Help available in picking career

November 12, 1998

If you're a parent, particularly the kind of parent who talks to other parents, you've probably heard the stories. Junior thought he wanted to be an architect, a lawyer or whatever, but after spending years studying for the profession, he finally got a taste of what it would really be like. And he didn't like it, so now he's bouncing around, a twenty-something trying to "find himself" long after his classmates have settled in to their chosen professions.

Is finding out what you what to do just a matter of luck? In part, but it can also depend on having an opportunity to see, long before you have to commit, what your dream is really all about.

In Washington County, a group of volunteers and school board personnel are working on a plan to link what students learn in the classroom to real-world work. It's called Career Connections and is part of the Maryland School to Work Initiative.


Working together, parents, employers and school personnel help interested young people develop a plan to sample their chosen career long before they have to commit to making it their lives' work.

One student who's pleased with the program is Stephanie S. Jones, a Williamsport High School student who wanted a career in television production. She says, however, that it was no drop-in-for-a-day program.

"I had to fill out an application form, and it was basically everything you'd put on a college application," she said.

Then students who applied were called to a meeting, where they were told that the program's directors would get periodic reports on their progress. They then meet with the mentors who'll be working with them on the job.

"We get together and then they decide and you decide if it's right for you," she said, adding that her mentor at the cable company was Wesley Decker, who's part of a three-member team which shoots a variety of projects.

"I got to be involved with all aspects of it that way," she said.

But after grappling with that part of the TV business, Jones found, to her surprise, that she didn't like life behind the scenes.

"I did realize that this is not the job for me. This part of telecommunications is too technical and backstage for me," she said.

"I would want to be the person on stage dictating the news, instead of being in the back editing the news," she said.

As a result, she's headed to Towson University, because their mass communications department can help her reach her goal of an on-camera career.

And instead of finding herself on a career track she doesn't like, she's helped narrow her life choices down.

"That's what the purpose of it is, not only to find the career for you, but to find the careers that are not for you," she said.

If you'd like to learn more about this program, you're in luck. According to Ellen Gercke, human resources director for Citicorp and chair of the Career Connections Team. the team will "blanket" the county with information about the concept this month. Watch for these items:

- Four "career focus" pages in this month's Herald-Mail newspapers, to be followed by one page a month through June. The pages will focus on careers such as business management/finance, arts and human services, life sciences and natural resources, manufacturing, engineering and technology, construction and transportation.

- Talks to local service clubs and other civic organizations by members of the Career Connections Team, including Robert A. Poor, of R.A. Poor Associates and Dave Barnhart of Hagerstown Trust Company.

- Today (Thursday, Nov. 12) the Career Connections Team will participate in the Quad State Business Expo at Hagerstown Community College, meeting invidual participatns to enlist their support, and

- The team will talk with the school board on Tuesday, Nov. 24, to follow up on an earlier presentation in hopes of strengthening support for the idea and expanding the program.

I'm probably one of the lucky ones; I've known since the sixth grade that I wanted to make a living with my writing. If your child isn't sure what he or she wants to do (or maybe even if they are), a little real-world experience before college probably wouldn't hurt. If you'd like to know more, call Sandy Shepherd, the school board's Career Connections coordinator at (301) 766-2956.

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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