This morning I volunteered as a career representative (marketing and advertising) at the 2nd annual Metrowest College & Career Fair here in Ashland.
Let me first say what a great event this is, bringing college and career representatives together for students and parents to meet. I was impressed with both the quantity and quality of schools and professions represented.
Watching the parents and students wander past my table, I considered how much has changed since I was a teenager, and the pressure kids are under to make decisions that will impact what school they attend.
A parent attending the event with her son, a junior, told me some of the college admissions officers were looking back as far as freshman year when making admission decisions. Her takeaway? He was already behind.
Reflecting on my path, I recognize I would have been in the same boat.
Slow to get started in high school, I didn’t get involved in any extracurriculars until junior year, and even then I didn’t consider how they would affect my college admission applications.
At Wheaton College, I was indecisive – embracing the idea of general education and liberal arts, taking classes in Russian Literature, computer programming (I did terrible), drawing and graphic design. I wrote for (and got fired from) the college newspaper, sang with an a cappella group, and avoided declaring my major for as long as possible.
Through winter internships I tried different careers, all with a communication slant – at a literary agency, Marvel Comics, and Popular Mechanics (through the Magazine Publishers of America) – and during the summer I worked as a counselor and then division leader at YMCA Camp Fuller.
And after college? I worked at the mall, before finding my first job as an assistant at Rubenstein Associates (which, I found not through a help wanted, but by sitting next to the head of HR on the train from Boston).
Looking back, my path to today has been circuitous and a bit fuzzy – but it has always been defined by an enthusiasm for communications; curiosity to learn something new, and willingness to say yes to opportunities or to make my own path.
As I said to a parent today, every job or internship I had has been helpful to me today. The internships let me see the type, timelines and environment I wanted to work in. My years as a camp counselor, managing children and staff members, help me as I handle difficult personalities. And my time working retail at the mall gave me a small insight into sales which I use when discussing sales training with clients today.
I give my parents, particularly my father, much credit for letting me find my own path. It has occurred to me that, as the owner of a marketing & advertising agency, he could have connected me to other professionals in the industry, or steered me towards working for him. Instead, he let me find my own way, which eventually led me back home, and to the agency I own today.
Which brings me back to the career fair.
To the parent who said she might be pushing her child too much, the answer is probably yes – he or she will find their way. But it will be at their time, and in their own way.
To the student who was interested in music, but also maybe in communications, I say – you can do both! Every industry and organization needs to communicate – I have worked in some capacity for banks, a bike shop, a medical imaging center, the local library as well as for major brands including Chevrolet, Brooks, Intel, Microsoft and Real Simple.
And to the colleges who are telling our kids that they need to be getting it together freshman year I say – chill out! While I agree having extracurriculars and activities are important, we are also risking raising a generation of children who don’t know how to play, to try, and make their own path.