About 360 students at the got a taste of a careers ranging from law, police, and veterinary medicine to aviation, fitness and broadcast media from about 55 guest speakers at the school’s bi-annual Career Day.
Sponsored by the Middle School PTA, the all day event, held on Jan. 26, began with a keynote speaker and transitioned into 30-minute sessions with professionals from a range of careers, who explained their general job responsibilities, the aptitudes and personality types best suited for their jobs, education requirements, necessary experience, rewards and drawbacks.
“The reason this worked is because the parents put so much work into it behind the scenes. They did the brunt of the work,” said Principal Scott Hough. “A lot of [the speakers were parents], but [other speakers were invited] through their contacts... If they know somebody or they know someone who knows someone. Some of the parents speaking today were alumni and they’re all pretty accomplished in their fields too so it wasn’t as if we were getting whoever could show up. We got people who are accomplished.”
While numerous parents helped put the event together, the main organizers were Janet Barth and Kellen Zegarski, who “put so much work into it,” Hough said.
Barth, whose son is in 7th grade, said she has a large network of professionals that she utilized when requesting speakers for Career Day.
“I felt between my network of other professionals, it was something I could naturally transition into. I have the time, I could volunteer to do it,” Barth said. “We had our kick-off meeting in late October and the initial first step was the kids took a survey. We developed an online survey for them, to rate their career interests, and that happened in November right before Thanksgiving. With those results, we hit the ground running and contacting speakers.”
The keynote speaker for the day was Kathleen B. Cashman, Chief Executive and President of Cashman Consulting LLC, a busness that helps organizations of various sizes to strategize and develop growth plans for the business and for leaders within the business.
Cashman, who earned a BS degree from Seton Hall University in Marketing, an MBA in Management from Farleigh Dickinson University, and is an Adjunct Professor in management at Rutgers University, said when most students are in 7th and 8th grade, they aren’t necessarily thinking about what they’re going to be when they grow up.
Cashman said our world is constantly changing, and so are many of the job opportunities.
“The things you can do in your future, those jobs probably haven’t been invented yet because our world is really changing,” she said.
Cashman asked who wants to be a millionaire or on the cover of Forbes or Fortune Magazine. While many raised their hands, Cashman held up a copy of Fortune Magazine and said the biggest change students will see in their future is rather than holding that magazine, they’ll access it through technology.
“Technology is your aid for the future, it is not your future. So what’s happening in between your years is your future and we want to make sure what we put there — the things you read, the things you listen to, the people you meet — are bringing some good thoughts and you’ll turn those thoughts into great things,” she said.
Next, Cashman asked all of the students to disconnect the words “hard work,” which are heard all too often.
“We tend to say that work is hard and work shouldn’t be hard. Work should be fun. You should have fun doing whatever it is that you’re doing and when you have fun doing what you’re doing, watch your commitment to excellence. You’re going to want to go the extra mile, whatever that extra mile is for you,” Cashman explained. “This is real important for when you start to look at ‘how do I demonstrate my commitment to excellence, right here, right now.’ See, that’s a habit and when you build those habits starting now, watch what will happen when you get out into the world.”
Cashman, who talked to students about the “wave of possibilities” in their future and how they can ensure they don’t miss out on any opportunities, actually had all of the students do the wave in the auditorium, which erupted cheers and laughter from the students.
Cashman asked what happened in those brief moments of doing the wave and the students said they were communicating with one another. Cashman said each student had to coordinate with the students next to them and “communicate that they would go down when you went up.”
She explained that one of critical success factors that won’t ever change is coordination and communication.
“You do have to coordinate some things so that you get something done and getting things done isn’t going to change. That’s a critical success factor when you get out into the real world,” Cashman explained. “That’s where your commitment to excellence comes in… When you do more work than what somebody asked you to do, watch how they respond. The possibilities are endless. You have to make sure you’re thinking about the moment. When now passes you by, you may have missed an opportunity. We want to make sure we don’t miss opportunities, and we’re there and present in the moment.”
When Cashman was in school and college, she said she didn’t have the technology that students have today.
She urged students to research the world around them, one question at a time, without using the Internet, pointing out people like their parents, teachers and coaches as key resources at their disposal to learn from and go to with questions.
Cashman said she grew up with four sisters and shared words of wisdom that her father shared with her and her sisters.
“My father would say, ‘girls, don’t worry about the question that everybody’s asking you, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ He would say, ‘what you need to do is worry about how you’re going to be when you grow up because the jobs you will have haven’t been created yet.’”
Cashman eventually took over the company her father started. She said that while she isn’t Vince Lombari, who once said, “the quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor,” she said she could leave the students with words that could move them forward.
She said the building blocks to success include mindset, motivation and movement.
“How many of you woke up this morning and said, ‘self, you’re going to have a great day!’ How many of you woke up and said, ‘what do I have to do today?’” Cashman asked the students. “When you wake up in the morning, you have to put yourself in a positive mindset. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between actually having a great day or when saying you’re having a great day. When your mind believes you’re having a great day, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to have a great day!’ Athletes use this and it’s called visioning.”
Cashman urged students to determine what motivates them to do what they do, such as playing lacrosse, getting good grades, or excelling at the piano.
“What does technology do to movement? It’s been decreasing it, right? Because you’re sitting in one place,” Cashman said, who continued by asking which students said they want to be a millionaire when they grow up.
Cashman asked those students to look under their chairs. One student found a dollar bill.
“How many dollars does it take to become a millionaire? One dollar at a time. You had to move for it,” she said. “What I want you to do is remember every time you move, you have the opportunity to get a reward. But you need to be flexible enough to change.”
Cashman explained that her college education experience, which required her to take two years of required courses before getting into classes for her specific major, will be very different from their own future college experiences.
Instead, she said the colleges they eventually go to might not even have a building and instead, they might take classes for their particular specialty or major from colleges and universities around the world by using technology.
At the end of the presentation, Cashman asked the students to do the wave again. “The wave of possibilities are endless… the choices are yours to make,” she said.
The students then spent the rest of the day learning from other professionals for various fields.
Matt Timpone, an 8th grade Peer Leader, said he really enjoyed the presentations he went to about Law and Set Design.
“I always thought being a lawyer would be cool but I never thought there were so many types. There’s first amendment law, prosecutor law, constitutional law, corporate law and all of that seems interesting,” he said. “I was interested in it but now I actually want to pursue it.”
Timpone said while he’s not interested in set design, he went to the presentation given by Lori Guirard, a film set decorator, and said, “it was really cool because I like the show Saturday Night Live and she was the lead set designer for SNL.”
Jen Maluso, another 8th grade Peer Leader, said she really enjoyed presentations about fashion by Ana Verrusio, a retail buyer, exercise and fitness by Vince Gabriele, owner of Gabriele Fitness & Performance in Berkeley Heights, and broadcast media by Jama Podell-Vitale, TV news producer for The Fox News Channel.
“For fashion, I didn’t know there were so many different fields. For modeling, you have to do so many different things,” she said. “I wasn’t really [interested in the field] before, but now I am more. I also liked the Vince Gabriel class [about fitness and exercise] and the broadcasting presentation.”