Each March, I receive an invitation from my former high school to present at Career Day. While there are always things to do at work and sometimes fitting this into my schedule can be a challenge, I look forward to the opportunity.
I have to admit though, this year I was going to take pass. Then my daughter, a senior at my alma mater, told me that I had influenced one of her friends to go into the field of HR and that it was important for me to attend. I couldn't say no.
Guidelines for the discussion were straightforward; how did you choose your career, what courses at the high school helped you prepare for the career, what's a normal day like, and so on.
After presentations to three classes and answering a variety of questions from students, I realized why I love doing these sessions. Speaking about my career and the steps I took to get to where I am proved invaluable on a few fronts. First it was a great way for me to look back and really take stock of my accomplishments and achievement of my own goals. I shared with the classes that I was recently searching through some old college papers and came across a sheet where I had written my career goal. It read SVP, Head of Human Resources for a global firm. Viola here I am.
Second, it was an opportunity to provide insight and advice to the next generation; something I wish I had when I was their age. The ability to talk to individuals in your desired career path, industry is invaluable.
Based on the questions and feedback I received from the students, here are some tips for creating a memorable career-day presentation:
- Keep it real: describe the good, bad and ugly of the career path you have chosen. Be ready to explain a typical day (if there is such a thing), biggest challenge, and what you like most and least.
- How did you get to where you are? Talk about your experiences and the learning and career opportunities you took to get to where you are.
- Compensation: come prepared to answer questions such as "Do you make a lot of money?" I go prepared with a handout showing the different disciplines within the HR field (compensation, benefits, employee relations, training, recruitment, etc.) and the starting salary information as well as career-level compensation.
- Associations: Encourage students to join associations in their desired field. Many have student discounted rates and membership provides opportunities to attend conferences and networking opportunities.
- Share your contact information: While you may not think you need your business card, bring a batch as some students may want to chat more about the field.
Of course, bring your enthusiasm and passion for what you do. As you talk about your career, whether to students or professionals, I am sure you will find yourself not only inspiring others but being re-inspired as well.