to be this way; perfection is never realized. So the real question is, “Do you like the soup or not?”

No company is perfect. No spouse, for that matter, is perfect. It’s a soup — a blend of ingredients. It’s how they all taste together that matters.

Too often I have seen a fresh grad ready to sign “for whoever pays the most,” or a young employee ready to “jump ship” at a nagging concern about one ingredient. As I said, no company is perfect. And nobody is saying that things like salary, benefits, one’s boss, workplace culture, and prospects for promotion are not important among a long list of “ingredients” in any job. However, rather than nitpick about the things that may be bothersome, step back and taste the whole soup: Are you happy? Do you enjoy what you do? Do you feel a sense of satisfaction? Do you like the environment you work in? In other words, taste the soup. If you really like it, suck it up, accept the total package, move on and be happy. If you really don’t like it, well, then, looking for a new restaurant may be an appropriate action.

And what is even sadder is to see someone actually make the leap and change jobs, leaving a promising career over concerns of a few ingredients, only to find in their new employ that they traded two bad ingredients for two or three other bad ones, and in fact, the overall taste of the soup is worse. They then become a jumper, constantly moving from job-to-job, seeking the utopian perfect place to work. These are the people you see with CVs that show a new employer every year or two or three. They make the mistake of getting hung up on ingredients and never understand how to “taste the soup.”

This is all within our own control. We all are where we are today because of the choices we have made. Understand the concept of “vegetable soup” and you’ll make better choices, certainly when it comes to important decisions like career.

So there you have it. Work is just a big bowl of vegetable soup. As is anything in life, I would argue. Don’t study the individual ingredients. Just close your eyes and taste the soup. If you like it, join the company or stay where you are. If you don’t like it, by all means then, seek a new restaurant!