Monday, March 4, 2013

Life Lessons.

As a teacher, you really do see and hear it all. I take my job very seriously, and I feel that as a teacher, you stem beyond just teaching the facts of something - you're teaching life lessons (as cheesy as that sounds).

As of January, I'm now teaching GED classes during my morning block, and then mid-morning I switch over to teach what is called "Workforce Learning." Basically all my students at this point are learning skills and tips to help enable them to gain employment. We cover everything from basic math, complex math, writing skills, resume corrects, and my favorite, interview tips and strategies.

So far since January, they've all written and revised resumes and cover letters, and can each come up with a pretty good response to, "So tell me a little bit about yourself," which doesn't include them sharing personal information with a prospective employer.


Between those classes and my GED classes, I'm learning just as much as I'm teaching, but some of the tips, especially for those hoping to enter the workforce, are things that keep coming up. I think these things are just good reminders - even for me (especially #6 because I never follow the district dress code and am notorious for this.. oops).

1. Know your audience. 
People will judge you based on how you speak and write. Check your grammar and spelling (and do not rely on spell and grammar check because it does not pick up on the big ones - i.e., your/you're; they're, their, there; etc). The way you text or speak to your friends needs to be completely different from how you speak to a boss, teacher, etc.

No word of a lie, I received this as an essay response, which while slightly genius, made me extremely concerned about this student responding to written interview questions.

2. You don't have to like everyone, but you absolutely need to be polite to everyone.
I will totally and completely tell my students that I work with many people who I do not like. I still speak to everyone in my building, even if it's just a "Good morning," while I'm walking down the halls. There's a difference between being fake and being polite. I don't ask everyone (or basically anyone) about their personal lives, but I will speak to everyone to acknowledge that they are alive and that I see them.

When you're working or in a class, or anywhere really, you need to be able to be social otherwise whether intentional or not, you will come off as being rude. No one wants to associate with the rude person anywhere in life.

3. Respecting someone is different from showing someone respect.
You do not have to respect certain people. There are some horrible human beings in the world who absolutely do not deserve your respect, but you still need to treat them with respect. This piggybacks off of #2, and is close to the same thing, but usually with my students when I tell them that they need to be polite even if someone is an asshole to them, they respond with, "Well I don't respect them, so f*ck them, miss." I hate the cliche of "you have to give respect to get respect" or that you need to respect everyone in authority - that is not the case, but you need to be respectFUL. There's an enormous difference.


4. Don't be too informal.
You have absolutely no right to assume you can call your boss, teacher, or anyone you're not super close with by a nickname. In that same way, don't text or email your boss if you have a signature attached to your texts or emails that is not 100% professional. I would never, ever sign my name "Al" or "A" at the end of an email to my boss. I have a student who would text me to let me know they could not attend class on a given day, and after their entire text, it would say, "xoxoxoxo sexyyy girl". I could not take this person seriously, and cringed every time I opened a text from them.

5. Do not walk into an interview with anything distracting.
Turn your damn phone off before you go into the interview.
Do not waltz in carrying coffee, wearing jangling bracelets, or with anything in tow besides a notebook and pen (and copy of your resume). This is a serious step and you want to show that you're not acting like you're about to go to lunch with friends.

Are these gorgeous? Absolutely - but save them for a day out with friends and not for an interview.

6. You are judged based on your appearance.
It sucks, but it's true. Make sure when you go for a job interview you are put together and modest. If you want to work as a stripper, have at it, I have no judgment for you and you can absolutely dress accordingly. However, if that is not where your passion lies, do not dress like your number one career goal is to one day be a Playboy bunny. If there is a question if something is too: tight, short, low cut - guess what? It probably is, so change it and try again. It is and isn't a fashion show all at the same time - you don't want to stand out, but still want to look polished. (Again, depending on your industry - if you're trying to get a job with Betsey Johnson, go bold and show off your awesome and unique sense of fashion!).

Good interview choices:

7. Learn how to work your ass off. 
Nothing in life comes easily. Sure, some people are born with better situations, but you still need to fight for respect, fight for a job, fight to get an interview - whatever. You're fighting an uphill battle right now, so you need to be prepared. A job will not come and find you (99.99% of the time). A great relationship takes WORK. Study for at least the number of hours you have class/school for the week, even though it sucks and you'd rather be out with friends. The habits that we make with the hard stuff sticks with us, and guess what? Things really do get easier after you put in your time.


8. Be prepared to start from the bottom.
I'm sooo tempted to quote Drake here (so I will).
79d26d7cfc065be78c4a091088a1a24c - Copy

Seriously though, my dad is a CEO of a pretty big company. He tells me all the time how "young kids" (read: people my age or slightly younger/older) come in thinking that they are the best thing on earth. If there is one thing a prospective employer does not want to see, it's someone with a sense of entitlement - especially in this economy. People with doctorate degrees are working minimum wage paying jobs right now, so you can run and grab a latte for your boss if they ask.

You won't be at the bottom forever - and if your company won't bring you up a rung on the ladder, then you can chock it up to being awesome experience for your resume, and start looking for an organization that will respect you. Life is a huge Ferris Wheel - it's a constant cycle of moving around from the bottom to the top and all over again. Do not expect to work for a year and become CEO, but do learn other aspects of the job you're interested in to keep moving forward.

9. Learn how to figure out 10% of any number so that you can easily round and figure out tax, tip, etc.

Here's how I teach it:

Take any number 15; 10.5; $45.67 - whatever.

If there isn't a decimal point already attached to the number, like in the case of 15, put an imaginary one at the end of the number. 15 now turns into 15.0

Move the decimal point over 1 space to the left. Voila, you can now find 10% of any number in the entire world. Just move that decimal point over one place.

