The quote “The bigger the child, the bigger the potential problems,” seemed to be too accurate. Chaim Hartstein’s 19-year-old daughter, back from seminary for a few months, couldn’t land a job despite the many interviews she’d had. Shani always came back feeling like her meetings had gone well, but was then rejected time and again.
This cycle caught Mr. Hartstein by surprise as his daughter was an excellent student who had a pleasant demeanor and good social skills. Shani was now an adult, and Mr. and Mrs. Hartstein tried not to pry, but as she still relied on them for everything else in her life, Chaim finally decided to take a little initiative. The most recent company Miss Hartstein had met with was owned by a friend of his, Mr. Moshe Oisher, and Chaim asked him point blank,
“As a favor, please tell me. What is my daughter doing wrong in her job interviews? How can I improve her chances of landing her first job?”
Getting a first job is a significant step into adulthood, and the process can be quite intimidating for young adults and their parents. Especially because most yeshivos and seminaries don’t have a considerable career focus, frum parents may need to do a bit extra to help their children ease into the workplace. The starting point for this assistance is coaching new graduates about necessary professional conduct.
By their nature, schools today are pretty casual places, which is reflected in the way students dress, their topics of conversation, and an absence of formality. It turned out that Shani’s dress and behavior projected this vibe, one inconsistent with an office atmosphere. A specific example Mr. Oisher mentioned was Shani chatting loudly on her phone in the waiting room, attracting some negative attention. The job interview is mostly about making a good personal impression, which can be ruined pretty quickly. When someone shows up late or wearing a rumpled shirt to an interview, they are often moved to the reject pile before the talking even begins.
Doing Their Homework
Another aspect of displaying professionalism is coming into an interview prepared. Thanks to the Internet and social media, it’s easy to get a sense of what the interviewing company does, the firm’s key players, and its industry’s headlines. Doing a little homework takes just 15–30 minutes, and the knowledge gained can go a long way in showing the interviewer that the candidate is thoughtful and serious about getting the job. Preliminary research will also provide a guide on a reasonable range of compensation for the open position.
Mr. Hartstein was appalled to hear that when asked what she expected in salary, Shani had responded “I don’t know…maybe between $15 and $35 an hour?” Her response conveyed that she was clueless about her professional value. In addition to showing how unprepared she was, Shani’s answer also meant that an employer risked having a disgruntled worker who thought her worth was way above her negotiated salary. “Frankly,” Mr. Oisher said, “my HR director could barely contain her laughter at Shani’s naïveté.”
Being Realistic And Open-Minded
Shani’s unrealistic salary expectations were connected to a general misunderstanding of her need to match her currently limited skills and experience to available openings. The $35 request might make sense if she was in any way qualified for a mid-level position. Realistically, she was unproven and untrained, and it was important for her to keep an open mind about the jobs that were suited to her at that time.
“In fact,” Mr. Oisher said, “your daughter is currently too focused on the actual salary.” Shani hadn’t seemed to register that Mr. Oisher offered all his employees health insurance and paid time off, that the office had a welcoming environment, and most importantly, the job came with significant training and growth opportunities. Every job offer is a package deal, and working in a supportive atmosphere within a growing industry has tremendous value, especially for a newbie.
Parents Need To Step Up
Mr. Oisher was apologetic for criticizing Mr. Hartstein’s daughter, but the latter was very grateful. He felt that the shortcoming here was with the parents, not the child. Chaim realized that because Shani was so naturally smart and talented, he and his wife had assumed that she’d simply follow in their footsteps. Both Mr. and Mrs. Hartstein had successful careers in jobs they enjoyed, but they had only attained this after many years of training, growth, and hard work.
They’d taken for granted that their children would pick up career know-how through osmosis and observation. Sure, Shani could absorb all this over time, but why not speed up the learning process with some guidance from experienced people, including her parents? Mr. Hartstein was happy to have realized this oversight early enough in the game, when it would be much easier to address.