When I was in Grade 10, I had no idea what I wanted to be, but with a brother and sister in the medical field and an interest in biology, I was leaning toward being a microbiologist.
It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work and then lead a student newspaper in Grade 12 and 13, that I realized journalism was the career I wanted to pursue.
It’s tough to make choices about your future at such a young age, but with the help of Junior Achievement’s World of Choices seminar last week, young women in Grade 10 across Chatham-Kent were given the opportunity to learn from women mentors in a wide variety of careers.
This year, I was honoured to represent women in journalism at the half -day seminar, spending 20 minutes each with five groups of young women. In a speed-dating style set up, the students were asked to pick their top five career choices, and were able to spend 20 minutes with mentors from each of those 20 careers.
While most of the young women at my table weren’t sure journalism was an interest they had, I was able to tell them about my post-secondary experience, job experience and advise them of the many different directions they could go with a journalism degree or diploma. I was also able to advise them, as an employer, what I would be looking for in a recent grad if I were hiring.
At times, you heard crickets chirping unless you had a particularly outgoing student at the table, but the organizers wisely had a number of pre-made questions on the table students could ask.
Keynote speaker Charyl Galpin of BMO Nesbitt Burns gave an excellent speech on going from a teller to head of investment business, all without a post-secondary education, but no stranger to hard work and life-long learning.
Backed by the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way, the event is such a great way to bring a lot of frontline knowledge and experience to young people struggling to make decisions that affect their future.
It was important, I think, to let today’s students know that once you make a decision, you are not locked into it for ever after. Many people can change majors at school, or even careers later in life if they realize the path they chose isn’t for them. I pointed out that my first journalism class went from 95 to 45 by second year, and by third year, under 20 of us chose the print stream to finish out our diploma.
There is no shame in taking the time to explore all the opportunities that are out there, and thanks to events like JA World of Choices, the people who can help are right at your fingertips.
Universities and colleges are always holding career forums or specific days for different programs. Just last year, I took our daughter Brenna to Western University in London for a GoGirl engineering forum, where we were able to talk to and ask questions of faculty, current students and alumni about the program, and job opportunities once you graduate. It was free of charge and we were fed lunch as well.
The best thing we can do as parents is help our kids look for opportunities to explore their interests. It can lead them to a career they may not have considered or help them rule out a job they thought would be perfect.
Kudos to local Junior Achievement President Barb Smith and her team for putting on an excellent event, and all the women who donated their time and expertise to mentor young women. Our daughters need strong, positive role models in all careers to show them the sky is the limit when it comes to choosing a career.