Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pay for it - Why is bribery a bad word?

Parents, I would like to ask for a little self-honesty here.  You do not have to reply to this article, just be true to yourself. If you were independently wealthy and had the means to live whatever life you wish, would you still get up this morning and head off to your current job?  I am guessing most of you would not. Fortunately I do not have to guess.  Forbes has run a survey on work satisfaction every year since 1987.  2014 results indicate that more than half of us (52.3%) are unhappy with our jobs.

So why do we still drag ourselves out of bed 5 days a week (when it is cold and dark outside) and brave the long, crowded commute to spend 8+ hours doing something that does not excite us? The short answer is money. The long answer is because we have responsibilities like rent, feeding our kids, tuition, saving for retirement (hoping it comes eventually), paying for our annual vacation to Disneyland, etc...  which all requires money.

Now if 52.3% of us do not want to do something hard (like work) without getting paid, is it fair to expect our kids to do the things they dislike without some reward as well?  [In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that the little jury inside my head is still out on this particular topic which is why I writing through my thoughts here hoping to gain some clarity.] has an article that is quite openly against bribing our kids.  Specifically, they talk about not bribing children to behave.  If children develop an understanding that they only have to act appropriately if they are paid to do so then they will not learn the intrinsic value of good behavior.  This leads to a sense of entitlement and a lack of respect and personal responsibility.  These are strong arguments and a sense of entitlement is damaging to our kids career prospects.  I have met many students with the attitude that they will start learning and preparing for the job they want AFTER the company hires them and starts paying them a salary. "Why should I waste my time learning JAVA or C++ now? After Google hires me as a programmer I can pick it up quickly."

The same article makes a distinction I don't entirely agree with; that bribes and rewards are different things.  Bribery being a payment to stop bad behaviour and a reward offered after something good.  While I get it, I prefer to think of it in simpler terms.  Payment for services rendered (rewards, bribes, whatever).  Is it OK or not?  When we start approaching it this way and dispense with the term differences we can focus on which "services" are appropriate to pay our kids for.

I tend to agree that paying our kids to stop behaving poorly is likely to result in a reinforcement of whatever that negative activity was.  "Here is a lollipop so please stop whining." Is easily understood by kids of all ages to mean that whenever they want another lollipop they just need to start whining again.  Where I think there is room for payment (money, candy, etc.) is when encouraging our kids to make an effort towards something that will provide a future benefit to them.  Amy Chua of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother infamy, says that one of the worst things we can do is let our kids give up.  She also states that nothing is fun until you get good at it.  In her case she is talking about the hours and hours of painful piano and violin practice for her daughters. Encouraging our kids to put in the time and energy to get through all those hours of (insert difficult thing here; piano, homework, Japanese language) will lead to two positive results.  First, they will be able to play piano well or speak Japanese fluently or get all As on their report card.  These goals will not seem like much to our kids when they would prefer to be playing video games or hanging out with their friends.  They won't recognize the value of the result until they get there.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for the future, they will have achieved something impressive through their own efforts. Confidence is built through such achievements and if we can encourage our kids along the way with the occasional and timely "bribe", then why not?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Are your kids in leadership roles?

May I assume that we are all familiar with the word rubric (no, not like the cube)?  Maybe no?  I did not learn about it till I had kids and they started bringing home assignments along with these charts laying out what they needed to do to get an A (see sample here).  I don't remember having such clear guidelines when I was in school...  Did we have it harder then?  Was it actually better preparation for the real world?  I doubt that the companies and bosses our kids work for will be providing such detailed instructions on what they need to produce to earn an A at work.  Oh, sorry, the definition for those of you who have yet to come across this magical little piece of paper:  A rubric (according to Merriam-Webster) is an explanation or a set of instructions at the beginning of a book, a test, etc.  There is an alternative definition that states it is a rule for conduct of a liturgical service.  That particular definition is less relevant to our discussion though.

As a teacher, I was curious about whether there are rubrics available for some of the assignments I give in classes, particularly one for writing a resume. A quick search of the Internet resulted in a fairly comprehensive rubric written by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The full version has 4 columns that descend from a perfect resume down to horrible.  The abridged version is posted here with just the best and worst shown for contrast.

This is an excellent tool for both high school and college seniors to help prepare their resumes for applications to schools and employers.  The guidelines are clear and have been created based on input from the actual people who make decisions on accepting our kids.

However, we do not need to wait until the applications are imminent before reading through the rubric and getting a head start on the content.  There were three key lines that jumped out at me and are worth considering for our kids.

In the Education Section a "Best" resume would include the student's: Major, degree, GPA, study abroad, and relevant course work.  Companies and colleges are looking for connections here to the job or degree. We know about GPA of course but course choice in college can often be more about fitting something into a schedule rather than considering what will be most relevant for our kid's future career.

The Experience Section has several points but as with education above, this line should be written in bold letters, underlined, and italics, Information relates to the intended career field. If our kid is applying to the marketing department and just happens to have had an internship with P&G (doing marketing) then their chances of getting in have jumped exponentially.

The last section, while not often the center of attention on a resume, Honors/Activities specifies something that I rarely see on resumes at the college level but also mid-career, Skills gained and leadership roles held. Typically the kids put "Swim Team" or "Piano" and leave it at that.  The positive impression that including the word Captain after swim team adds to a resume can make all the difference.  Now, if my daughter is already a senior in college we can't go back in time (yet) and convince her to look for a leadership role in whatever she is doing.  But, if your son is 10 or 14 and still in the midst of building their resume we can apply a little parental persuasion and encourage some leadership and skill building when there is still time.

Resume Rubric - NACE

Resume Rubric
Resume should effectively land you an interview.
Resume needs significant improvement and would be discarded during screening
This resume fills the page but is not overcrowded. There are no grammar or spelling errors. It can be easily scanned.
This resume is either one-half page or two to three pages long. The font is too big or may be hard to read. There is more white space than words on the page. There are multiple spelling and/or grammar errors.
Education Section
This section is organized, clear, and well defined. It highlights the most pertinent information and includes: institution and its location, graduation date, major, degree, GPA, study abroad (as appropriate), and any relevant course work.
This section is missing the most crucial information. Institution is listed, but not its location and graduation date is missing. The major is included, but not degree. No GPA is stated.
Experience Section
This section is well defined, and information relates to the intended career field. Places of work, location, titles, and dates are included for each position. Descriptions are clear and formatted as bullets beginning with action verbs. (This section could be split into related and other experience.)
There is no order to the descriptions of each position. Descriptions are not detailed and don't illustrate the experience. No locations and dates of employment are listed.
Honors/ Activities
This section is well organized and easy to understand. Activities and honors are listed, and descriptions include skills gained and leadership roles held. Dates of involvement are listed.
This section is missing—or contains very little—information. Organization titles or dates of involvement are not included, and there are no descriptions.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.