Do you remember your first real job interview? Was it for a summer internship or during the spring of your senior year in college? Who helped you get that interview? Did a family friend pass your resume onto the right person?
Connections are an important part of any job search, especially that first one. I don’t mean that hard work, experience, and character are not important. They are critical, but when you are fresh out of college and are looking for that first job, connections play an important role because young people lack the experience that limits an employer’s ability to judge character and hard work. What do I mean by this?
People call me all the time to “pass on a good word” about an applicant. Typically the call comes from someone who loves TLS and also respects the person applying for the open position. It could be a past parent, alum, trustee, or all three. They will call and say something to the effect, “I know you get a lot of these calls, but I would really like to put in a good word about Jane, who is applying for your teaching position. She just completed graduate school and has always been passionate about teaching. She was our neighbor growing up, and when she was in high school, Jane would take the time to help my son John, who was struggling with reading. She tells me to this day that it was her work with John that inspired her to major in elementary education and specialize in reading comprehension in graduate school. Jane is dependable and an extremely hard worker. I know she doesn’t have the experience yet, but I can assure you she has the makings of a good teacher. Will you at least meet with her? She could learn from interviewing with you. Again, I am so sorry to bother you about this, but I think the world of Jane, and I think she has the qualities of those teachers who makes TLS great.”
Why wouldn’t I love a phone call like this one? We may not be able to hire Jane this time around, but in three years she could be exactly what we are looking for. I also love meeting with young people who are interested in education. It is a great profession, and I want to encourage anyone thinking about teaching to teach.
When an organization hires someone fresh out of school, the big unknown is experience. To mitigate the lack of experience, I want to be reassured about that applicant’s character and work ethic. When someone knows TLS’s values and knows the applicant’s and feels strongly that the two are aligned, that takes some of the risk out of hiring a person without work experience.
Only one thing could have helped Jane more in the conversation above: if she had been a TLS alum. I know firsthand what it means to graduate from The Lexington School; I know that individual’s work ethic, determination, character, values—the list goes on and on.
I am not alone in that thinking. In fact, our Alumni Council has been discussing ways to leverage the network that is The Lexington School. Our Alumni Council has coordinated events for our high school and college graduates to meet with alumni and parents who work in various fields of employment. We have also been busy interviewing TLS Alumni about their work and careers with our Mentoring Moments. These events have been quite popular and effective, but we have been looking for something that reaches a broader audience. It has begged the question: How do we leverage the full scope of The Lexington School family to network not only in Lexington and Kentucky, but across the country and around the world?
It is from that audacious goal that The Paddock was born. The Paddock is an online network, similar to LinkedIn, composed of TLS alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends of the school. It has ballooned to nearly 400 members. On The Paddock, one can find internships, mentors, and jobs. It is not only a place for a young graduate to find his or her first job, but it is also a place for a seasoned professional to take that next step in his or her career or perhaps to find that little pocket of TLS in San Francisco, LA, New York, London, or Tokyo.
Leveraging a school’s network of alumni, parents, and friends is nothing new to the world of education, but it is unusual for a K-8 school. The growth of The Paddock is remarkable by any standards, and it says something about the difference in those who grew up “within these halls of learning” because that is where “a proud tradition grows.” Indeed, it does.
Please join The Paddock if you have not already! The more of us on there, the more valuable the network is.