Written by Lydia DuBois, AmeriCorps member serving on the Capital Area United Way Team at Capitol Middle School.
What draws us to certain jobs? Do we primarily look for jobs that best utilize our skill-sets? Do we favor jobs that relate to our fields of study in college, or do we end up working in places we least expected? Have we known our entire lives what we want to do, or do we decide after we have already completed schooling for other positions? Despite our differences, we can all relate when asked a major question: how do we know what to look for in a job? How do we decide that a job is “right” for us? (Assuming we are so privileged to make that decision.)
Who mentors us? Our parents, close family members, ourselves? Do we find comfort in what is familiar to us? Do we stick with what we excel in, or do we diverge from the expected path in search of a challenge? Often we can articulate what we want to do with our lives, but attaching these goals to actual job positions can be difficult. Everyone is different, but exposure to different fields and methods helps us envision ourselves on our own paths to career-hood. Mentorship can help spark interest in a specific field just because of the person teaching us. Sometimes, when respect for a person trumps our interest in their field of work, we still find ourselves following in their footsteps.
We can bring people together to discuss prospective jobs during Career Day events. People are never too young (or too old) to experience Career Days in their schools or places of work. The worst thing that can happen during Career Day? Students don’t learn about new careers but are instead bored by details they already know. The best thing? Students interact with people who embody the realities they see for themselves. Another great thing about Career Days? When the presenters are honest, students can really get a feel for what the job entails: its good parts and bad parts. The takeaway? No job is great 100% of the time, but every job takes work. One positive interaction can spark an interest in any topic. Having cool and relatable mentors opens doors.
On Thursday, March 24th, Capitol Middle’s Communities in Schools Site Coordinator (and CYBR AmeriCorps alumna!) Elizabeth Stephens, brought in various externals to speak with 8th grade students about career paths, tips for resume building, and open discussion surrounding their specific careers. Students and Americorps members were assigned to specific classrooms while externals circulated in for short presentations and question time with students. There were 24 presenters from 12 different agencies, which included: City Year, AT&T, Orion Instruments, EBR Parish Public Defender's Office, DHH/Office of Public Health, BRAVE (Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination), EBR Parish District Attorney's Office, EBR Sheriff's Office, Mayor's Office, BR Metro Health, Front Yard Bikes, and the LSU Museum of Art.
Emily Hinshaw, Capitol’s lovely Team Leader, mentioned listening to AT&T's Lead Logisitics Analyst Marguerite Lathan, who told the kids that they could shadow someone in their desired career path to get a better idea of what their desired career really entailed. Emily then related that experience to City Year by explaining to the students that last year, her experience as an 8th grade Corps Member in a math classroom and her work with her partner teacher, Mrs. Rodney, inspired her to become a middle school math teacher! Most Americorps members can probably recall a moment when one of their students asked them how they became a City Year. Explaining to students how they can attain a City Year position when they’re older or explaining how City Year benefits your future career is a rewarding way of hosting our own “Career Day” interactions on a daily basis.
Students received feedback cards after the event, and many of them provided valuable feedback, which included the requests for more question time, and for more engaging speakers from other areas- such as athletics.
Everyone deserves exposure and positive reinforcement. We need to know our options and our strengths. It is never too early to start career exploring. Tell people what they’re good at. Hone in on their skills. Utilize their talents. Career Day can happen every day.