It’s graduation season, and from under those mortarboards the future has always felt like jumping off the diving board and being pushed at the same time. It’s exciting, scary and requires finding a soft place to land.
I’m always proud when we can hire a young person to their first job. We love experience, but there’s a certain fire you get when you hire the right candidate, fresh off the vine and ready to blaze a trail in the world.
When I meet them, I see myself. At 25, I left a perfectly good job at Seattle Weekly to follow my soon-to-be wife, Anne, to Boston for grad school. Like today, the economy of the early ’90s was terrible. In Boston, they were auctioning off Back Bay condos for $150,000; there might as well have been a “Not Hiring” banner over the “Welcome to Boston” sign out on the Beltway.
For months, my master’s in journalism got me exactly zero offers. I finally targeted the TAB, a chain of weeklies out in the suburbs; my old boss, David Brewster, knew the owner, Russel Pergament. That was something, at least, so one Friday afternoon I went to the TAB HQ and just plopped down in the lobby asking for a minute with, well, anyone really. No, I didn’t have an appointment. Yes, I could wait.
After an uncomfortable hour, an annoyed HR manager came out, and I gave her my pitch. As I dropped the only name I had, who else but Russel Pergament walked through the lobby. I was introduced, he asked me about David and the Weekly and told me to come by Monday to meet one of the editors. A week later, I was out reporting on the annual Town Meeting in Wellesley, Mass.
This story is not supposed to be about me. It’s about Russel taking the time to listen. Whenever there’s a young person in our lobby who wants to hand off a resume, my first thought is that I’m too busy. Just have him email me. But then I remember me at 25, and how scared I was and how ready I was to get to work. And I remember Russel. So I make the time.
So this isn’t a message for grads; it’s for all of us out in the audience, watching those beaming smiles cross the stage into the future. This is for anyone in a position to give a young person a break. If you can take on another apprentice at the job site, or if your books are looking like you can finally add a new employee, do it. Let’s give this generation a chance.