March 27, 2011

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Old Dog, New Tricks

I read the articles from the Careers Issue (March 6) at Logan Airport last Sunday afternoon and wrote this response the next morning from my water-view room in Tacoma. Six years ago, I retired from a 37-year public school career and segued into a college admissions position. I’m now on the road four months a year (my wife misses her cook and laundryman), and my dean, the next oldest person in our office, was born after I graduated from college. Most of my competent, fun colleagues are in their 20s. I feel smarter now than I did five years ago because of the new skill set I’ve had to master. It’s an exciting feeling to be Medicare-eligible while learning new tricks.

Bruce J. Jones / Barnstable

A Clean Sweep

I had a few laughs reading Howard Mansfield’s essay about working as a vacuum salesman (Perspective, March 6). I, too, worked for Electrolux, part time from 1973 to 1977 while attending Bentley College. I have great memories of some of the characters I worked with, some of the people who opened their doors to me, and of the sales approach Mansfield summarized. Does he remember the line: “Mrs. Jones, this dirt is not your fault; it is the fault of your machine”?

Steve Marx / Sharon

Do You Believe in Miracles?

The one issue Jake Halpern forgets to discuss in his story about the school for pregnant girls (“The Miracle of Polly McCabe,” February 27) is what cost to the taxpayer do these irresponsible young girls incur? Even if abortion cannot be discussed at school, are there teacher-led discussions on adoption? Fourteen-year-old girls cannot take care of themselves, never mind a baby. If girls like Nancy gave their children up for adoption and then went on birth control, I would have more sympathy for them. In fact, Nancy’s sister Diana, who is not pregnant and trying to learn, is the one Halpern should be doing a story about. She is the one society should be helping.

Richard Mytkowicz / Lynn

“The Miracle of Polly McCabe” opens readers’ eyes to the issues surrounding teen pregnancy and its impact on children, families, and our nation. In Massachusetts, pregnancy causes more than 2,000 students to drop out of high school annually. Boston alone has more than 500 new teen mothers each year. For 17 years, the Young Parents Program at Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) has provided pregnant and parenting teenagers with individual counseling and support, GED preparation, parenting classes, job and career development counseling, and support groups. Keeping these young parents in the education/job development system where they attain the credentials and skills to become responsible parents and skilled workers means a huge savings for taxpayers. Unfortunately, ABCD’s Young Parents Program has been cut in the 2012 state budget and is scheduled to end July 1. We understand the state’s difficult budget issues, but beg Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature to invest in our youngest citizens and the teenagers who are struggling to be parents and breadwinners in these fragile families. Please let us continue providing the skills and support that will save families now and taxpayer dollars in the long run.

John J. Drew, President/CEO, Action for Boston Community Development

Service Call

I totally disagree with G.P. and the bad advice given by Miss Conduct regarding Restaurant Week tipping (March 6). There is absolutely no reason why tips should be based on the “typical meal costs” at a particular restaurant. Many participating restaurants do not even serve items from their standard menu, and others often create lesser-cost entrees or offer smaller portions. In addition, the servers at these dining spots are likely earning very few tips during these traditionally slower weeks in the middle of winter, so a tip based on the special pricing doesn’t look so bad, after all.

Joseph LaChimia / Quincy

I worked for tips during college and for a time afterward at several restaurants and agree it’s very hard work, but I have to disagree with Miss Conduct. Restaurants participate in this event to expose more people to their fare, with the hope of gaining them as future customers. During this prolonged recession where there have been fewer patrons, restaurants and their servers benefit from having the broadest base of patrons possible. I’ve discovered many of my favorite spots during the March and August events. But some servers don’t hide the fact that they feel that Restaurant Week diners are in some way inferior to their regular patrons. Most memorable was the instance at a very upscale Cambridge eatery, where our party was ushered by a surly hostess to a table that had been empty for the entire 30 minutes we had been forced to wait. We were rushed through a sub-par dinner by a clearly annoyed server. The bill was dropped on the table before all of us had finished our entrees, never having been offered coffee, dessert, or after-dinner drinks. This was a missed opportunity for both the restaurant and the server: Former restaurant workers and big tippers all, we haven’t returned. And needless to say, the tip we gave matched the service we received.

