My Advice to a Happy Cabbie Who's Pressured to Aim Higher

How important is status?

Posted Dec 11, 2015

In each installment of this daily series, I respond to a composite letter that asks for my career advice.

Dear Marty,

Alexander Torrenegra, CC 2.0
Source: Alexander Torrenegra, CC 2.0

I have a master's degree in public policy but after an internship and an entry-level analyst job, I'm left with the feeling that I'm unlikely to be making much policy, which was what motivated me to spend the two years and big bucks on the master's.

So when I got laid off from that job---it was funded on soft money---I did a lot of thinking and it occurred to me that I already had had a job I loved---when I drove a cab when I was in college. I loved talking to all the passengers for short bursts, I had a good sense of direction, and loved seeing that meter keep going up--Each few seconds, I had made another 20 cents.

So a few months ago, I started driving a cab again. Of course, now, some of my fares are Uber so the pay is less but it's still okay.  And my customers love me because I drive quickly but safely, I speak good English and am educated so we have good conversations yet if I sense they don't want to talk, I shut up. I get great tips--averaging 25%. I even have regulars, people who specifically request me.

My family and friends are telling me that cab driving is dead-end and will only get lower-paying as Uber grows even more popular.

But somehow, I'm just not a long-term planner. I can't make myself worry enough about the long-term to quit and do something with more status. Should I?


Dear Uber-Conflicted,

Yes, America is a country built on status: Why else would people buy a Mercedes or BMW which cost so much more and break down more than a Toyota? Why would people spend on a Rolex when you can buy 100 just-as-accurate Casios for the same money?

But it sounds like you're both enjoying what you're doing and making lots of customers happy. I daresay that many people in more prestigious positions--for example, public policy analysts--make fewer people happy. Think of the countless people and trillions of dollars that have been spent trying to close the achievement gap yet it's as wide as ever and people are as angry about it as ever.

Based on what you wrote me, I agree with your decision to resist the pressure and  keep doing what's feeling rewarding to you. And it's certainly a job that can't be offshored!

You may change your mind later but for now, I agree: Enjoy the ride.

Marty Nemko

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia. His 8th book, just published, is The Best of Marty Nemko.