Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in Career Day at my sister’s elementary school where she works. She is a guidance school counselor there and is about to complete her second year working at the school. (Lucky girl gets summers off!) We were asked to spend about 20 minutes talking to a couple of classes of 4th and 5th graders about our career, how we got into the career, what we like about it, challenges, etc.
Of course we’d known about the date for a while, but I hadn’t really thought about how or what I was going to present to an audience of 9-11 year olds. Flynn suggested a PowerPoint because kids like visuals. However, when I sat down to put together said PowerPoint, I stared at a blank screen for quite a while – I mean, how was I supposed to put together a presentation for an audience I barely knew?!
I did what any other PR pro would do and inserted a lot of pretty pictures 🙂 Just kidding, sorta, but I did end up putting together a pretty short deck with lots of pictures and some basic (well, I thought it was basic at least) text – nothing fancy or over the top – just lots of colorful slides. I didn’t put a ton of thought into what I was going to say honestly, because it was my career path and my job, so it would just come naturally….until it didn’t.
Ummmm, so Communications is a hard job to explain to 4th and 5th graders! And the concept of Public Relations? Forget it! I mean, thinking back to when I was that age, I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or an astronaut – well maybe I knew by then that my career in space was never going to result in anything substantial, but still – pretty obvious jobs that most kids are very familiar with and probably think about being at some point, right? A Public Relations Manager? Or a Communications Specialist? Notsomuch. I mean, I didn’t even know I wanted to be in those jobs until I nearly failed out of my requirements for a business major my freshmen year and needed a new major that did NOT require Accounting or Finance, or any science classes for that matter.
And let’s just say that kids today are intimidating! I mean, I don’t spend a lot of time around kids (except at Christmas when I see my cousins, but most of them are practically adults now anyways) and it takes A LOT to keep their attention, and we’re family. Within the first few minutes of my presentation, there was a girl sleeping on her desk right in front of me – guess she wasn’t interested in a career in communications #nottakingitpersonally #kidswillbekids. Then, I have a slide entitled “Post-College Life” – pretty straightforward, right? Wrong! One of the teachers politely whispered to her students that “post-“ meant “after.” Whoops! (I blame that one on Flynn though because I had her review my presentation before I finalized it!)
And when it came time for questions, all they wanted to know was “Mrs. O’Neill, who is taller, you or your sister?” “Mrs. O’Neill, who is older, you or your sister? I think your sister is.” (Wrong, I am, but she’s taller so of course that makes her look older!) “Mrs. O’Neill, who is married, you or your sister? Because you don’t have the same last name!” And let’s just say it went on like that for a while and one group of students even had us to stand next to each other in the front of the room so they could see who was taller. At least they are polite! I am DEF not used to being called “Mrs.” anything unless it’s a telemarketer and then I promptly hang up the phone.
When my sessions were all said and I done, I must say I was relieved and ready to high-tail it out of the school – those kids were a tough crowd! I don’t know how teachers/counselors do it…they deserve all the recognition/awards/school breaks they get, because keeping the attention of an audience of school kids is a hard job and somebody has to do it, but that somebody is NOT this girl. I happily returned to my tiny, window-less office, and sat in meetings with my adult colleagues where we had conversations with big words about Communications. 🙂