Pamela Waite / Cambridge

Dolly Parton’s response to blond jokes was to say, “I’m not offended by all the dumb-blond jokes because I know that I’m not dumb.” Of course, unlike the natural blond who wrote in to Miss Conduct (February 27), Parton was then able to add, “I also know I’m not blond.”

Lawrence J. Krakauer


Family Values

Was anyone else put off by the condescending tone of Glenn Yoder’s article about encouraging his girlfriend’s brother to attend college (Coupling, February 27)? If I were Tara and her family, I would take exception to him seemingly claiming exclusive rights to the world of higher education. Did Tara herself not earn an undergraduate degree and a master’s? Acting as though young Jack would never consider college if not for him is arrogant of Yoder. While it’s lovely of the author to want to be an example in the boy’s life, I think he could have made the piece less about himself and more about Tara, the older sister who has done that which he’s advocating. His values seem to be Tara’s as well, and to speak of her family and other people from “Southie” as though they just fell off the turnip truck is just insulting.

Carol Borselle / Oak Bluffs

I work with students all the time who need a little push to go to college. Many think they won’t be able to do it or fear that it will be a repeat of what was often an unhappy high school experience. Curious is good! Yoder should keep talking to the boy about college and describing how it was for him. Hopefully it was a challenging but very rewarding experience.

Diana Fairchild

Associate director of enrollment services, Boise State University

Yoder is doing the right thing. When I was 11, my family was visited by my mother’s cousin, John A. Long, who was at the time vice president of Electronics Corporation of America in Cambridge. He brought to the house a breadboard with a photocell and a light source. It intrigued me, and I decided that I wanted to attend MIT and become an electrical engineer rather than go into my father’s business managing property. This was the first of many happenstances that influenced the path of my life. I will not bore you with the details of the others that came as a result of my attending MIT. Suffice it to say that the decision to apply to MIT is still influencing my life as I approach my 50th reunion. Good direction from someone outside the immediate family can be life-changing.

Edward Sonn / Carlisle

Seen on the web

On March 6, we published “Why Starting Over Is So Hard,” a piece by Alan Deutschman about the challenges facing people who change careers.

Readers responded on

Grasshoppa wrote: I spent 10 years as a blue-collar worker, and I am going on 13 years in my current profession. Looking forward to my next career. I wonder what I will be when I grow up this time.

Napmaster wrote: I’ve been looking for IT work for two-plus years now, but I’m still not changing careers. I spent way too much money and time just to throw it all away.

AniDalit wrote: One of the things that has struck me is that my credentials and my skills no longer match very well – I’ve got old degrees with rusty skills and new skills without the degrees. The organization for which

I volunteer kind of bridges this gap by putting volunteers through a training class, but I suspect the job market will be less forgiving.

Magpie02141 wrote: It has been my observation (and experience) that career switchers or late bloomers have to overcome the biases of those already established in the profession. Academics frown on those who take a nontraditional path, marketers feel that only the under-30 crowd is creative, and so on. Simply put, older entrants on a beginner’s path are seen as losers, not adventurers.

Abrahamv1 wrote: Reinvent yourself. Never be afraid of following your passions and dreams. Weave the life you want to live. Do something scary every day. Don’t stay at an unhappy, unrewarding job for the money. We’ve gone through an economic shift. You can’t stand back on your heels. In the new world you have to be on your toes and nimble. Workers have to evolve. These days we all have to create our own opportunities.

Duh wrote: My field is shrinking, or perhaps morphing from an engineering field to more of a trade. Yet I am fighting to stay in. Why? From a selfish perspective, I value what I have learned over the years, want to be able to leverage that, and hate to see it go to waste. Also, I recognize that if I were to start over, it would take years to develop the proficiency I have in my current field. From an employer’s perspective, my expertise can save more junior people from making mistakes that I have already learned from.

Deltatd wrote: I say [the writer was] scared of what he doesn’t know and by a younger generation who learned it quickly and well, when we thought we could get by without learning it. The world changes. People don’t like to. I can relate.