As headlines predict continued economic troubles and a tough job market, career planning is more essential than ever. Facing these fears, eight Hockaday students have decided to start that planning early. Not in college, not in graduate school, but now, in high school, through the newly established Career Mentoring Board.
Sophomore Emily, the board’s founding president, wanted to bring the career planning program from Southern Methodist University to her Hockaday classmates.
“I got the idea this summer as I listened to my mom talk about her experiences working as a mentor for students in the Cox School of Business at SMU,” Emily said.
“Over the summer, I talked a lot with my mom and Mr. Ashton, and I even met with Andrea Smith, the lady at SMU who runs the Business Mentoring Board there.”
Recruiting other interested Hockadaisies, Emily expanded her board to represent all grades and many different career interests with the goal of finding mentors from the Dallas business community.
Emily began the process through her own connections but expanded the network as other board members brought contacts they had through their parents, other Hockaday parents and through Head of Upper School John Ashton.
“We’ve done a pretty good job covering all the career areas the Hockaday Upper School students are interested in,” Emily said. Vice President of the board Linda found the search process to be “really just communal networking in the metroplex.”
This networking will remain essential in the post college job search too, and this early preparation is just what the board hopes to achieve.
“We’re just looking out into the community to find professionals in a variety of jobs to come to Hockaday and to create a mentor, mentee relationship with students,” Linda said. “People who are in business, or are doctors, or professors, or whatever the students request will come to school and talk about how they do their job, the way to get to their job and what they majored in college.”
The board’s sponsor, College Counseling Associate Leslie Dawley, believes it will give students the opportunity to “ask the kinds of questions that they might not think about when they think about pursuing that career.”
The board plans to take the career interest surveys that were completed during advisory and use them to form small groups of 10 to 15 students with similar interests. Then mentors that hold jobs in the areas of interest listed on those surveys will come several times throughout the year and “meet with Hockaday students and just let them ask questions,” Dawley said.
They hope to have their first set of meetings in January and continue with meetings bimonthly.
As many students face the challenge of deciding their college major, Dawley believes the experience may help to demystify the process.
“Some students will think they’ve wanted to do something forever, but then when you get the chance to talk to someone and really find out more about it, they might be like ‘well that’s not really so appealing,’ and some have a wide variety of interests and aren’t sure what they want to do,” Dawley said.
“It just gives them the opportunity to ask some questions and get to know someone before they’re taking classes in college and devoting a lot of time and money into it.”
Undergoing the process herself, Linda agrees.
“I feel like it will help us explore different areas of expertise earlier,” she said. “And by the time we’re juniors and seniors, it’ll help us figure out what we want to major in when we start applying to college.”
Dawley believes it will also help students form contacts early on.
“We’re hoping that beyond in-person meetings, students can email them with other questions…throughout the year,” she said.
With a strong network and lectures from mentors, Linda believes it will greatly affect many of the students’ futures.
“We’ll have a much more detailed and knowledgeable understanding of how to get to the job that we want,” Linda said.
As the program grows, the board hopes to expand further and provide more opportunities to be in contact with mentors.
“I hope this board will have a big and lasting impact on the Hockaday community,” Emily said. “I believe that the earlier we learn about the real world and what we have to do to get there, can only increase the success we will have when we get there.”