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Harvard Grads Becoming Babysitters. This may not be a bad thing.

mommy_perks_imageForbes recently posted an article titled, Harvard Grad Seeks Babysitting Jobs.

This article made me ponder two primary points:

1. Is college for everyone?

2. Could ‘babysitting’ make a resume more attractive?

Is college for everyone?

To start, the article begs the question, “Is college really for everyone?” Once upon a time I would have said, “Of course! What a silly question.”

I’ve changed my mind, over the last few years. I believe that the author of this article is spot-on: college is not for everyone and furthermore, many people attend college only to be told, “We hired someone else who is more fitting for the job. Thanks, anyway.” My brother-in-law graduated not long ago, found an Internship job, and was then let go. He later began working at Starbucks, attempting to feed four kids on minimum wage. He certainly didn’t need that college degree for a job at Starbucks. He’s now going back to college, for a second degree, and changing his major. The first degree didn’t provide what he needed in order to take care of his family. Let’s hope the second degree does. Or…he may end up starting his own business; something my sister has already hinted at.

Rick and I have mentored numerous teens over the last few years. We recently wrote each one a letter, expressing our sadness to be leaving the town, and pointing out their strengths and character attributes. We wanted to leave them with something special and meaningful. While writing their letters Rick and I talked about how two of the kids were wonderful college prospects. The others will do better (and likely feel more fulfilled) attending a trade school or seeking employment that doesn’t require a higher degree. That doesn’t make them sub-human. It’s simply a reality. Not all of them would succeed at college and by attending, would likely feel like failures and end up working a skills-based job, anyway, with college debt to boot.

My husband has two degrees: Political Science and Theology. He’s been running his own business since 1986. He doesn’t regret the education he received but he’d be the first to point out – his degrees have done very little to help him in the job world. In fact, he points to his time as the President of the ASU Student Body as a more educational experience than many of his courses.

I recently ran an interview here with Rudy DeFelice from Bizinate. Rudy told me:

I take a “different strokes” approach to education.  Higher education is a great experience, but you can lead a full life and have a great career without it.  You are wise to consider the costs and benefits and not choose college automatically.  I went to College, then Law school, then Business school, because I love education and wanted the experience.  But some of the best entrepreneurs I know dropped out.  It has never been easier to be successful without a pedigree.

While I imagine that many Harvard Grads aspire to high paying corporate jobs, a good many of them attend school for the education but end up in non profit careers, by choice. Some of them may even end up working with children, by choice. As one of the comments stated:

What’s wrong with a babysitting job? I’m at Harvard and a lot of my friends are considering paths which they know won’t pay them tons of money but which enables them to do what they love in the end. Yeah, babysitting jobs do not make you millionaires but they pay fairly for what they are worth, and to me (and a lot of other people, grad or non-grad) good and honest options for some extra money, as a side to an exciting internship for instance, like for the young man you mention…

Could ‘babysitting’ make a resume more attractive?

I’d like to point out that although a higher degree is an impressive resume mark, working with children is an education of its own. I was a nanny for 16+ years. I have worked in Preschools and volunteered in classrooms, through grade 4. I’m a mother of four ranging in age from 9 months to teen. I also attended college part time and some day hope to complete my elementary ed degree. Even if I don’t get hired as a teacher, I’d like to know that I finished what I started: it’s a personal goal for me. However, my life experience gave me far more than my college classes ever did.

I have held down many jobs, been promoted by most bosses, and I’ve learned a great deal from those experiences. I can safely say, however, that I’ve learned the most by working with children (for 25 years now). I’ve learned to turn throw-away items into recycled toys, I’ve learned to shop on a budget, I’ve learned to be creative and quick thinking, I’ve learned to appreciate the little things, I’ve learned to stay calm during emergencies, I’ve learned that not all people have the same personality and each one needs to be treated according to their temperament, I’ve learned to be patient and to use my negotiating skills on a daily basis, I’ve learned about the importance of play, and much, much more.

The interpersonal skills learned, by working with kids, really can’t be matched. My friends Wendy (Kidlutions), Ava (Listen To Me Please) and Louise (Signing Families) have all worked with, and around, kids for more than 25 years. If I were a large company, seeking to hire, these ladies would be at the top of my list: human resources, company negotiators, business planning, employee training, employee incentive programs and more. Their backgrounds would find them appropriately suited for anything related to relationship marketing.

I recently interviewed the owner of The Southern Sitters & Nannies. I asked her, “I’m a former nanny myself, of 16+ years. In your opinion, what makes a great nanny/sitter?”

She replied:

A great nanny has a genuine passion for spending time with children.  They are reliable, patient, resourceful, creative, educated (meaning some college education and childcare experience), and able to multi-task. They keep a child’s safety in mind and are able to respond in an emergency.  They understand how to be a great role model.

That sounds pretty impressive to me. I bet many corporations would love an employee or PR person who is reliable, patient, resourceful, creative, educated, capable of multitasking, and calm under pressure.

I find it commendable that the man mentioned in the Forbes post is willing to spend time with the Mini Humans, working hard, and building up a history of work experience. Rather than sending out countless resumes, refusing to see the writing on the wall while feeling entitled to a grander job, he’s taking action to pay his bills and work an honest and ethical position. It might not be Wall Street and he may not wish to babysit for the rest of his life. When he doubles back for a corporate job, however, perhaps the corporation would do well to consider babysitting as an asset on his Harvard Grad resume.

