Our lab was recently invited to speak at a career panel for high school students by the the Waltham Boys and Girls Club and the Waltham Public Library. With such a diverse range of interests and career goals within the lab, we saw this as a perfect opportunity to share our work experience with students just starting their career journey. So my coworkers, Allison Ludwick, Sarah Steele, Tali Rasooly, and myself arrived at the Waltham Public Library ready to talk about our four distinct career goals and the four individual backgrounds that have shaped those goals.
From college to a job in the healthcare field
Luke Kirkland, the library’s teen specialist, Jules LeBlanc, Waltham Boys and Girls Club’s teen coordinator, and Madison Bishop, the library’s youth service intern, greeted us in the meeting room. Pizza boxes were stacked in the corner creating that familiar aroma of after-school activities. A few students had already arrived and and were clustered with their friends. Our brochures and flyers were spread out on a table beside us, with questions reading, “Suffering from Migraines?” and “Have You Experienced a Concussion?”. My coworkers and I rearranged the seating to make the environment more intimate and informal and on the chalkboard next to us, Tali wrote in big letters: “Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Pain and the Brain”.
Tali kicked off the panel by explaining the work that we do in the lab: what types of acute and chronic pain conditions we study, the imaging techniques we use to study them, and why this research is so critical in the medical world. A soon-to-be post-doctoral student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Clinical Psychology program, Tali discussed her path from her alma mater, the University of Maryland, to Boston Children’s Hospital, and back down to her Baltimore stomping grounds. Allison, Sarah and I also had the opportunity to share our career paths: Allison will be starting classes at the University of Pennsylvania’s nurse practitioner program in May, Sarah is applying to medical programs to become a neurosurgeon, and I will soon be applying for a masters in science communications.
Q & A
We then opened the floor to questions, and the topic of careers engendered many insightful discussions. Jules asked what it is like to be a woman in the medical field, to which Tali described her experience working along side successful female psychologists with families, who have achieved a work-life balance through lots of effort and time management. A student also asked what it was like to enter into as intimidating a field as medicine, and Sarah described how she has been handling such a daunting task and the passion that drives her.
Luke then gave us the opportunity to split into small groups for more personalized discussions. With this more intimate format, Tali, Sarah, Allison, and I were able to delve into more details about our college experiences, our work lives after college, and what we do outside of research. Many of the attending students were in the midst of hearing back from the colleges they had applied to. They shared with us their hopes of where they would like to be next fall, and the subjects they wish to focus on during their collegiate studies. Just like my coworkers and I, there was an extremely diverse range of career goals and no one student’s aspirations were the same.
The career journey
It is just as beneficial to look back on the process of starting the career journey, as it is to hear from people already in the work force. So much changes when you finally reach the point of working in the field you have long dreamed of. Things you once considered pivotal are now just another chapter in the constantly transforming book that is career development. Many of our conversations during the career panel revolved around the paths we tested out, but then decided were not a good fit. Or, the jobs we never knew existed that emerged only through experimentation. It was enlightening for us to relive our career journeys, and exciting to hear about the paths that many of the high school students will soon be commencing. We are excited to foster our lab’s relationship with the Waltham Boys and Girls Club and the Waltham Public Library going forward.