I’m posting this week’s round-up on Thursday instead of Friday because tomorrow I will be…closing on a house. Yes, we’ve decided to take the plunge and purchase a home in Gladwyne, PA. My husband has been working in the greater Philly area for quite a while now, and so since I can work anywhere, we wanted to make the commute easier for him. We’re not moving until June since I’m still working on finishing my book and an unfortunate side-effect of moving is that we’ll lose our childcare set-up. That always takes some time to piece back together, and I’m also looking forward to enjoying my last two months in New York City. But anyway, I’ll write more about the house, home ownership, home buying and so forth after we actually close.
This week I had two pieces over at BNET as usual. I’ll be bumping this up to 3x a week in May, so please send your ideas! Seriously. I need ideas. What would you like to read about? The blog broadly covers time management, career, productivity, workplace and social trends. This week we had pieces on two books.
On Tuesday, I told readers that “Yes, You Have Time To Write That Novel.” Jael McHenry’s debut novel, The Kitchen Daughter, is out from Simon & Schuster this week. She wrote the book while holding down a full time marketing job that required her in-office presence for 40-50 hours a week. So where did she find the time? Where you’d imagine: nights, weekends, holidays. She seized weekends when she could work in a concentrated fashion, cranking out 10,000 words at a time. Six such weekends gives you a draft, if a crappy first draft (Anne Lamott uses stronger language). Editing can be done in spurts of 15 minutes after that. I thought it was good advice for tackling any big extracurricular project.
Then today, I wrote about “5 Skills You Can Learn From a Low-Wage Job.” After journalist Caitlin Kelly lost her job at the New York Daily News, she wanted both steady income and an escape from the solitude of freelance life. So she took a part-time job at The North Face in a suburban mall. She had a mixed experience with it (as her book, Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, out today, recounts). There are some upsides to a job like this — solving people’s problems, for instance. Many white-collar jobs involve vague work and being removed from anything that actually does anything, whereas when someone needs hiking boots and you help them buy the right hiking boots, you have changed something in the world for the better. On the other hand, it’s tough work, as I can attest from my stints working at a mall drug store years ago. You’re on your feet for a long, long time.
I think there are several lessons one can learn from such a job, that I worry many people don’t learn. The competition to get into top colleges is really stiff these days, as, frankly, is the competition for low-wage but steady jobs. If I’m a store manager, I’d rather hire a 25-year-old who might stick around than a 17-year-old, who I know won’t, and probably lacks a lot of common sense anyway. So many well-to-do teens don’t wind up working in malls over the summer and on weekends. They do other things, like volunteer in Africa to learn about the world for their college essays. Well, some part of the world — and it will probably make for good stories in Davos later on. It may not have much to do with the employees in the companies they’ll eventually be running, though.
Of course, that said, one topic I cover in Laughing at the Joneses is whether I’d ever make Jasper and Sam work in those kinds of jobs. Probably not. It’s not that I don’t think they should work. But even as a teenager, one can develop marketable skills to do something more clearly applicable to a long-term career. At age 19, I started freelancing professionally. My little brother did even better, learning computer skills to build websites and the like. He never had to work in a drug store. And he’s continued doing software engineering professionally. So that was clearly good preparation.
What do you think? Do you think your children should work burger-flipping or shirt-folding jobs as teenagers? Why or why not?