Career Exploration Session


SHIELD’s seventh program of the academic year focused on connecting young people with adults working successfully in a variety of fields. “Mentoring is about building relationships,” said Founder and Executive Director (SHIELD), Precious McKoy, who kicked off the event with an introduction before turning the room over to moderator, Kendra Britto, an academic counselor at Parkland High School in Winston-Salem, Britto echoed the importance of building relationships early on. “Preparing for a career starts at school,” she said.

Area youth, parents and mentors gathered at Coliseum Boulevard Church of Christ on Saturday, April 9, for SHIELD Mentor Program’s two-hour session focused on Career Exploration. Presented in partnership with In the Image of I Am, a youth mentoring program catering to boys, the interactive session featured a panel of local professionals who worked directly with attendees on career path identification, resume building and job interview techniques.

With bellies full of skittles, kids aged 8 to 15 listened as the event’s featured panelists introduced themselves:

Chris Wallace, a youth program manager for Communiversity at the University of North Carolina (http://stonecenter.unc.edu/communiversity-youth-program/) stressed the importance of serving your community and told his young audience, “Surround yourselves with people who motivate you.”

Owner of the marketing firm TheRookSolutions (http://therooksolutions.com/) and former SHIELD board member, Denetra Rook Diggs, discussed her path to launching her own company.

Bobby Hamilton, the Executive Director of In the Image of I Am (http://www.intheimageofiam.org/), spoke about his realization as a 13-year-old boy that he would one day serve as a youth mentor.

Freelance graphic designer and recent UNC grad, Kimberly Thompson (https://www.behance.net/knthomas), described her passion for helping young people discover their unique qualities and working with them to shape those talents into successful careers.

The room buzzed during a series of intimate breakout sessions, where kids discussed their career interests and goals with each panelist. A budding physical therapist got excellent advice from Bobby Hamilton and Denetra Rook Diggs, both of whom recommended connecting with a local physical therapist to learn about the job and what it takes to get there. Eleven-year-old Kevin and eight-year-old Markell, both art enthusiasts, were thrilled to learn about career options from Kimberly Thomas, who described opportunities in drawing, photography and computer-aided design. “Always keep working on your skills,” Thomas told Markell, who had shied away from his artistic talent because he was afraid of being made fun of in school. Denisea, who is 15 and interested in interior design, asked Chris Wallace how to navigate a career misstep, such as taking a job that isn’t quite right. Loving what you do is critical, Wallace told Denisea; but knowing what you don’t want to do is equally important in defining your career path. If a job isn’t the right fit, move on, Wallace said; but view it as a learning experience.

Energized and inspired, young attendees turned their attention back to Kendra Britto, who offered tips for dressing and presenting yourself during a job interview. Brittany Willis Allen and Jodie Mack joined Britto for a skit presenting the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of interviewing. The scenario: an interview for a sales position at Old Navy. A highlight of the session, the skit enticed hand raising and enthusiastic participation from all corners of the room.

Thanks to all who participated, the event was informative, fun and collaborative. If you missed it, don’t worry. We’ve gathered some of the best tips from the day right here!

7 Things We Learned at SHIELD’s Career Exploration Session:

  • You’re not competing with anyone but yourself. Rather than spending time worrying about what someone else is doing, focus on what you can do to make yourself better. Tell yourself, “I’m going to be better than I was yesterday,” says Bobby Hamilton.

  • Research, research, research. “Google is your friend,” says Denetra Rook Diggs. Whether you’re interviewing for a job or your just beginning to identify your career path, use the tools you have to become as informed as possible. “Look up different majors, find out what occupations are linked to those majors and start to research . . . the field and the people who work in it,” says Diggs.

  • The three things that make you an asset to any company are attitude, attention and an ability to adjust. Come into work with a positive attitude, pay attention to the details and be flexible to changing demands of the business. All of those things make you integral to a company’s success.

  • Make connections. Once you’ve identified your goals, reach out to people who have achieved some of those goals and ask them questions, says Chris Wallace. “You will often find that people LOVE providing advice.”

  • Chart out your path, literally. If you’re still considering which careers to explore, Kimberly Thomas recommends making a T-chart. Fill the left side in with things that you’re good at. Fill the right side in with activities you like. Draw a line connecting the items that resonate with each other. You might find that what you’re good aligns with what you love most. From there, you can begin researching careers that harness your talents and skills.

  • Dress to impress. How you present yourself is critical to landing your first job. Aim for neutral, modest clothing and minimal jewelry and accessories. Avoid wearing heavy makeup or fragrances. Maintain eye contact, and greet your interviewer with a firm, confident handshake.

  • Keep your social media accounts PG. Social media is a reflection of your character, says Kimberly Thompson. If you have even the slightest doubt about posting something, don’t post it. The reason? Companies routinely review candidates’ social media accounts. If they see something that reflects poorly on you, they’ll assume you would be a negative representative for their brand and move on.

To learn about all our upcoming sessions, check out SHIELD’s calendar (http://shieldmentorprogrampy20152016.sched.org).

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