Dickinson College is full of the children of upper middle class. Not exclusively, of course, but the majority of students can be described that way. I, on the other hand, am the child of a mechanic. My mother owns a tube bending and welding business that was started by her father. We’re a solidly blue collar family. I was aware of this, but didn’t realize the advantages that come with it until I got to college.
Being from a blue collar family that mostly associates with other blue collar people has both advantages and disadvantages. I lost track of the number of times Dickinson used the phrase, “Ask family and friends about internships,” and thought, “Uh, most people I know couldn’t help me find an internship related to economics.” A fair number of my peers, though, were able to find internships through family connections. They certainly have a leg up on networking.
The advantage in my family comes from a network of blue collar professionals. From mechanics to contractors, my family either knows one or knows someone that knows one. There’s an advantage to never having to open the phone book to find these people. Family members are usually willing to help you out. I have an uncle who is an electrician and a close family friend does dry wall, both skills we have taken advantage of. These things have been particularly useful as we’ve modernized our cabin.
I also couldn’t grow up without learning a little about cars – useful in the car-obsessed United States. I can change my own oil and manage a few other basic things, plus I know who to call if there’s a problem I can’t do anything about. I picked up on a lot of stuff growing up, some of it a direct result of family working blue collar jobs and some of it more stemming from my family’s do-it-yourself attitude.
Up until college I don’t think I fully appreciated these things. Even now I often focus on the negative effect – not having that leg up in networking – but the benefits are pretty awesome.
P.S. my “s” key sticks, so if there’s a missing “s” I’d appreciate a heads up.