Career Days: Worthwhile or a Waste?

On Tuesday, I organized a Career Day for an elementary school in Washington, D.C. that I work with as a consultant.

It is a Title I school with more than 40 percent of students qualifying for the USDA Free & Reduced Lunch Program. There were 20 speakers, including some govies: a medical doctor who specializes in public health at DHHS, a City of Alexandria Public Housing researcher who holds a Ph.D., an Air Force pilot who is headed toward retirement, and a District of Columbia judge.

The speakers did a great job, a number of students asked good questions, and we are going to try to get more occupations for next year that represent a broader range of jobs that don’t require advanced (or college) degrees, such as public safety.

Have you ever spoken at a Career Day or done community service involving young people? Did it change your perspective at all in how you view your work or was it a rather uninspiring event?

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Andrew Krzmarzick

I think they’re a fantastic way to plant seeds in little minds, Bill. I can’t recall having one at my school growing up, but I wonder how many of the GovLoop readers remembers hearing something when they were kids that shaped their future careers. I know my high school internship with the USDA made me realize that government is a pretty cool place to work.

Stephanie Slade

Call me crazy, but the goal of career days are usually to inspire not the speakers but rather the audience, no?

Elizabeth Crapo

I’ve talked to people who think career fairs are a low return on time invested. However, I agree with Andrew that you have to plant the seed somehow. You can’t expect that all the kids are going to be interested in your particular career field. With so many career options out there, I’m never surprised if there’s only a handful of them that are really into it. Put yourself in their position: Would YOU be interested in every single career option you were presented with, or are there some out there that would bore you to death?

Having a range of jobs with varying degrees of educational requirements is a great idea. Kids should know there are still options out there if they can’t go to college.

Bill Murray

Good point, Stephanie. Yes, of course we were trying to inspire the students through our talks. But from my role with the school, I am interested in engaging the speakers in the school’s mission. I think both goals were met through the Career Day.