Preparing Kids For the Work World

I was planning on writing a blog post about student loan forgiveness proposals. It was a hot topic on twitter a couple of days ago, but I think it has fizzled out.

Meh. I am not a fan. I don’t think a janitor should pay taxes that go towards paying off Jonah’s student loans. He’ll have around $30K when he graduates in June 2022. He’s taking an extra year to graduate, because he changed majors, he messed up his Freshman year, and he wants to do a semester abroad when the COVID’s over. After graduation, kids with a BA from his school typically start at a job that pays $40,000 per year. I mean it will be a pain to pay off those loans, but it’s ridiculous to ask a middle aged dude whose salary caps out at $40K to pay my kid’s loans.

I could say more, but I’m tapped out with this topic right now. I’ve also already written about 1,500 words today. I had to write a lengthy response to an editor’s email and a draft of a letter for Jonah to send to last summer’s internship office to ask for a recommendation.

For the first few years after high school, Jonah worked as a bus boy and waiter. Beyond an email to the manager to schedule hours for work, he didn’t really do written communication with a supervisor. He didn’t gain skills for the white color work world. But now that he’s getting closer to graduation, he’s getting a crash course in all that.

We’ve been looking through the job board for an internship for next summer. Many kids have already locked down that down, so Jonah’s behind already. We helped him make his first resume last spring. This fall, we’ve been working on cover letters.

I had to ask his slightly older cousin for the correct salutation on cover letters to an unknown person who sorts through stacks of resumes. Was it “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam?” No, she said. It’s now “Dear Hiring Manager.” Who knew?

But none of this information comes naturally to a kid. Jonah took a one-credit class on resumes and jobs at his school, but it was too generic to be really useful. Theoretically, staff at his school help students with that, but like most of the staff at his school, their help is of dubious quality. So, Steve and I are teaching him these skills.

Last week, I told him that his career office at his school should be able to hold recommendations for him and then send them out to prospective employers. He checked it out. I was right. But this was the first time that he heard about it.

With that information locked down, we worked on the correct letter to his old boss to ask for a recommendation. It takes a delicate hand to ask for a favor without groveling. The letter is now in a shared family google doc for future reference.

What happens to kids who don’t have the social capital at home to help them decipher the secret code of middle class employment?