Career Mode: More Than Just a Panel
There are so many ways the pandemic has changed the way we work and think about meetings and informational sessions. While I don’t think any of us loved being completely virtual for a year or more, some of those changes have been very positive and, ultimately, even made our lives easier. In the case of the LINK Leaders’ summer career explorations, this re-thinking has been transformative.
Back in the halcyon pre-pandemic days, VLP used to host Career Panels in our classroom one afternoon each week. Various community members, business owners, and entrepreneurs would stop by and talk for 20 or so minutes about their story. What their job was, how they got that job, and what decisions they made along their journey from high school to the present that led them to their career choice. It was usually interesting and typically most of the kids were able to take something from each session, but it also lacked any kind of excitement or energy.
And then last Summer, when we were doing virtual programming Monday-Thursday and field trips on Fridays, we had to reimagine how these Career Panels would work. Without the ability to host anyone in our physical space, we needed a new plan. With the help of Peter Schratz, Director of Sales, Leisure and Corporate at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel in Fells Point, we designed an afternoon at the hotel that would allow the students to see the space, meet multiple employees at the hotel, and be outside by their gorgeous pool while learning about the hospitality industry. We finished the afternoon with a boat tour of the Harbor and heard from two employees of the Water Taxi service. It was fantastic!
This summer, we expanded that Pendry visit into a new model for career exploration field trips –planned weekly outings. We designated Wednesday afternoon as our off-site workplace visit day. Our LINK students returned to the Pendry to hear from employees in sales, management, contracts, and food and beverage. Our Water Taxi ride came with a little discussion of how to get a boat captain’s license and what a typical day looks like for someone who works in sales and marketing for the Water Taxi. We toured the spacious Charlestown campus of Erikson Senior Living Community in Catonsville and heard from finance, HR, hospitality, and management about believing in yourself, college scholarship opportunities, mentoring, and how to find your own strengths in the workplace. And finally, we visited with the owners of Mount Royal Soaps, a local Remington retail establishment. We visited their warehouse and heard how two English majors started their own business out of their kitchen and designed a soap and sanitizer production facility. Although the lingering effects of the pandemic cancelled a few of our six planned visits, the ones that worked out were incredibly successful.
As we continue to grow our College and Career Readiness curriculum, we are finding that these in-person visits are invaluable. Our students do best when they can see a space and get hands-on experiences, rather than simply hear about it. They get excited when they can picture themselves in a particular place; whether it be a college dorm, university cafeteria, soap production facility, or hotel front desk. The inability to meet in person with our students for a year during the Pandemic has highlighted how crucial physical get-togethers are for our teens as they gather information about the world and themselves while trying to envision what the future holds for them.
Kim Jolley, Teen Programs Coordinator
LINK Leaders (7th-12th grade)