Originally published March 27, 2011
By the date stamp of my last post, one could think that the luster on NYC has worn off, I don’t have anything profound to say, or I’ve just fallen off the writing wagon. All of these may be half-truths but I’ve actually taken a not-so-intentional NYC blogging hiatus as a result of the realization of my impending job search and major life decisions I have to make when my GSV year is over in… August?
For me this results in spending my free time clicking through job sites, pouring over cover letter and resume books, and tweaking my resumes so they are just so (which is never so enough). Not to mention making myself physically sick with stress of not knowing where I am going next.
Whenever I scour job posting descriptions and requested qualifications and then look at my own resume, I many times ask myself, “Where are all of these people getting all of these years of experience? How does one person have all of these skills?” Followed by, “How am I seriously ever going to find a job that fits my skill set in my favorite geographical location?”
One thing that adds to my job search confusion is the fact that I go to work the next day and am thrown into teaching a career management class to at-risk high school students. (In reality, I find myself being almost willing to pay someone to teach ME this stuff). Teaching these classes is both humbling and pretty scary to process.
When I give out the job-readiness worksheets I created, I get concerned at the responses I get:
1. What kind of job would you like to get when you graduate from high school? (We spent the greater part of two class periods working on this)
Most common answer: Anything that makes lots of money.
Then I ask these juniors or seniors aloud, ”Like what?”
I most commonly was told: A football player, father, basketball player, and coke dealer. (The only girl in the class was told she’d be a stripper.)
2. What attributes do you have that an employer would want to hire you?
Most common answers: “Nothing” or “I don’t have any.”
From marking these papers to having class discussions about what they want their lives to be like after high school, they most commonly wanted: kids, a house, and a lot of money. The greater part of these students has yet to even hold a summer job but expressed that they’d figure out what to do after they graduate.
Sitting at my desk at home grappling with my plight of how to best showcase my college GPA, relevant jobs, awards, leadership opportunities, and various (I mean various) volunteer activities to fit onto one page… I stop and think about how much easier it was when I was in high school to find a job and how those experiences gave me the skills and references I needed to achieve so many greater things.
I then think, “If I am stressing about my current job search situation, I wonder how my students Vlad, Frankie, Corey, Janice, and Benjamin (just to name a few) will fair when they reach my age.”
In another conversation with a student:
“So, why don’t you have an idea of what you want to do after you graduate?”
Because this is Brooklyn, there’s no opportunities to find out what you’re good at and no one [teachers/parents] thinks you’ll amount to anything.”
This got me thinking back to 2004 when I was their age (actually younger), and was working for the cities of New Ulm and Sleepy Eye as a lifeguard and water safety instructor. I found myself motivated by father to make money and was pushed into levels of responsibility I didn’t think I was ready for at 15 and 16 years of age. My time on the clock increased my bank account in addition to my sense of self, outlook on life, confidence, social skills, and ultimately opened doors for me to go on to work my way through college. I had experiences working in the Twin Cities with AmeriCorps, attained residential life roles, and positions with Upward Bound, and ultimately led me on my journey to NYC.
Fast forward to 2011 and I find myself sitting on my commute reading a discarded AM New York headline Bloomberg’s Budget Cuts Affects the Elderly and Young. I see that the projected budget proposes, “Summer job participants drop by 32 percent in fiscal 2011 — a decrease the city blamed on federal and state cuts — from 52,255 to 35,612 [teen jobs].”
I read on to find…”The Mayor’s budget looks to lay off 8,500 teachers and 10,000 other city employees, including more than 3,000 police officers and 1,000 firefighters.”
As I am well aware, this isn’t just in NYC but also is occurring on the federal level as can be seen in Congress’ plan to reduce their deficits by slashing service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn & Serve America. (Volunteer service which gives participants stipends and education rewards after their term is over.)
Fun fact: In addition to cutting education and jobs, NYC is proposing to cut Medicare and close thousands of senior living centers.
Back on the federal level, conservative President hopefuls are pushing for the defunding of Planned Parenthood (PP), which provides health care and medical services to low-income and uninsured women and children. PP is basically under attack by conservative Tea Partiers because the organization also provides abortion services.
What doesn’t add up to me is why these politicians advocating so tirelessly to “protect the innocent unborn children.” Once these children get their first gasps of worldly air and truly become American citizens, the government is seemingly stripping every resource away from them and preventing them from receiving the basic necessities of life. In the ways they are slashing funds, these innocent children are being forgotten and left to fight to obtain the little resources they can. Basically, our conservative leaders fight hard to make sure every unborn child is given life, but then wish them an ironic, guffawed, “Hey kid good luck, sink or swim.”
Firstly, why cut funding for the health of these newborns and their mothers who take care of them and determine their quality of life.. for the rest of their lives?
Secondly, why cut billions of dollars to the education systems to have these new citizens find themselves in over-crowded kindergarten classrooms and pass through grades without giving them chance to have access to an education that will make them competitive not only in their cities or nation, but on a global level?
Thirdly, why cut summer jobs and other professions to give both young and old valuable skills to increase the productivity, economic health, and overall well-being of our citizens and our country?
I think the citizens (myself included) need to start asking our leaders some of the same questions my parents asked me in high school when I was campaigning and begging my parents for weeks for the adoption of my kitten, Lucky.
They asked if me questions like, “If you get this cat will you be able to feed it, brush it, play with it, and take care of it? Will you be able to keep this cat happy because it’s your responsibility when you get it. The cat didn’t choose to be your pet.”
It’s really the simple but most fundamental questions our leaders have to ask themselves when reevaluating budgets as to what money will be necessary to the longevity, happiness, and vitality of our youth, our people, our nation and our world.