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High hopes

October 7, 2009

The meeting with the career advisor was interesting. He’d scheduled me for a 45 minute meeting, which seemed like a lot of time, particularly given that he has no particular reason to be talking to me other than that he was doing Mr. Spy a favor. We ended up talking for an hour and a half.

The CA is a Ph.D. who runs a campus center that helps prep college kids for professional life. It’s an interesting venture in a school that is trying to blend a liberal arts education with professional preparation. It’s one of the things that intrigues me about this particular campus. Because of his experience, I felt like he was in a really good position to assess my viability as a candidate in both the academic and non-academic jobs that I’m pursuing.

I had some specific issues I wanted to address. I wanted to figure out how to make the variety of my work experience look like an asset on paper rather than a liability – I’ve been concerned that I look uncommitted. But really, I’ve been very consistent about pursuing two careers more or less simultaneously. I like them both and ultimately want to figure out a way to bring them together. He made some good points, one of them being that this won’t look like a liability to a place that values both sets of skills.

The big question I had was how to address the gap in my resume from going back to school and staying home with my kid for seven years. He felt that this wasn’t necessarily a problem. Or, rather, he thought the problem lay with how I viewed it. “What have you been doing?” he asked. “You’ve been in school. You’ve been taking care of your child. You’ve been doing volunteer work , at least some of which is related to your career. You haven’t left the work force. You’ve just changed jobs.”

We spent some time going over both my resumé for non-academic jobs and my c.v. for academic work. He made some suggestions of things I hadn’t thought of in terms of the way I’d laid things out. I’ve been paring things back to keep the resumé down to two pages, but he thought I’d cut too much out and needed to put some detail back in.

He gave me a couple of exercises to do to help me think about how my skills gleaned from my various experiences might transfer to various types of jobs and he gave me some networking advice. He’s also trying to set me up with an informational interview with the chair of the music dept.

So all in all, a very productive morning.

I met AJ after school in the library for his first chess club meeting. The grandmaster who runs the program and whom I’d met last week was not there, but another grandmaster was. At first it was just AJ and his friend N, who in his excitement to be there was kind of monopolizing the conversation. But then a second-grade boy and a fourth-grade girl, both of whom I know from my library work, joined in. We all learned a lot. I signed up to be the parent aide to get a price break on AJ’s tuition. But I feel like what I’m really getting is free chess lessons.

I came home and looked up the teacher who had showed up to teach elementary school kids beginner chess. I’m amazed that these guys are teaching at this level. It would be the equivalent of me, at age 7, taking my first ever violin lesson with Itzhak Perlman instead of with the semi-pro French horn player who took on the string lessons at my elementary school. It’s pretty incredible. Both of these grandmasters are young (young to me, anyway: born when I was in college) and personable and excellent teachers. AJ had a great time and I think we both learned a lot. He made me read his new chess book to him at bedtime instead of the Harry Potter book we’ve been working on. He brought the book down to breakfast this morning to study while he was eating his cereal.

Afterwards, AJ and I grabbed some dinner and headed to the public library for his first book group. There were 5 boys and 4 girls with their parents. The librarian who runs looked a big like an ex-hippy, with a long purple prairie skirt over colorful tights. She was so excited about her new program and her enthusiasm was infectious. We talked about the book (Andrew Clements No Talking) for the first half, led by her excellent questions. The book is about a no talking contest between fifth-grade boys and girls at an elementary school. (That description sells the book short – it’s also about non-violent protest, and unifying groups who don’t get along because of a lack of understanding, about the importance of thinking before you speak, and of working together). In the second half of the hour, we split into 4-person teams each of which had to work together to build the tallest tower they could with a bagful of supplies (tape, paper plates, plastic cups, marshmallows, toothpicks and popsicle sticks) but we had to do it without talking. Kids and grownups alike loved it and had a great time. The solutions were creative and fun to look at. Then the librarians gave the kids snacks and sent us on our way with copies of the book for next month.

AJ was wired and had trouble sleeping afterwards. So did I, actually. I had visions of chessboards dancing in my head all night. AJ slept so long this morning, I had to wake him up at a quarter to eight — he’s usually up at 5:30 on his own. But he was in a fabulous mood. “Was yesterday as good as you thought it would be?” I asked.

“Yesterday was GREAT. I can’t wait for next time.” I’d have to agree with that sentiment.

**There’s a new post at AJ’s Clubhouse, a response to a Washington Post column about a homeschooled gifted kid who’s having trouble getting his past coursework accepted by his high school.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. readersguide permalink
    October 7, 2009 11:02 am

    Congrats on the interview — it all sounds like very sensible advice. (It’s funny — this all reminds me of helping M with her college applications, where he instinct is to say that she hasn’t done anything, whereas actually, she’s done a lot. Or getting librarians ready for performance reviews, where it really all lies in getting them to have their dossiers tell a story. It’s all how you see it, I think, and then organize it based on some theme.) And what a great idea for a kids’ bookgroup. I could never really imagine how you could get kids together to talk about books — what a clever idea to actually have them do something. Ha!

  2. freshhell permalink
    October 7, 2009 11:21 am

    All that advice sounds exactly right. I wish you luck in finding a really great job you like.

    Are you and AJ reading the last HP book? That’s what Dusty and I are reading right now. My husband’s reading her Hardy Boys books. I never read those, having no interest, back in the day, in what boys did. I’m glad Dusty doesn’t have such silly dislikes.

  3. October 7, 2009 11:33 am

    We’re reading book 5. AJ read books 1-4 the summer before 1st grade and he’s been rereading them on his own. At that point he decided 4 was a little much for him and he wanted to wait to read the rest. Over the summer we reread 3 and 4 again together and he decided he wanted to continue on to 5. I’m not sure if we’ll go on to 6 right after this or take another break. He likes HP a lot, but he likes to read a lot of different things and the length of these books means we’re stuck in them for a while. And readersguide, it IS a great idea. AJ’s been looking longingly at the library’s book groups for older kids for some time. This group is a one woman project that was offered as an experiment. She worked with the school librarians to choose the book list. The first two books were picked, but after that the kids will vote. As of now, the group is scheduled only for through December. But it was so well thought out and it’s been popular beyond her imagination. The first group filled up and there was such a long waiting list that she started a second group and now there’s a waiting list for that too. Clearly she found a need!

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