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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
• Broadcasting
• Business/Marketing/Finance
• Computer Science
• Education
• Health/Life Science
• Journalism/Writing
• 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 responsibilities.

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 direction?
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 skills.

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.





The Women’s College Magazine at Santa Monica College
Copyright 2003 Santa Monica College