Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Case Study in How to Get a Job

With about a month to go until many students graduate, the search for a job should begin in earnest.  Actually, it should be in high gear. A typical hiring process could take a month or two…at least.  A job opening is posted and applications solicited.  Interviews must be scheduled and references checked before an offer is made.  The successful applicant then should give at least two weeks’ notice to his or her current employer.  If this is your first full-time, post-college job, you may still want a couple of weeks to prepare for your entry into the workforce.  Just to give you an example, I left my position at Marist on January 6, and it appears that no decision will be made on a successor until May at the earliest.

A Marist Communication/Journalism major graduating on May 20 personifies the textbook lesson in how to land a job.  A week after he receives his Bachelor of Arts degree, Bryan Terry of Colonie, NY will start as a news assistant at YNN, a 24-hour news channel, in their Albany, NY hub.  How did Bryan do this? He earned it.

Bryan reminds me of myself at his age.  We were both news geeks, very focused on broadcast journalism.  It is that early interest in what he wanted to do with his life that helped Bryan create a path to his first job offer in the field he has wanted to enter since he was in the sixth grade.

Bryan took advantage of many opportunities offered to him.  He has a 3.9 GPA, plays trombone in the band, studied abroad in Florence, worked with the Marist Poll, and selected three internships that provided him valuable work experience from both sides of the reporter’s notebook – the newsroom of WRGB-TV in Schenectady, the team that produces Capital Tonight on YNN, and the press office of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. At each employer (and you should always consider your internship provider as an employer, whether or not you are paid), he worked hard, doing more than was required; was not a clock watcher; and shared his knowledge of social media.

How well did he do? You can see the respect and true affection his employers had for Bryan in their video tributes.  He may forever be called “Intern Bryan,” thanks to being assigned that moniker during his tenure with Capital Tonight.  His dedication, tenacity, and passion for his work left an indelible impression on each employer.

Bryan also maintained his relationships with his supervisors, sending them an occasional email or visiting if he was in the neighborhood.  I have written before about the importance of networking.  When you meet someone, you shouldn’t think, “How is this person going to get me a job?”  You should show genuine interest in the person with whom you’re communicating, and consider how you can help him or her.  Is there information you can provide?  Do you have knowledge in an area the other person does not and that you would be willing to share?  Was there an interesting item you read in mainstream or social media that is worth passing along? Bryan did this. An email here, a phone call there, an occasional visit, none intrusive, just enough to keep his “top of mind awareness” among potential employers.

Bryan blogs as a class project, but his work product shows he has a reporter’s instinct for news, that he writes well, and that he is not afraid to tackle tough issues.  He follows the right people and organizations on twitter, exhibiting an interest in national, state and local government topics, trends in journalism, a familiarization with his craft.

He checked in with people who would know what jobs might be open now or in the future. That’s how Bryan found out about the opening for a news assistant at YNN.  He had advocates within the organization who could attest to his skills.  He had references who could provide specific examples of his outstanding work (rather than a blasé chat that a human resources professional could sniff out as BS in less than a minute).   His résumé and cover letter extolled his virtues but addressed the needs of his employer rather than thumping his chest about who he is or what he’s done.  Both were also error free, having been proofread by several people.  After his interviews, Bryan immediately sent thank you notes to those who met with him, reiterating his interest in and qualifications for the job.

Bryan’s reward:  a job that is waiting for him a month before graduation.  He communicated his passion and ability, put those qualities to work to create a positive reputation, and as much as this is positive for him, it’s just as positive for YNN, which is fortunate to have someone as talented as Bryan on its team.

One last thing…A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted that one of my former students had a summer internship in finance for a prestigious firm in Manhattan and that anyone interested should direct message me for details and I would connect them to her.  Only two people did: A Marist sophomore and a student in London, England. The Marist student follows me on twitter, but I can’t honestly say that I know him well.  Still, the fact that he contacted me quickly, explained his credentials in 140 characters, and went back-and-forth with me to exchange information, always expressing his appreciation for helping him with this connection, spoke volumes about him.  He got the internship and thanked me immediately after getting the offer.  It was networking all around – my former student contacting me; my using social media to connect with prospective employees, and someone who follows me on that medium to reach out, follow through, and land the gig. That’s an age-old process that still yields results in 2012.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Unholy, Weak Response to Homeless LGBT Youth

It’s been three months since I updated my blog and I thought Easter would be a good time to resurrect it (no pun intended).  I debated writing a post about my new job, but will hold off on that for now because of events that developed over the past week, one of the holiest periods on the Judeo-Christian calendar.  Sit back; this is a long, passionate, personal post.

