Learning to Love What You Do and to Do What You Love

This post was written by SVSLI board member Sandy Mercer.

I frequently tell students that as adults I know they will want to find jobs that best provide for their families, but that investing in their education may also allow them to work at a job they love. A few weekends ago, our first class of SV-SLI high school scholars sat around a table at Greenberry’s coffee house on a Saturday morning to talk with Grant Parrish, an aerospace engineer, and Jim Wampler, a physical therapist, about their professional careers. I selected an aerospace engineer and a physical therapist because they represent two career areas the students have expressed interest in.  However, I specifically asked Grant and Jim to speak to the scholars because I know both individuals to be caring men who love what they do.


Both Grant and Jim invited students to reflect on their essential qualities, stating “who you are” impacts your career choice.  Jim said, “Don’t think about PT if you don’t like people.”  His business motto is, “We don’t treat parts. We treat people.”

Grant said, “I couldn’t sit behind a desk eight hours a day.  So some days I get to put on a helmet, a parachute, and go out and test planes!”

Both men also stressed that the students’ bilingual skills were a definite advantage.  Jim employs an interpreter to help in his business.  Grant said, “If my company has a project in South America and two people apply, they will select the one who is bilingual.”

As they continued, they shared a number of comments that I thought were valuable to all students.  Below are just a few examples:

•    “I just saw this quote on the back of a magazine this morning and it is so true, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’”

•    “I took AP classes in math and science in high school.  It may be counter intuitive (and he explained what that meant), but I retook those classes in college.  It helped me nail down the basics.  As a result, I did better in my upper level classes than I think I would have otherwise.”

•    “Connect. Connect.  Connect.  Get to know your professors.  Ask if they are working on any projects you can help with.  You often get opportunities because of relationships.”  (Instead of only sharing suggestions like these, they also told several personal examples that I’m sure the students will remember.)

•    “The first year in college is difficult because your mother isn’t there to ask if you did your homework and your professors will just put in a zero if you don’t turn in assignments.”

•    “Motivation is key.  Pursue your interests.  Push yourself.  If you put ‘pilot’s license’ on your résumé, it may have nothing to do with the job you are applying for, but it will set you apart.  Employers will see that you are the type of person who always keeps learning and growing.”   Image

While watching the student scholars engage in conversation with professionals, I was reminded of a time when I was a junior in high school. My guidance counselor asked me to speak to her graduate school class about “Teens Who Care,” an organization of which I was serving as state president. After the class, she and a few classmates took me out for coffee and dessert. I was so excited to sit around a table of educated professionals, watching them talk and laugh together.  It was if they belonged to a “club” that I hoped to someday join. The members were kind and encouraging to me.  It was the first time I heard of Freud, so when I looked confused, they took time to explain what they were talking about.

While my coffee and dessert experience occurred long ago, I remember it vividly because it gave me a chance to envision my future as an education professional.  I hope the morning conversation at Greenberry’s allowed the student scholars to visualize the options still ahead of them.

If you liked this post, check out this article about the “Secrets of the Most Successful College Students”.

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