A high school student from Minnesota recently asked if she could interview me for a school assignment, a paper that focused on college creative writing programs and, more generally, writing as a career. She found me thanks to her father, who works in manufacturing and must have checked out my Break Room columns in EHS Today. I'm all for helping bright and ambitious students as they start to navigate their futures, so of course I said yes.
As we discussed college choices and career options for the literary minded, I found myself going down memory lane and recalling how, exactly, I ended up in my current job as senior editor of EHS Today. My college degree, past professional experience, freelance career and internships clearly played a role in my career path. But my current position is the result of more than just a single resume or list of past jobs. It's also thanks to some of the people I met along the way.
There was my editor who praised my freelance work and agreed to be a reference when I searched for jobs in publishing; my first freelance editor who recommended my work to other publications; employers at past jobs who encouraged me to insert more writing and editing tasks into my job duties; the book producer who worked out of her home in rural Maryland and who gave me a glimpse into how the publishing world works; the magazine editor who never let my lowly "intern" title stop her from assigning me feature articles – even a cover story; and the many college professors and advisors who helped lead the way.
And before all of them, there were the professionals who took the time to answer my questions when I was still a high school or college student who was unclear on which career path to choose.
Mentors matter. And whether it's an ongoing professional relationship through an internship/job or a one-time phone call offering some advice, giving back is important. Here at EHS Today, we encourage rising stars in the safety world through our Future Leaders in EHS scholarship program. In fact, I asked our 2010 Future Leader, Jason Townsell, to share a little something about a role model who helped give him his start in the EHS world. Here's what he told me:
"In 2002 Greg Cole, founder and president of Fast Start Safety Services, introduced me to the field of environmental health and safety. Greg provided me with a solid practical foundation in the field prior to me ever seeking higher education/certification."
I like to think that most people who received some help along the way on their own career paths are eager to give back to the young up-and-comers looking for guidance. Of course, the mentor relationship goes deeper than educational and career pursuits. As Jason puts it: "Greg remains a mentor, valuable professional resource and friend."
So tell me – who was your role model, and how are you giving back in your field?