Archive for the ‘Young People’ Category

Scholarship strategies: have we seen them before?

March 14, 2015

The art of applying for scholarships begins to look familiar to me. A family member is approaching college application time, and I’m gaining some early experience in applying for aid.  I had never considered how the process resembles job applications.  I’m referring here to the paperwork. Like a resume, the application and essay should

  • be absolutely perfect in grammar, spelling, and format,
  • address the question straight on,
  • be specific in relating one’s own experience,
  • be honest to the max,
  • include a work sample as attachment if appropriate,
  • reference links to online presence (after making sure one’s postings are something to be proud of!),
  • contain a dose of creativity.

And oh yes, get it in on time or a bit early. What do you think?  You who are experienced in the college application process, do you think it parallels writing an effective resume?  Care to share any secrets of success?

Why are you in this job?

October 27, 2014

See this lovely young woman baking biscuits over a coal fire?  No, she is not a Vermeer figure come to life.  Her name is Rhianna and she is a historical reenacter at the Beamish Museum in Northumbria, UK.  I visited the Beamish recently.  Imagine – it’s a cold, windy, sometimes-rainy day, you step into Rhianna’s kingdom, you smell the warmth and scent of a coal fire along with fresh biscuits. And you get a friendly greeting.

We got into a conversation.  I asked if she is studying history or acting – just how did she get this job?  And what appealed to her?  (And yes, these are nosy questions, which I justified by saying that I’m a career counselor and am always on the lookout for a good story.)

Rhianna said she is very shy and sought a job that forced her to interact with people, so here she is, explaining about biscuits, flour, copper polishing, and coal fires. all day long.

Yes, she is less shy than she used to be.

Rhianna, congratulations on making such a courageous and productive choice!  I loved our chat and indeed, all of the nice people in Beamish, who explain life and work in different times.

Beamish 2

Another Graduation Gift

June 10, 2014

Someone asked me recently what skills or knowledge might be the most useful for today’s graduate.  And I’ve been thinking, starting with what do I wish I had known?  Here is my reflection for you new grads.

Grade point average?  Interesting for a while, but then you grow up.

Volunteer activity?  Sure, it says something good about you, but is it related to the job?

Hard work?  Yes! I hope your interview stories are filled with challenges you have overcome.

Examples might sound like this:

I started my beginning Spanish class with a bad attitude.  I have been told that no one in our family can do languages.  But I liked the teacher and I agreed with the goal of being a better world citizen.  So I bought a Spanish  CD and started listening. Yes, it was hard.  Yes, I probably sounded foolish.  I made friends with a girl from Central America who was learning English.  We agreed to have lunch together and just name things we were eating.  And it helped!  I’ll never be a world-class language specialist, but now I know what it takes to learn something new.  It starts with shedding a bad attitude.  It continues with being resourceful.  And it ends with success.  That B in Spanish is something I really earned, and I will get better.  I’m not stopping.

I wanted to take an advanced art history class because I had heard great things about the professor.  But first, there was this pesky requirement of a basic art class.  And yes, you occasionally had to draw something.  I can’t draw!  Really!  I took the course, and as predicted, got a really low grade on the first assignment (drawing a tree on campus).  Kindergarteners could have done better than I did.  So I made an appointment, went to see the teacher, and told him that my drawing did not look like it, but I had really, really worked.  I just didn’t know how to do better.  I told him why I was taking the class, that I would do well in every aspect except the sketchy stuff.  He smiled and listened.  He told me to focus on some little aspect and capture a few details.  I really did not think much had been accomplished, but my grades got better. I’m still not an artist, but what I learned was to ask for help.  People are glad to offer a suggestion, and they do take note of your effort.  

And here is one further suggestion:  If you are declaring yourself a hard worker, how about mentioning something that is ongoing?

Although my classes have ended, I am committed to maintaining and enhancing my computer skills.  I recently found a free online course in Microsoft Office, which will keep my skills current and competitive. (Try checking out the free offering at

Wow! While your classmates are lounging at the beach in recovery mode, you have been upgrading your skills!

Hard work triumphs over privilege, opportunity, or special talent in success on many jobs.  So graduates, as you prepare for your job search, think about your challenges and how you continue to address them to achieve a measure of success.





Malaysian Flight 370: now here’s a real math problem

April 9, 2014

Remember those math problems in algebra and geometry class?  Problems about trees and their shadows, trains leaving for Kansas City at 2:00, graphs about average heights of kids in the fourth grade, circles using pi and a radius.  I wondered then why we were doing these things if not for torture.  I was pretty good at them, but absolutely never saw the point.  And no one dared asked the teacher why.

Things could be so different today, and I really hope they are.  Why learn about triangulation and angles of satellites?

There’s a black box down there in the Indian Ocean.  And it has been calling to a searching world, actually overheard a few times.  Some say the pings are heard from locations 16 miles apart.  And then the experts get on tv and explain it.  I find myself fascinated.  I’d love to have seen my scary math teacher, Miss Rockefeller, drawing this all over the board and dragging out a theorem or two to explain it.

So there was a reason for all that!  We who were girls in decades past never imagined actually using math to solve problems beyond calculating the cost of a pair of shoes that was 20% off.  We never ever thought of math as a factor in airline safety.  And of course we did not identify with the experts who have always used math to improve our lives.

So hang in there, math teachers.  Seize this tragic moment and use it to teach your students about the practical uses of math.  Maybe you would share with us how you are using this story.

It’s here!

December 12, 2013

You’ve heard it from me and (I hope) from school.  This is it – the week of code.

