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Harrington: A Helping Hand

05/19/11 5:55PM By Elaine Harrington
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(HOST)  It's graduation time once again, and Vermont's colleges are graduating many young people who are now ready for the workforce.  Commentator Elaine Harrington says it's important to do everything we can to help them get their careers started.

(HARRINGTON) Another request just came in - from Eli.  I'm already working on six - from Neel, Jorge, Patrick, Logan, Jieru, and Heather. And I know that there will be more.

It's mid-May - and my current and former students are asking me for help to get their professional lives rolling. They would like to become journalists or teach English to teenagers. They'd like to write medical software or land an internship in civil engineering. They are bright, well-educated, and ambitious. And they all need a boost to get their careers started during this difficult economy.

I'm doing my best to help them - with letters of recommendation and notes to friends and colleagues who might offer a chance to a motivated young person. Perhaps I have an unusual opportunity to do this, as an English instructor at the University of Vermont. After a semester or more together, I know some of the strengths and skills of these students - and I stand behind them as candidates for the workplace.
 
It takes a bit of time to think about each student, to come up with appropriate options - and to make the connection. But I believe that it's a responsibility and privilege to offer that helping hand to those who will follow us.
 
We who have the contacts, who run the institutions, organizations, and businesses of Vermont, have an obligation to help and initiate the upcoming group of professionals. Internships are often just as important as that first "real" job offer. It's a chance for the young person to gain skills while sampling a profession - and the jobsite gets to try out a prospective employee. Many are even willing to work without pay - just to get that essential experience.
 
My nephew Trevor, a business and economics major, works every summer. But this time, he says, he really needs that first business-related internship - so he applies for two each day.

On Sunday, more than twelve hundred Vermonters will graduate from the University of Vermont.  And fourteen hundred Vermonters graduated last weekend from the Vermont State College system. Many will want to establish their adult lives here. Other young people - who came to Vermont to study - are interested in remaining. Many Vermonters who studied out of state are also coming back. And we need them - to create new businesses and to balance the aging population. These young graduates can offer technical savvy, fresh ideas, and some fun energy to the workplace.
 
One connection just worked out: My former student, Neel Tandan from Williston, is now a journalism intern with Vermont Business Magazine, where he'll gain experience and they'll have a capable and enthusiastic editorial assistant.

Perhaps there's a young neighbor or relative who could contribute energy and skills to your office or jobsite this summer - or even become a permanent member of your group.
 
It's important to remember that someone once believed in you, and gave you a shot at your first real job.
   
It's May. The young graduates will be out there looking to get started - and it's time for us to share our place in the world.
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