career advice in santa cruz
February 2019

Career Pathways: February 2019

By Mary Gaukel Forster

How often were you asked, or did you ask a young person, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” From the time he was 2 1⁄2 my own grandson, answered, “a firefighter”. How did he come to that decision at that young age? Curious, I began to think that choosing a career is like choosing a travel destination and finding the path there. How did I decide that I wanted to climb Half Dome? Was it pictures, a friend’s story, a documentary, seeing the massive granite hump on a family visit to Yosemite?

career advice in santa cruz
Photo by Brad Kava HAMMERIN’ Ponderosa High School students learn carpentry from the ground up as they build a tiny house.

How would I get there? Where could I get a map? Did I need a guide? Did I need special skills or equipment? Exploring career choices involves the same elements. While this column starts with many questions, each month the Career Pathways article will provide information, ideas, opportunities, inspiration for you to help a young person growing up in Santa Cruz to explore career options.

Back to my grandson, and more questions, why did he choose firefighter? We walk by the firehouse with the shiny red engine, the firefighters came and helped him when he was having an allergic reaction and then let him sit in the their truck. He sees and hears the engines go by with lights flashing and sirens wailing, we talk about how firefighters are helpers, and he has met firefighter at the Capitola Neighborhood Night. He was given his own miniature fire hat and fire jacket which he uses to put out pretend fires with a hose at his house. He has seen, met, experienced, and “tried on the career” of firefighters. Opportunities for exploration are readily available for the careers that are visible to and experienced by children: nurses, doctors, firefighters, police, teachers, or athletes.

But how can we be career guides for our children for the over 800 different jobs that are identified at this time, how do we guide children to be curious and prepared for the careers that don’t yet exist? How does career exploration differ from preschool through high school?

All of these questions have been a part of my life since I was first asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, then I began teaching elementary school, had my own children, taught in middle school and high school, became a high school principal, finally a grand- parent, and currently the executive director for the non-profit organization, Your Future Is Our Business. I now focus on fulfilling our mission of providing all youth in our county with career explorations, funded by the County Office of Education in partnership with University of Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College, and Cal State University Monterey Bay. In the months to come, articles will include explorations of career pathways, work based learning experiences, choosing careers guided by interests, values, and skills, and interviews with inspiring people in our county.

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