It might seem like a bit of an odd question to ask at an interview for a web developer or social media manager within an advertising agency, but it is a question I have been asking over the years for a very good reason.
Firstly it isn’t really the question that is important, more the meaning. What I am really asking people is are you a self starter, did you do something when you where younger that set you apart from others, made a bit of money and showed that you are willing to work hard even from a young age.
Of course in a digital age when most people I know read the news online, through their smart phones, tablets or computers, there is less need for people to deliver newspapers. Indeed my wife used to deliver milk (and no it wasn’t a question I asked before I married her in case you were wondering), again showing at a young age it isn’t just newspapers that needed delivering. Not that you can consume milk online but you can buy it and have it delivered with your weekly shop making the daily milk delivery as rare as the paper boy.
These days I do get odd looks now from the twenty somethings who usually ask “what’s a paper round”. Maybe I will have to change the question to “have you ever had a Saturday job?” It would seem that most 16 and 17 year olds would say no, judging by the recent research conducted by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, suggesting that “Only one in five has a part-time job while in college or doing A-Levels”. The BBC newsbeat team have reported the reductions in their article here, which is what prompted me to write this post.
Although never a deal breaker, I can safely say that the overwhelming majority of people I have employed over the past 15 years have either had a paper round, milk round or some sort of work outside of their school / college time. Also speaking to people who are in positions of authority within companies, either clients or other agencies, I have found the a large amount of them will have done something at a young age, paper round, milk, round, working in a shop on a Saturday morning etc.
It has become more and more important as an employer to see people who have more than just academic skills, but also have real world employment skills too. Even graduates or placement students (working for a year as part of their degree) will have more valuable skills to an employer if they have done something, preferably to do with the job they are applying for, than those who just studied and got a better degree.
So I will be telling my kids, one of which is almost a teenager, to go out and find something outside of their studies that will help them in later life, you just never know who might be asking if you have ever had a paper round.