Jimmy was ready for his first day as a new intern. He had on his best suit, ready to impress on his exploration of a potential career path.

“Great to meet you,” his new boss said warmly. “Now, what I need you to do first is head down and clean the shower on the first floor.”

So went a story told by Jimmy Joyner, Cary Academy Class of 2011, at the recent Career Connections Upper School assembly. The Key Club panel presentation featured five recent CA alumni (Brittany Kielhurn, ‘03; Saurabh Aneja, ‘05; Lex-Jordan Ibegbu, ‘08; Cailey Follet, ‘11), who answered a host of general questions from students about their transitions to college and career. Following that assembly, students went to separate breakout sessions to hear from professionals about more specific career paths.

The Career Connections panel on February 22, 2019

As Jimmy considered how to respond to his new boss many things ran through his mind —  starting with: “This is not what I signed up for!” What he decided to say instead was: “Sure thing!”

His boss then gave him a big smile. “I’m kidding,” she said. “Let me show you your work area.”

This story was part of a larger thread on the theme of discovery. By high school, many students are feeling the coming weight of the college admissions process, and they worry about not doing everything perfectly.

Our alumni offered some solid reassurances, each sharing that they had been well-prepared for college. If they could have a do-over, most spoke about taking more electives, about trying new things. When they reflected on their path from college to career, most spoke about a spark that ignited a passion and sent them in a direction they never saw coming.

The meta-message: say yes to new opportunities. Take courses out of your major. Participate in clubs and activities — at Cary Academy and in college. Only one of our five panelists were in a career they envisioned in high school.

For Jimmy, saying ‘yes’ to cleaning the shower eventually paid off. After graduation, he was hired by the same firm that gave him that internship. His then and future boss told him that one key factor in earning an offer over the other interns was his willingness to throw himself into whatever needed to be done, even if that meant doing a job that was outside of his normal scope of responsibilities. His boss said she never forgot Jimmy’s first enthusiastic “yes.”

It was a remarkable panel discussion, full of tips and well-considered advice — made even more powerful because it was coming peer-to-peer.

At the upcoming PTAA State of the School (March 24 at 2pm, in the Center for Math and Science lobby), I will share some additional stories from alumni currently in college. In addition to these anecdotes, we will have a look at data from our newest alumni survey, including feedback about college readiness and post-college career and life satisfaction.

While we cannot live outside the pressures brought by the college to career transition (for both students and parents), we can find comfort in the fellowship and wisdom within our collective community.