So Many Cool Careers….Which
Path Will You Choose?
Rachelle Cohn and Judy White
What is a terrific way to learn about a career
and figure out what you like, or what you don’t like? One
really great way is to hear about it from somebody actually working
in the field!
This is what many students got to do recently in
the “Cool Careers Speakers Forum” which was brought
back to SMC after several years’ hiatus. The program was held
on Tuesday May 4th, and Wednesday, May 5th, and was sponsored by
the Career Services Center of Santa Monica College.
Eight fascinating panels of speakers talked to
students about careers in the following areas:
• Animation/Graphic Design/Interactive Media
• Computer Science
• Health/Life Science
• The Sciences
Students seemed delighted to hear real life examples
of work in the above fields. This year’s program was a huge
success as speakers talked to full classrooms of students, including
students sitting on the floor and out the door!
The wide ranging experience of the speakers was
impressive. For example, in the Health and Life Science panel, Monica
Shahbaznia, Ph.D., a Pediatric Psychology Fellow, discussed her
experiences working with children with cancer. In another science
oriented panel, Victoria Paterno, M.D. discussed her role as a pediatrician,
and how it defined her life to be a doctor. David Kim, a Forensic
Scientist and Firearms Examiner, who spends his time investigating
crime and the trajectory of bullets, described how important it
is to be careful and take his time completing investigations. People’s
very lives depend on the conclusions he draws.
In the sphere of Journalism and Writing, Roberta
Wax discussed her previous work as a reporter with United Press
International. Another journalist Leslie Simmons, talked about her
role as staff writer for the Los Angeles Daily Journal. The Broadcasting
panel, a number of radio professionals described their exciting
Many speakers emphasized the importance of having
a passion for the work they do. For them, their efforts are not
like “real work”, but something they enjoy immensely;
and the pleasure they get from the work is sustaining over often
long hours of labor. One speaker, Michael Kemph, Ph.D., a microbiologist
who works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, described with great
enthusiasm his work that ranged from studying the depths of the
ocean to the farthest reaches of outer space.
Speakers emphasized the role of experience in students’
preparation for a career. They repeatedly encouraged students to
do whatever they could to gain practical experience…an internship,
working on a project of some type, joining computer user groups,
clubs, etc. They suggested that students learn on-the-job about
their career choices. This experience has the added advantage of
helping to confirm that the job the students are preparing for is
something they really want to do. Why wait until the end of college
when it is awfully late to change career goals and head in a different
In addition, these experiences can become part of the students’
resumes which helps them find employment in the future. The contacts
made while obtaining practical experiences as a student in school
become valuable resources as people who can vouch for the student’s
Rachelle Cohn is a Career Counselor at
SMC and shares a home with her audacious cat Basil.
Judy White lives in Santa Monica and
is the Internship Coordinator at the SMC Career Center, a whimsical
jewelry maker and the proud mother of two.