Career Day — do you remember yours?
Career Day exposes students to future professional opportunities. It offers new insight to those occupations. It conveys the professionalism of business life — our appearance, ability to follow instruction, punctuality. And, it offers the students a real-life glimpse of why they have attended school for so many years — to prepare for an occupation that will benefit society.
A professional is punctual.*
For Career Day, I planned to wake at 5, be on the road by 6, and arrive by 7. I didn’t, I wasn’t, and I couldn’t. I woke an hour late, realized my mistake mid-shower, and scrambled into the car, re-writing my 30-minute speech into 15.
Vehicles swarmed the campus as I arrived. Students bee-lined from parking lot to building. Their footsteps determined, direct. Their faces without emotion.Those at Career Day had seen late risers. The organizers met us at the front door with coffee, donuts, and a guide to help us through the maze of hallways to our assigned classrooms.As I stepped through the threshold of the classroom (exactly on time), 30 students sat ready and waiting for me, the volunteer, who thought at end-of-career, I had something to offer these 14- through 18-year olds about life after school.
A professional is responsible and does what should be done.*
“Writers write.” said my first image in the powerpoint presentation. I clicked to my second which introduced the top salaries of football players. Why I thought my almost all-female audience, save the one male with the man-bun, would relate to this opening now eluded me.
I moved to the second image that showed the top writers (JK Rowling and James Patterson), in just one year, doubled quarterback Matthew Stanton’s own hefty salary.
Third image: the numbers that destroyed the wealthy-author concept — the average book writer makes around $1000 per year.
I knew this teenage audience. I asked questions and remembered the tricks to elicit answers from a crowd that would not naturally participate — I gave hints, grabbed at eyes directed at me, agreed with the most outlandish of responses — anything to elicit a laugh, a smirk, ay, a response.
“Which professions could use the skills of a writer?” I waited through the silence, “ALL OF THEM!” I shouted excitedly, then worked through the lifehacks that could help an aspiring writer make more money to fulfill the dream of writing.
25 minutes later, on schedule, I reached the Q and A section. No questions except from the history teacher in whose classroom I was speaking. He asked where my travel blog could be found on the Internet. Strange, I thought. I’d not mentioned my minimally successful travel blog. A young woman followed his question with, “Where are your favorite places to travel?” Again, I thought the question curious, but answered: “Greece and Egypt.”
I thanked everyone; a few thanked me. The first group filed out and the next one in. Same powerpoint, same spiel. I hit my stride, slowed the pace, played to their responses.
(Half-way done with Career Day.)
Group 3 entered and, like the first two, I handed each student a sheet asking them a few questions about authors they read, what they liked to write. As I did, I happened to look at the computer printout the students carried — a legend of the four career-day sessions each chose to attend. I scanned that student’s: 1. Forensic scientist, 2. Physician 3. Travel blogger.< I looked again. I peered over at another student's printout. Section 3 — travel blogger. That, theoretically was me. I travel. I blog. But that does not a travel blogger make. I remembered the woman in charge greeting me with the welcoming words, "You’re session’s very popular.” Now I understood why.
A professional is observant and sees what needs to be done.*
I thought about my slides and spiel in contrast with the students’ expectations and questions. Nothing aligned. An OMG moment. I deviated from my script and started the session asking, “How many of you like to write?” Five hands went up. “How many of you like to travel?” 25 hands shot up. Few, five, traveled outside the country. Fewer, two, read a travel blog.
In essence, I had a group of kids that thought it wanted a profession akin to summer vacation, which I would explain would take little effort to afford.
I did my best to readjust my presentation to be: Unit One, Travel Blogging. As with my original topic of writing, I encouraged students to start today (don’t wait!) to pursue the life they wanted. And recognize they could make more OR spend less. Personal fulfillment (regardless of income) was an objective worth striving for.
A professional asks a question rather than risks making a serious mistake.*
After the Q/A section, I asked all sections of my Career Day attendees to write a six-word epitaph — i.e. “What do you want us to remember about you when you’re dead?”
Most students concentrated on this writing prompt — a simple way of giving them a short involvement task; a few chatted, recognizing the absence of a grade offered them license not to participate.
Later, I read their submissions. Some offered clever, but personally unrevealing, summaries:
- “I don’t know what to write.”
- “Sounded much better in my head.”
- “Very boring, can’t think of anything.”
Other submissions were trite but probably true:
- “Really likes to eat good food.”
- “They don’t have to like you.”
- “I was late to my funeral.”
Some revealed an upbeat teen population, which so often we hear is depressed or anxious:
- “Live life because it’s worth it.”
- “Pain is easy; let it go.”
- “Be true to who you are.”
Given the majority of these students said their favorite novels were those dark dystopian types, I enjoyed the positive quality of many of their epitaphs:
- “Forever changing, endlessly seeking, always loving.”
- “Love yourself and spread joy everyday.”
- “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.”
Their writings indicated the real travelers in the session:
- “Traveling seems cool, I’ll do it. “
- “Want to go somewhere or anywhere.”
- “Never stop. Keep pursuing every adventure.”
A professional is perceived as a representative of his or her organization.*
The two epitaphs I appreciated most, the ones for whom I got up at six am and braved getting a speeding ticket for:
“Good friend, good draw-er, good writer.”
“Always wanting more adventure, experience, words.”
At 10:20, the last student walked out of the room, ending my Career Day 2017. I remembered why I had not pursued the occupation of teaching after a short substituting stint — it’s hard. One student’s epitaph summarized it well: “All good things require some work.”
True, that. I would prefer to pursue my profession of writing and be able to summarize my life in these six words: “A creative soul who moved many,” because:
A professional acts in a manner that reflects favorably on the profession.*
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Judy O Haselhoef, a social artist who writes and travels and author of “GIVE & TAKE: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti,” blogs regularly at her website, www.JOHaselhoef.com.
Copyright @2017: If you’d like to use any part of it (up to 200 words), please give full attribution and this website, www.JOHaselhoef.com.