Something to ponder, anyway.


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10 Responses to “Harvard Grads Becoming Babysitters. This may not be a bad thing.”

  1. WOW! Thank you so much for inclusion in this timely missive. I am sure you have given food for thought to many.

  2. Ava says:

    Shara as always great point and great discussion material. I love how you see various sides to a issue.
    I too think I would be great at relationship marketing lol) thanks for the help in teaching me what I need to know about business..
    I love my new social media job! And thanks for the mention!!

  3. Michael says:

    Hmmm… Interesting trend… I’m OK with it, as long as there aren’t tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-backed student loans in the mix.

  4. Katie says:

    I agree that college isn’t for everyone and that many professions would be better served by a trade school education than a liberal arts degree in esoteric topics. However, there are also a lot of people who go to college while still immature in their career decision-making and major in a topic that isn’t practical for their eventual career aspirations. This is in part due to the extension of adolescence into our 20’s in our current culture.

    As far as babysitting on a resume, I completely agree that that is the type of person that everyone should want to hire, but I don’t think that most employers feel that babysitting is a resume asset. I babysat for years and always included it on my resume, as my ultimate goal was to become a pediatrician. I feel that this was an EXTREMELY valuable experience and probably more so than my candy-striping and clinical research experiences.

    As a parent, I would welcome a Harvard grad as a babysitter. My college (not Harvard) had a babysitting service that they marketed to local families and made a lot of college students some extra cash. I would hire one of those girls in a minute. It is very hard to find reliable, trustworthy, and hard-working individuals to care for your children. Having said that though, I would also be just as apt to hire a babysitter without a college degree, because as stated earlier, college isn’t for everyone and there are so many other experiences that can shape the person we become.

  5. Shara says:

    Louise – Thank you.

    Ava – You’re welcome for the mention. You ARE great at relationships, yes!

    Michael – Good point.

    Katie – I agree with your statement about our current culture. I also agree that many employers do not see babysitting as an asset. And I think they’d do well to reconsider that.

    I’m glad you pointed out that you’d hire someone without a degree, also. That was me. I started babysitting at the age of 11, moved on through the years to more childcare and Preschool work, became a nanny (for more than 16 years, on and off), did attend classes at college that were child-related (but never finished my degree), and had 4 kids of my own. While the college classes were fun and interesting, I learned far more about kids from the personal one-on-one experiences. I’ve now worked around kids for 25 years in total. While I was nannying, I had a waiting list. I didn’t have the degree to back anything up but I certainly earned the trust of those I worked for, based on my life experiences.

    You’re so right that it’s hard to find reliable, trustworthy, hard-working people to watch our kids.

  6. Katie says:

    To see how hard I think it is to find the right nanny, read about my horrific experience with my first nanny hire here:

  7. Shara says:

    Thanks, Katie! I left comments on your blog.

  8. Ros says:

    Hard reality to face, but to survive in the “new economy” people will have to make a paradigm shift & be open to adapt to the opportunities available in the job market. You just never know what that opportunity will lead to. And hey don’t knock the nanny job… remember Mark Burnett? The award winning producer of Survivor, Apprentice, The Voice, Shark Tank, just to name a few… well, he immigrated to the US from England & his first job was… yup, you got it – nanny.

    Here’s another hard reality – 1 in 2 college graduates are jobless or underemployed (Huff Post). Yikes! It’s no wonder people are seriously rethinking about attending or postponing college. One college grad shared that many of the employers want some “previous history in the field” reiterating Shara’s point on how important it is to build some employment history. I also think it helps to demonstrate to potential employers you’re willing to do what it takes (big plus as well towards character qualities).

    On a personal note – my husband didn’t have a college degree, through hard-work, he became vice-president with Citibank Int’l. To quote him – “my experience at Citibank was my education/college”.

    I’d be the first one to promote, encourage get a college degree, but in today’s new economy, it’s worth the time and money to weigh and explore your options. I was fortunate to have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug after a couple of years in college… I sure saved myself some money.

    Great post Shara!

  9. Leah says:

    I agree that this person is to be commended for taking honest work where it can be found, instead of insisting that they are entitled to something better. I think it’s a shame that college courses don’t do more to prepare people for the work they are hoping to go into, considering the cost of an education.

  10. Leah D. says:

    I just finished reading everyone’s comments, all great responses. I bounced around alot during college, trying many different avenues. Eventually getting my degree in Marketing. Over the years I have been in many jobs from childcare, sales, retail, software etc. With each job I have gained so much experience to propel me into another job and finally owning my own business. A degree will only take you so far, but the experiences, no matter what they are will take you the furthest.

    On a side note, I agree with Leah regarding the college preparedness for new grads. My Nephew is in a Golf Management program at Mississippi State, in that program he is required to do 3 internships each lasting 6 – 8 months. These internships are to teach the students what it takes to manage a Luxury Type Golf course. These internships are across the country and can even be international. He is on his 3rd internship now living and working in Alabama, he has learned all about managing a golf course from being a caddie, to running the pro shops. It is a fantastic program where he will come out with a business degree. More schools and programs should follow suit, he has made so many great relationships that he will have no problem finding a job upon his graduation.

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