During “Holy Week,” Catholics and other Christians reflect upon the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a time to seek forgiveness of one’s sins, to commit to be more Christ-like, and to celebrate the redemption of women and men through the selfless act of one Man offering up His life for the sins of the world.

However, this sacred time was marred this year by a response the previous week by New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose cold, unfeeling and “victimhood” response to a request by Carl Siciliano, the executive director of New York’s Ali Forney Center, which serves homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth, many of whom are forced out of their family’s lives and dwellings solely for being lgbt.  Many of these families consider themselves “Christian” and cite biblical admonitions against homosexuality while throwing their sons and daughters out, choosing to ignore the loving Christ who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the sick, gave shelter to the homeless, and offered consolation to the imprisoned and afflicted.

Dolan’s response led a very dear friend, 24-year-old Joseph Amodeo, to resign from the junior executive board of Catholic Charities.  He blogged about it on the Huffington Post, which led to calls from Associated Press, the New York Times, the WashingtonPost, and other media outlets.  For someone so young and so faithful, Joseph has made a tremendous impact in advancing the understanding of lgbt issues and pointing out the hypocrisy of Catholic leadership, which, thankfully, does not mirror the majority of followers in the pews.

This was not the only missed opportunity for the Church to remove the plank from its own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else’s.  A New York Times article detailed how the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), under pressure from right-wing Catholics, is ending funding for organizations that serve the poor and marginalized, including immigrants, solely for “guilt by association.”  The issue? Some of these organizations are affiliated with umbrella groups that support equal rights for lgbt Americans, among other issues.  The CCHD said they needed to "more explicitly express the ‘positions, activities and relationships’ grantees are prohibited from taking part in, such as ‘advocacy of abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, racism, as well as use of the death penalty, punitive measures toward immigrants.’ ”  It is ironic that through its defunding, the Church itself is perpetrating “punitive measures toward immigrants.” And somehow, I doubt these same right-wing Catholics are as concerned about enforcing Church teaching on the death penalty and immigration.

I withdrew from active participation in the Catholic Church after Pete and I got married on July 24, 2011, doing so because I did not want to put the pastor of my parish in a position of turning me away should another priest or parishioner object to me being a Eucharistic Minister, lector, or even an usher.  It would be OK for me to sit quietly in church and continue to drop my generous donations in the basket each week, but in all other ways, I was unwelcome and unwanted by the Church to which I devoted my life for 53 years.  Donations that would have gone to the Church this year will, instead, go to the Ali Forney Center and The Trevor Project, the latter provides intervention and support to lgbt youth considering suicide.

Sadly, the Church of the 1960s and 1970s that marched in the streets for the rights of minorities, the poor, the marginalized, has given way to a Church that is consumed with others' sexual behavior, nearly exclusively homosexuality.  And the seminary system, especially in New York, reinforces the view of priesthood as “do as I say” (though, so often not as I do), a legalistic, pharisaic power-trip inconsistent with the compassion of Jesus, the True Pastor and Good Shepherd.  If the Catholic magisterium truly wants a smaller, purer Church, it is getting its wish.

Cardinal Dolan loves to play the victim, complaining about government interference in religion.  As I have said before, the Church can’t have it both ways.  It should not interfere in government, particularly when it comes to civil marriage offering dignity, recognition and protection to gay and lesbian couples.   

One last thing…Even though I am no longer welcome in the Catholic Church, I am grateful to clergy and laypeople from other denominations – Jewish and Christian – who have reached out to Pete and me to offer us a new spiritual home.  While we are so touched by their inclusion and thoughtfulness, we have decided to remain outside of any organized religion and will continue to live our lives is a way that truly answers the question, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Addendum (April 9, 2012). My friend Melissa Steinbach read this post Sunday and gave me a Hudson Valley perspective: "People have no idea of the magnitude of this problem. I work as a case manager with homeless youth ages 16-21 in a transitional living program in Poughkeepsie. The statistics are astounding and some suggest that around 40% or more of homeless youth are LGBTQ. It is unbelievably sad that someone would throw away their own flesh and blood because of his or her sexual orientation. I love seeing articles and blogs like this because the word needs to get out and programs like ours need funding so all homeless youth have supportive environments regardless of their sexual orientation!"

Melissa's program is River Haven's Transitional Living Community (TLC).  It is a part of a great organization called Hudson River Housing and yes, it also deserves our financial support.