One of the greatest rewards of teaching is to know that former students are employed in fields that bring them enjoyment and the knowledge that they’re contributing to their family’s success. That’s why I’ve helped coordinate annual Career Days at my school for the past five or six years. Youth are often overwhelmed with the career options available to them—many of which didn’t exist 10 years ago. The purpose of our annual event is to help students understand and practice the skills that will help them through the maze of possibilities.
Instead of a single Career Day this year, we planned several activities that culminated on Friday with the Career Day event. The first of these was JA in a Day: a Junior Achievement workshop on Career Success, led by JA volunteer Steve York. Students were led through several exercises and activities to help them develop the 4Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. They also practiced job-hunting skills and learned how to build a personal brand. Mr. York emphasized the importance of speaking clearly, making eye contact with potential employers, and shaking hands firmly. He reinforced these skills throughout the day, and students responded enthusiastically.
The second element of our career focus was a tour of manufacturing sites and one campus of the local technology center. The tour was arranged by Stephanie Cameron, who spearheads two programs: OK2Grow and Dream It! Do It! OK2Grow promotes entrepreneurship among high school students and provides career coaching and scholarship programs. Dream It! Do It! is an initiative of the Manufacturing Institute which encourages young people to consider careers in manufacturing. I had the pleasure of participating in our school district’s Teacher Tour of Manufacturing Sites in February, which Ms. Cameron also arranged. I was so impressed with what I saw that I asked her to help us arrange a similar tour for our students.
Last Friday was the Career Day event, in which dozens of local business people, higher ed representatives, and volunteers came in to speak to students about various careers, job-seeking skills, and interview strategies. Mr. York returned to remind students about the importance of first impressions, and other professionals conducted mock interviews with students. The day was capped off for the second year in a row with a fly-in by a Tulsa Life Flight helicopter. I have to admit, this is a particular favorite of mine. Maybe it’s reminiscent of my years of work in hospital labs and the many calls I received to tend to emergency room patients, first drawing blood and then selecting blood for transfusion or carrying out various lab assays. Maybe it’s knowing the power of modern medical services to save lives. Whatever it is, that whoop-whoop-whoop of an approaching helicopter gets my heart pumping.
Probably the most satisfying moments of this year’s Career Expedition were the comments from the professionals who interviewed our students. All four of them agreed emphatically on one point: our students presented themselves confidently and intelligently. One man, who owns a business and has interviewed several individuals recently for openings at his company, insisted that none of his recent job candidates presented themselves as well as our students did. Another woman, an associate dean at Tulsa Community College, said she wished her 19-year-old daughter had received the instruction our students had; she’s had trouble landing a job. I admit to being a little surprised at their effusive praise for our students—it sometimes seems that students aren’t paying attention. Maybe—just maybe—their apparent indifference to teachers’ words is part of the same adolescent plot in which all youth conspire to confound the adults in their lives. Don’t let them know we’re on to them.