Last November, more than 7,000 Metro Public School freshmen converged on the Music City Center to take part in the My Future, My Way Career Exploration Fair.
2015 was the seventh year for the fair, which gives young people a chance to visit dozens of displays staffed by Middle Tennessee employers and talk one-on-one with a teacher, a firefighter, a police officer, an IT technician or health care worker about what it takes to get a job in their industry.
The students can ask questions and are encouraged to take notes, but most of all, the career fair gives young people a sense of the type of education necessary to develop a career in a field that interests them.
After the fair, the students go back to their respective schools, discuss their experiences with prospective employers and write a short essay on what may have intrigued them about a profession or what they may have learned. A few weeks ago, two winning essays were selected, and the students who wrote them are being recognized by the Metro School Board on Tuesday.
John Overton High School student Lindsey Dao had a sense that she wanted to work in the health care field, but the career fair gave her the opportunity to explore a range of choices within health care.
Lindsey spent time talking to nurses and doctors from local hospitals and came away feeling that a career in pediatrics is her calling. The advice she received from a pediatrician from the Vanderbilt Pediatric Residency Program stuck with Lindsey: “Focus on school, focus on science.” She admitted she now sees a pathway from her classes in high school to a career she would love.
Nolan Carrasquillo, a freshman at Antioch High School, called the career exploration fair “amazing” and thanked the employers who explained in detail the qualifications someone would need to work in their field. He was a little surprised to see a band of talented musicians staffing one booth and talking to students about careers in the music industry between performances.
Nolan wrote that he came away from the experience with the sense that if he could find a profession he loved, hard work and persistence would pay off in the end.
Both students admitted there were employers who talked about professions that were interesting, but not the best fit for them. Lindsey acknowledged that the prospects for finding a career in IT would probably be pretty good if she went on to study that field after high school, but it probably isn’t for her. That’s okay. The career fair is as much about exploring possibilities and narrowing your choices as it is about finding your passion.
Like the members of the Metro Nashville School Board and the teachers and administrators at Overton and Antioch, I’ll be immensely proud of Lindsey and Nolan when they share their essays with the board.
They’re like the thousands of other Metro students I met at the career fair: bright, curious and ready with lots of good questions. I’m convinced that some day in the not-too-distant future, a company or organization is going to be pleased it hired young people like Lindsey and Nolan to help them succeed. Their future is bright, and I’m glad the career exploration fair played a part.
David Davoudpour is chairman and CEO of Shoney’s, Inc, a partner with the Metro Nashville Public Schools in sponsoring the My Future, My Way Career Exploration Fair.
The Tennessean originally featured this piece on Feb. 23, 2016.