10% of 10.5 = 1.05
10% of $45.67 = $4.57

This will help you if you're out to eat with friends, clients, a boss, whatever, to figure out how much to tip or how much tax will be. To tip 20% (which is the minimum I tip, but I think that's also geographically based), just double the 10%. As helpful as the calculator on your iPhone is, don't get too reliant on it - especially if you're on a company dinner!

10. Don't make apologies for what you CAN'T do - highlight the things you're great at. 

Listen - I suck at so many things, I can't even begin to list them. I don't talk about those things though, and certainly not at a job interview! My flaws are things that I go to a select few about - people who I know understand and will build me up and encourage me to do what I need to do to combat them.

Find the things that you are amazing at - use Google to find job skills, and feel really good about yourself when you realize how many strengths and skills you have! Plus, you've now killed two birds with one stone - you can pull from this list if you're asked, "So what do you think your strengths are?" in an interview.
Multitasking for the win.


What work or life skills do you find to be of extra importance? Any interview questions you find difficult to answer that you think I should go over with my students?

xox, hope you're enjoying the first full week of March!


Caitlin C. said...

WHat a great post!!! These tips are amazing and spot-on.

Nicole Linette said...

Fuck yeah, Ally!
(Ooops, this is an informal situation, right? :) )
Haha but really, these are fantastic reminders of what it takes to present yourself successfully to the world. I like number 10 a lot because I tend to be caught up in my weaknesses. I can't wait to buy a new professional wardrobe if my darn internships ever pull through. Your students are TREMENDOUSLY luck to have you as a mentor!!!

In short, you rock. So much love from Shanghai!
xo, nicole.

Meg {henninglove} said...

awesome tips! i especially love the you don't have to like everyone but you have to respect them. that is so important! plus dress up for an interview, even overdress if you need to but make it appropriate top isn't too low and skirt isnt' too high, you aren't applying to work at a strip joint

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

These are fantastic tips and spot on! Growing up my mom always told me "you don't have to like everyone, but you have to be nice to everyone" I try to always have mom's words in my head when I'm around those difficult people.

Sara Louise said...

That essay question answer is frightening. So not appropriate. But I do love your pink pen though :)

Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

Haha the first one is awesome :)

These are amazing tips. So helpful and true. And I especially love the one about respect. I wish more people thought like you.

Sorry I haven't visited in so long! There's reason, which may have a connection to this post actually ;) I'll reveal soon!

Ash said...

I work as an IT tech at a school, and as such I interact with teachers a lot of the time. I do have to say that, after seeing just what it is they do and have to put up with, I have tremendous respect for teachers. The kind of patience you guys must have is just incredible. Not only that, but what it is you guys DO for these students; it really is remarkable.

I've seen teachers go above and beyond the call of duty to help these students learn, whether it be long after school is actually finished, or during class time, the amount of effort and sincere care they provide to students - I really do respect and admire that.

It really gets to me when some students don't appreciate just what it is teachers do for them. Whenever I see a teacher being disrespected by a student, I just want to yell at the punk that they have no idea how much that teacher is doing for them, how much that teacher is trying to *help* them. A lot of these kids don't even deserve their time of day their teachers give them. And I have seen some absolutely foul kids at the schools I've been at. They really have no idea how privileged they are to be at a place where people are ready and willing to help them out. And like you say, it's not just curriculum stuff you teach; it's life lessons as well.

I personally do not have the patience to deal with kids (the students who come up for IT help know that by now, that's for damn sure, heh), and it takes a special kind of patience to be a teacher. It's something I could never do.

So, just in case you don't hear it enough from your students - and I know obviously I've never been taught by you, but I do have an idea of what it is you actually do in your line of - you're doing an amazing thing. I really hope you know that, and I really hope your students one day realise that and show you the respect and appreciation you deserve. What you're doing as a teacher can't be praised and respected enough.

- From a once-upon-a-time student who now knows better.

Ash said...

line of work*

Couture Carrie said...

Awesome tips, darling!
I was a teacher in NYC for five years and these are spot on!


The Dainty Dolls House said...

I agree with these so much!You really have to work hard to get where you want to be. Teachers do awesome jobs, I really wish they were more appreciated. I'll have to keep your shoe size in mind should I come across another pair of those ;) I hope you are well doll & have a super weekend xxx

Stella Winata said...

What a great post!! I totally get this because I recently had a series of interviews and honestly, it was depressing. Thank God I landed myself a job already. Fight for your job, fight for your future, and fight for your life.

Kristine Rutledge said...

Great post!! I always have a hard time in interviews because I blank out. I just have to remind myself it is ok to ask the interviewer for a moment to respond...or at least that is what I was told is appropriate! :)


Elle Sees said...

great advice! somewhere along the line, parents taught their kids that they deserve all of these things that they didn't earn...that the world owes them something, that everyone should get a prize instead of just the winner, etc. etc.
whatever happened to working for an opportunity? my great-grandfather came to america from italy with a family of 10 (14 later) and a few dollars in his pocket. and he was able to make it...through hard work and being thankful for all opportunities.

HiFashion said...

These are brilliant tips, for any situations in life. I've just got my first proper adult job so I still need to learn a lot and have all these tips at the back of my mind every day.

Sienna said...

all of those quotes are so great and inspirational

monica said...

this post just kicked up my yearning for warm weather by another notch! i cant wear to wear sandals, be outside, and like you - i cannot run on a treadmill so it's definitely exciting to be able to run outdoors soon!

Kathy said...

love this post! and that essay made me laugh, esp the part about the "women be banging" hahaha