The tech giants (every company you can name in the field) have banded together to sponsor a unique program called Hour of Code.  Whether preschoolers, students at all levels, or just plain people of all ages and experience (or not), it is time to head for and start exploring.

I’ve just been cruising through the site.  Animated holiday e-cards!  Getting your friends to be robots and follow your program directions!  Designing a game and then playing it!

This is fantastic.  So creative.  And if you can accomplish one of the projects, you can print yourself a certificate of completion.

I could go on and on, but my card isn’t quite finished.  Must figure out how to drag the squirrel onto the Christmas tree.  Cute!

While the young folks are coding – er – having fun, remind them occasionally of the job opportunities that are out there for programmers.  They just might thank you for this someday.

Career Advice from Animal Farm

November 27, 2013

My grandson just finished reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm in his English class.  We had some discussions about it, and we decided there are a few messages in it for a young person entering the world of work;

Don’t think that hard work and strength alone will pay off.  Boxer the horse longed for the glorious retirement all animals had been promised. His two mottos were “Comrade Napoleon is always right” and “I will work harder.”  Way too trusting, he ended up in a van headed for the glue factory despite all those promises.

Common sense alone is not enough.  Don’t be afraid to speak up when something seems wrong.  You will need allies.  Benjamin the donkey was the only one who remembered the original goals of the Revolution and the original 7 commandments, but he had no support among the other animals.

Look out for leaders who don’t lend a hand, like the pigs.  They were smart, but always seemed to be planning rather than working.

Beware of the visionaries who make promises that cannot possibly come true, such as Moses the Raven. He described a paradise with sugar for all, but only after death.

Wouldn’t you like to have known these things before you started work?

Are you registered?

November 17, 2013

I am!  I’ve only a vague idea of what is going to happen during Computer Science Education Week (starting Dec. 9), but I’ve registered to participate.

Have you heard about this world-wide phenomenon called The Hour of Code?  It is an education effort designed primarily for students (but they are letting the rest of us tag along), developed and presented by the captains of the computer world – I mean the real giants in the field.  Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc etc. are concerned about the lack of competent programmers being trained right now, so they are planning to enlighten us and demystify the programming process a bit.

During Computer Science Education week, this special tutorial called Hour of Code will be offered to schools, communities, day care centers, families, workplaces, and anyone who wants to learn.  I suggest you register now, so that you will receive emails about upcoming events.

Coming soon to a school or computer screen near you…

November 3, 2013

Did you know that Dec. 9 – 16 is National Computer Science Education week?  I didn’t, either.

And how would one celebrate?

Great question!  This year there is an answer, geared to everyone aged 6 to 106, according to the promo.

There is a free program called Hour of Code, available anytime during that week.  It was designed for all schools, all age levels, all interest levels.  When you learn that it is sponsored by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, LinkedIn, etc etc, and oh yes, the Boys and Girls Clubs, you might keep reading.  This program promises to provide not only an introduction to computer science but also a motivational presentation featuring Angry Birds and other familiar faces.  The future of jobs featuring programming continues to be bright, and I think the time is right to catch the attention of young people.

Read on.  Go to to learn more.

This is important.  Make sure that your children’s teachers, scout troups, aftercare, sports programs, maybe even Sunday Schools, are planning to be involved.  It’s free.  It’s going to be talked about.

More later…

Growing into Career Awareness

August 3, 2013

If there is a young person in your life, you smile as they first answer that inevitable question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  And I think you ought to make note of those work fantasies, because they might be helpful someday.

A certain young man I know and love has kept the family astonished by his answers over the years.  Here they are in sequence:

  • Hey!  I’m a kid.  I play.  That’s what I like to do (age 6)
  • The greatest Pokeymon collector in the world (age 9)
  • The best game player in the world (age 12)
  • a personal trainer (age 15)

Looking at the list, there really were no surprises at the time, because the answers reflected the ways he chose to spend his time.  But this last one is different.  He has figured out that there are really people who lift weights, run, and also encourage others to maintain fitness.  Someone is out there designing a parcourse, making exercise DVDs, coaching soccer, and teaching PE.  What a reward to see a young man open his eyes to real possibilities for his future work life.  And in typing this list, I see a thread – it’s all about play and always has been.  Cards, electronics, sports.  The six-year old’s statement about play still holds true.  Must be something to it.

Go ahead and encourage your young people to dream.  And don’t bother to correct them.  You can learn from their fantasies.  Reality will become a factor as part of the maturing process, I think.  Of course, a young person’s concept of reality is not the same as that of parents or grandparents, but that’s another topic.

Build your Dreams: See the Movie, Buy the Book

July 29, 2013

To a frustrated young person reading this who is not happy about looking at the jobs that are available out there:

Hey, You, have I got a suggestion!

Do you like to watch movies?  This  book has a movie to go along.

The authors and filmmakers, Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden,  are also young.  They actually got those entry-level jobs that made their college programs look good and their parents sigh with pride and relief.  But wait!  Does it matter that they were not happy?  Because they weren’t.

So watch the movie first.  It’s called The Dream Share Project.  Coming to a college campus near you, or you can get information at

Ahem, I’m in it.  One of the talking heads, which was nerve-wracking for me.  I think they put in us career counselor types for a bit of gravitas after the flip flop guy and the comedian.

Are you persuaded?  Now it is time to get the book.  Build Your Dreams: How to Make A Living Doing What You Love is available for your kindle or in paperback.  Alexis and Chip do not promise you an easy path, but they do dangle the prospect of joy at the end.  And maybe even joy along the way.