Friday, August 16, 2002
Does college prepare you for work?
This week dozens of Carlisle students and parents are packing their vans J. Crew wardrobes, computers, stereos, skis, books, refrigerators for the great annual return to college. Probably few are thinking about that August, maybe only a year away, when they will have to pack away the shorts and t-shirts and prepare to enter the great American workforce. Why should they? Doesn't college prepare them for success in the working world?
On the other side of the personnel office, supervisors and managers are welcoming their new employees. They know that in a group of college graduates, all from good schools with respectable grades, some will catch on faster, take on more responsibility, accomplish more, and be more likely to get the next position or promotion. What do you need to learn to be that successful employee?
While a solid knowledge of facts and methods in your field of study is certainly important, it is frequently other skills or competencies that pull you out of the pack of your peers. Can you learn these in college? Yes, but most of them are not in the catalog.
Perhaps most important is an ability to communicate clearly and concisely, orally and in writing. Whether summarizing your results, giving clear instructions to your team, or soliciting management's support for your project, a clear presentation of the facts and their significance gets respect and results. A college course that teaches how to organize and present your information is important whether you are an engineer or an artist.
Second, the ability to handle multiple tasks, organizing time and priorities is a fundamental skill. Students who learn to juggle their academic courses, as well as a major commitment to a sport or other activity and busy social life will be well-prepared for future challenges. Work hard, play hard and get it done.
Third, you must be able to work well with people from different social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds; your co-workers may be your mother's age or your grandfather's; they may speak four languages or have never left the South End. If your college classmates all look like your CCHS classmates, then you need to find diversity elsewhere. Consider a semester abroad or an internship outside the university.
Finally, there is no substitute for knowing whether a job suits you. Again, an internship (or good summer job) will help you learn not only about a job, but also whether the corporate philosophy, surroundings, schedules, people, and pace match your interests, temperament, and values.
While a good education is much more than a ticket to a job, it is helpful if your college years prepare you for a fast start in the "real world."
Ten Years in Carlisle
Our family moved to Carlisle ten years ago this month. That fact, coupled with the spate of "good-bye" notices appearing in this space in the recent past, prompts me to reflect on my time here and to observe that some of us, at least, are staying.
Ten years ago, New England was mired in the depths of economic recession. Carlisle struggled with declining revenues, exacerbated by the cumulative effects of Proposition 2 1/2. Nonetheless, Carlisle seemed always to find the will to fund its fine school, and to purchase conservation land. Some things never change.
Others do. We were the third family to move into our newly developed neighborhood. As our neighbors joined us, we puzzled over the need to ferry our children to the end of our road, in Concord, to catch the bus to school each day. We were even more puzzled by the school committee's reaction to our seemingly simple suggestion that the school bus should use the turnaround circle at the end of our street to change direction for the return trip to school. We were downright mystified by the planning board's insistence that our road (which it had approved) should never be accepted as a town way. And we were disappointed by Town Meeting's unwillingness to accept Hartwell Road on our first attempt, then gratified by its final acceptance in 1996.
Despite ten years here, I feel like a newcomer. Part of the reason is my telephone exchange. Early on, I became aware that "real" Carlisleans (and Concordians) possessed 369 numbers. Some of the more recent arrivals were burdened with 371 prefixes. We were branded with the scarlet letter of a 287 exchange a stigma that has subsided slightly with the recent addition of 318 numbers.
Change arrives grudgingly in New England generally, and in Carlisle particularly. A variation of the familiar "light bulb" joke suggests that it takes six in Boston one to turn the new bulb and a committee of five to discuss the historical significance of the old bulb. In Carlisle, the discussion precedes the bulb changing. It is with that preface that I comment with some wonder on the changes we have witnessed over the past ten years (despite all the discussion).
Against a century of contrary tradition, we approved and built a town hall. A previous unsuccessful attempt to convert the Congregational Church to town hall use nonetheless produced the Malcolm Meadows senior housing project. We developed a recreational fields complex on the Banta-Davis land. Through a combination of private and public funding we completed an expansion and renovation of the Gleason Public Library. These are just selected highlights.
Challenges have emerged as well. Our school is still struggling to develop a suitable replacement for its failed septic system. We will continue to face the loss of local control until we meet the affordable housing targets established under Chapter 40B. We have lost the Pig & Pepper fundraiser, through lack of volunteer support. That circumstance is but a symptom of a broader phenomenon appearing in the number of uncontested town elections, and the dearth of willing citizens available to fill posts that traditionally have relied on volunteers.
Most significantly, we have struggled with our very identity. Many chafe at the suggestion that we are a suburb, and eschew suburban attributes (such as sidewalks or "walking paths"). Statistics show that we are among the most wealthy and highly educated of Massachusetts' towns, yet we view ourselves as an agricultural community. Ten years from now, who and what will we be?
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito