This week, Bobbi, Nikki, Nikole, Craig, and Jessica, shared their career journeys and tips to success at Connections Friday. It was an extremely rewarding experience for staff and clients to hear about these guests' diverse paths and how they found and followed their passions.
Bobbi grew up in Chicago and as she says, came from a long line of salesmen and educators. "In my house we were told, if you can't find a job you like, make one up." Bobbi worked at a variety of places including a candy store, Kmart, and a bank. At the bank, she realized how much she dreaded coming to work. She wasn't passionate about her job, and needed a change. Bobbi began teaching and realized she loved working with the kids. She went back to school and when Maryland passed the Charter School Law, got an idea. With three young kids at home, Bobbie visited her local public school and was disconcerted. "I didn't think this was a place where the kids, teachers, or principals were able to do their best work." Bobbi wanted to create a place where the students and teachers were inspired; she wanted a place where parents could have a hand in the creation of the school. And so she started one. Bobbi and her neighbors founded the City Neighbors Charter School in 2005. When the number of students eager to attend grew (the waiting list soon had over 350 students!), they opened 2 more schools, and then a Foundation. As Executive Director of the Foundation now, Bobbi works daily to think about how to impact public education. The secret to her success? "Finding something I loved."
Nikki works in HR at a local community hospital. She has been in her current position for 5 years, but had no idea she would end up in human resources. After high school, Nikki started a family, but soon realized she needed skills and training to get employed. She went through a local word processing program and was hired soon after for a clerical position in HR at a top employer in Baltimore. Over the next 18 years, Nikki moved up through the company and with their help, eventually went back to school. During company lay-offs, Nikki was fortunate enough to keep her job by showing her committment and dedication. She realized however, that she wanted to try something new. Healthcare was an appealing field to Nikki because it afforded her the opportunity to help people. She got a position at a large hospital in the area then moved to her current job. The change in industry was eye-opening for her. Nikki shared with clients that she too had been through a program similar to MND and had witnessed many people around her succeed in career advancement, from the bottom to the top; her manager had started in a housekeeping position. "You may not see what you want to do now, but keep pushing," she said.
Nikole is currently a social worker for the Department of Veterans' Affairs and says that she was "born to help people." Despite roadblocks throughout her career journey, Nikole never gave up on pursing her dream of becoming a social worker. "You never really feel like you're working when you do what you love," she said. Nikole started out studying mass communications but changed her mind after a Psychology 101 class that got her started on her current path. She became a psychology major and then got her MSW. She advised clients to "think outside the box" and not to let their career paths contain them. Nikole loves working with veterans, and after a tragic suicide in her family in 2006, took an open position as a suicide prevention coordinator at the Department. She has been working in this role for the past 5 years. "I found my niche," she told clients, and encouraged them to do the same.
Craig grew up in a rough neighborhood in Washington D.C. After high school, he went into the army, and four years later, found himself back at square one, unsure of his future. A friend introduced Craig to an administration training course and he exceled at it. It wasn't until he had his first child however, that Craig realized he had to do something. He found Americorps and was placed in the Department of Veterans Affairs. After his service term, Craig got a job in the department and every year after, he applied for a new position, pushing himself to get to where he wanted. Craig enjoyed helping veterans with their resumes and employment leads. When his new position did not allow him to serve them in this capacity, he got a personal laptop and began writing resumes and paperwork for Vets on the side. Soon he became The Resume King. The word spread and Craig now has business in California and Germany. "I had to understand what motivated me," he said. For Craig, it was his children. He told clients that it is possible to start from the bottom and work your way to the top. "Apply yourself and find what you can do that you will be the best at. You will be surprised what you can make into a business."
Jessica is currently an account representative/recruiter for a local non-profit employment agency. She told clients that she started out with her passion in high school, by getting involved in student government. Jessica was a student organizer and enjoyed rallying around issues in her school. After high school, she went to a small college in South Carolina and than transfered to Morgan State in Baltimore. At Morgan, she met a professor who asked his students to write about their passions. Jessica wrote about wanting to help people and the professor was so impressed with her essay, he offered her an internship in his office. Jessica became his legislative assistant upon graduating and worked for county executives following that. She did door-to-door organizaing and in 2008 moved to Philadelphia to work for the President's campaign. Jessica told clients, "you can't say that you'll do anything for work, you have to focus on what you're passionate about." She advised clients to take some time to really reflect on what is important to them. Jessica has only been at her current position for 8 months, but already feels that she is making a change. "That is what drives me," she said.
Thank you again to all our guests, who really opened up about their personal and professional journeys and inspired us to continue to follow our passions and look for what we love to do!
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