Do Your Kids Have the Real-World Skills…


October 26th, 2006

I love banana bread — a few key ingredients, blended together, given time to rise (with a little help from your oven), and poof — a delicious masterpiece.

What does banana bread have to do with success? The same basic recipe holds true in life — and the outcome may even be sweeter.

Skills are the main ingredient of success. Real-world skills, such as exhibiting proper social and business etiquette, selecting attire that is appropriate for a specific environment, speaking well and communicating effectively, and being able to clearly transfer your thoughts to paper, are some of the most important skills that will foster the successful growth and achievement of your child.

These skills, blended together with academic instruction, will create a strong foundation to support your child’s development. Over time, this foundation will enable him to rise to amazing accomplishments. As this happens, he will become more aware of the connection between skill-building and success. This, in turn, will motivate him or her to continue acquiring and honing the essential skills needed to succeed.

Since most schools do not emphasize real-world skills as part of their curriculum, parental coaching is a key component in helping your child to make this important connection.

Four of the most important real-world skills you should emphasize to your child:

Etiquette:  Reinforce simple courtesies by kindly reminding her to:

•    Say “please” and “thank you”
•    Stand and greet others when walking into the room
•    Give a firm and brief handshake when meeting someone
•    Hold the door open for the next person walking behind
•    Cover mouth when coughing or yawning, and nose when sneezing
•    Put napkin in lap
•    Wait until everyone at the table is served before starting to eat
•    Chew with mouth closed

By teaching and reinforcing good manners and behavior, you are laying the foundation for your child to exhibit proper social and business etiquette as an adult.

Attire: Explain that different situations require specific and appropriate attire:

•    A birthday party
•    The playground
•    A recital
•    School
•    Awards ceremony or sports dinner
•    A college, scholarship or job interview
•    The workplace

By allowing your child to pick out what she wants to wear and explaining why the outfit may or may not be appropriate for the environment, you will foster a habit of dressing for the occasion. As an adult, she will then have the ability to seamlessly integrate into different environments and to appear knowledgeable when it comes to making a positive impression with attire.

Speech: Help your child to speak well and to communicate effectively:

•    Encourage him to communicate feelings or needs by using words instead of crying, whining, or throwing a tantrum
•    Guide your child to answer the phone in a clear and polite manner
•    Exhibit confident body language and positive mannerisms that your child can emulate (i.e., smile, eye contact)
•    Use positive reinforcement to acknowledge when your child is listening instead of interrupting
•    Kindly correct your child when he misuses a word or uses slang
•    Do not ignore or condone your child’s use of inappropriate or profane language

By helping your child to speak well and to communicate effectively, you are paving the way for them, as adults, to be looked upon as innovative thinkers, skilled communicators and leaders. He will have the ability to easily adapt to the standards and requirements of different professional environments.

Writing: Foster a feeling of pride and achievement in your child through her written words:

•    Compliment homework that is neat and well-written
•    Reinforce strengths in creative writing, grammar, or spelling and constructively comment on areas that still need practice
•    Inspire your child to hone writing skills by asking a funny question and suggesting that it be the basis of a creative story
•    Explain what a well-written resume is, and why it is a valuable tool that is useful throughout life
•    Have your child begin to develop a resume as early as middle school
•    Begin to structure a resume by having your child:

1.    Write down some of the tasks, duties or responsibilities she has held.
2.    Keep a chronological list of jobs, including the dates of employment, position title and the names of her employers.
3.    Explain how she benefited the employer or company.
4.    List compliments or awards received for a job well done.

Skills are the building blocks of success — no matter what a person’s age or interests may be. The earlier a child learns the importance of exhibiting real-world skills, the more he or she will begin to use them in everyday actions. This is essential for long-term achievement because an empowered child will become a productive and successful adult.

Successful Strategies to Remember:

•    Start early exposing your child to the important real-world skills that he or she will need throughout life. How you teach the skills, what you emphasize, and goals and objectives may change, but the critical role these skills play in the life of your child will remain the same.
•    Emphasize the connection between acquiring real-world skills and the achievement of your child’s personal goals.
•    Practice positive reinforcement as a way to encourage successes and acknowledge effort, and offer constructive comments to facilitate further learning.
•    Be a positive role model. If you do not do as you say, the worth of your words will be immediately diluted.

Real-world skills are the ingredients that, when mixed with a strong academic foundation, can help students rise to become accomplished adults, and productive citizens — a definite recipe for success!

-Laura J. Katen,
NY Metro Parents Magazine, October 26th, 2006

Youth Find Ally in Job-Skills Guru


June 26th, 2006

Like many Americans, Laura Katen laments the current state of customer service in this country.

Young people behind registers are often too focused on their personal lives rather than the customer before them. It’s all too common to see such workers carrying on conversations with fellow workers or friends while failing to even acknowledge the customer.

“Young people don’t understand that they’re doing themselves no favors in exhibiting such behavior,” Katen says. “They fail to recognize that their next opportunity may be right before them.”

That’s one reason Katen left her job at a real estate investment firm five years ago to start her own company, Harrison-based Katen LLC, which trains students and young workers in etiquette and job skills.

“I figured the only difference between successful young adults and unsuccessful ones is the knowledge base,” she says.

If youthful job seekers know what they need to do and have been trained to do it, they can capitalize on opportunities when they materialize, she says.

To that end, Katen offers workshops to disadvantaged youth and middle school, high school, college and vocational school students ages 11 to 26.

“The whole crux of our workshop program is how to be prepared to do business in America,” she says.

As the former director of the Girls Empowered through Meaningful Support, or GEMS, at the YWCA in White Plains, Courtney Bryant hired Katen to present her Enhance Your Chance workshops to at-risk girls in the middle- and high-school grades.

Katen’s classes appeal to such students, Bryant says, because they understand the importance of communicating effectively.

“When you’re job seeking or giving presentations in school, there’s a lot of concern as to whether it will go OK,” she says.

In acquiring the skills, young people build self esteem, she says. “They feel comfortable in saying what they have to say, and that doesn’t happen every day.”

Katen says she developed the courses to transcend race and class, taking two years before striking out on her own to interview teachers, administrators and parents, among others, to come up with 13 workshop programs.

The courses enhance personal growth and increase the chance of professional and academic achievement, she says.

While the program was started to help disadvantaged youth, the lessons have reached beyond that group to those already working in substantial positions at law firms and other businesses.

One example is Robin Pecchia, who hired Katen on a one-to-one basis to give the Manhattanville College graduate a leg up in her search for a job as a teacher’s assistant.

The most important thing Katen taught Pecchia, 25, was to be more confident during the job-seeking process, she says, especially during interviews.

It worked, says Pecchia, who lives in Mamaroneck.

After recently interviewing for her position, she felt much more secure in what she was saying and selling herself. Katen also showed Pecchia how to express an enthusiastic, positive attitude, she says. “I was not insecure about it at all.”

Though concepts of etiquette and dressing well may seem like perfect fodder for young adults to roll their eyes at, Katen says her students are receptive to her message.

Ninety-five percent of her students attend her classes, she says.

That’s because the skills taught are relevant to the students’ lives, Katen says.

“No matter how old you are, or what you do with your life, whether it’s hands-on vocational work or a mayor’s assistant or a CEO,” she says, “you need to have basic skills.”

-David Schepp
The (Westchester, NY) Journal News, June 26th, 2006