Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a local high school for Career Day. Talking to teens about training can be a little bit daunting! Those of us in the industry experience the relevance daily, but effectively communicating said relevance can prove challenging. Even for students bent on heading to college, the thought of more classroom time and a career of endless training is, let’s just say, not especially appealing.
With this in mind, I wanted to be sure to focus on those aspects of the learning and performance support industry that would be inviting and of interest to a teenager.
It was interesting to watch the kids as they approached my exhibit table. I usually asked what class year they were and their favorite area of study. By the thoughtful and surprised look on many of their faces, I had the distinct impression they hadn’t been asked about their favorite subject in quite a while. Many hesitantly made comments such as “I don’t know,” “I just like to read,” or “I love history, but I don’t know how I’ll be able to make a career out of that.”
I loved the challenge of drawing out more information and helping them to make connections between what they love and how they could apply it to the field.
“Love to read? I’m guessing you’re good at writing or maybe editing.”
“Love history? I bet you like taking lessons learned and applying them to situations someone might encounter today.”
I think my favorite interaction was when a student mentioned an interest in psychology, and I shared with him or her the exciting science behind human performance and how it’s applied to the everyday jobs people do.
As I talked more to the students about what I do in my role as a project manager at Innovative Learning Group, I received several wide eyes, oohs, and even a few “that’s so cool!” They were very interested in how I get to work with a team of writers, editors, graphic designers, programmers, and subject matter experts from many different industries, who all work together to create exciting classroom experiences, effective e-learning courses, or just-in-time job aids.
As it turned out, Career Day wasn’t just about enlightening students on the careers available in our industry; it also provided me with some unexpected inspiration and a couple of “ah-ha” moments worth sharing:
- When you have opportunities to interact with tweens, teens, and young adults, ask them what they are interested in. Help them think about ways they can take what they love to do and translate it to a career they’ll be proud of and truly enjoy.
- Talking about the training and performance world reminded me that what I do is pretty cool. I mean what’s cooler than being able to help people do their jobs better? For me, nothing! I get to partner with professionals with extraordinary skill sets to create some pretty exciting learning solutions. As much as I don’t like sitting through movie credits, I get why they’re there. Each person’s role and contribution is invaluable to the end product. And so it is with training.
All in all, Career Day was a learning experience not only for the students at the event, but also for me. In a few short hours, I was able to get teens thinking about career opportunities they probably didn’t even know existed, and I was invigorated by talking about my role in this diverse field.
If you’ve become bored, discouraged, or even a bit cynical in your career, I encourage you to strike up a conversation with an unlikely (but willing) candidate. I think you’ll find new inspiration when you share what you do and why you do it!