Passion, Profit and Long-Term Happiness: Career Forum Engages Students

‘You won’t excel at something that you don’t have passion for,’ advised attorney Brian Liddicoat to students during the recent 4th annual Career Forum at Mount Madonna School (MMS). ‘It wasn’t until well after I left law school that I realized that I really enjoy litigation rather than transactional work and now I do full-time litigation and love it. I find my litigation work very, very interesting and that’s the only reason I can put in the long hours. I look forward to going to work. You likely will have to take jobs that you find dull just to pay the bills at first. Everyone does. Your long-term focus should be on finding something that you are passionate about. Having a good job that you like is critical to long-term happiness in life.’
This annual event, which is planned and presented by MMS parent volunteers, was coordinated this year by Julie Wiley, Henry Hooker and Stephen Harrington, with Rod Caborn again serving as the popular and exuberant emcee. It was attended by 9th through 12th graders and featured panelists drawn from the MMS’ parent body.
Participants shared with the gathered students about their chosen professions, about how they arrived at their career path, and the importance of finding something you enjoy doing and through which you can earn a living.
Alumni parent Kate Connor, who helped organize the event in years past, explained the motivation for parents who come together each year to organize, produce and present this event.
“As our children began to face the difficult challenge of choosing colleges based upon potential career opportunities,’ explains Connor, ‘a group of MMS parents came together to expose them to the varied and extensive career options that are available. Career paths are rarely lineal. Utilizing a fun and engaging format, and drawing upon our talented and experienced parent and alumni community, students have an opportunity to identify interests, occupations and discover their passions.’
‘As parents, we wanted to support MMS in a tangible way without any expectations in return,’ added Wiley. ‘After brainstorming many different types of events, we settled on developing a career forum that would utilize our own parent base to give the parents themselves a place of community.’
Students easily engaged again this year in the fun format of the event — beginning with a mini ‘quiz show’ where teams, divided by grade level, competed to answer questions about the guest panelists Liddicoat, fire captain Sean Adams, engineer David Wayne, and Tee Hopkins, producer of live music events.
‘Students need to appreciate that not being sure of a career path is NORMAL for high school age, even college age,’ commented Liddicoat. ‘Pick subjects in college that you find interesting and challenging. If you aren’t good at math, get a tutor! Math and science are very useful on a resume because it means that you have experience solving problems and dealing with hard issues. That’s important in ANY job, whether or not it’s science-based. With good tutoring, you can study engineering or the hard sciences and do fine. Too many students pick a ‘soft’ major mainly because they don’t think they can handle anything too complex. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re going to be paying a lot of money for college, so get some useful skills out of it. In my area, law, we have a million very smart people with English degrees. A lawyer with an engineering degree is much rarer and in great demand.’
Following the ‘quiz show’ introductions, students were divided into mixed-grade groups for a segment of ‘speed dating’: rotating around the room in five-minute intervals to ask questions and talk one-on-one with the panelists and the additional guest presenters: business owner Amy Padilla; private investigator Katie Lee; emergency room physician Brian Saavedra, and action sportswear company owner Cindi Busenhart.

“The questions that the students asked weren’t common at all,” commented Busenhart. “They were far more sophisticated than I had expected. The interest ran from busines to design, and the common thread was the community aspect with regard to our Sessions non-profit, which always makes me happy.”

Private Investigator (PI) Katie Lee told students she always planned to pursue a career in the Criminal Justice field, but didn’t always want to be a ‘PI.’ 
‘My father, grandfather, and uncle are all PI’s, so after the birth of my first son I began working for my dad at his office, and later became licensed myself. I explained to the students that I did major in Criminal Justice, but that that was not necessary for my job, just an added bonus. I tried to make clear to them that this was something that I’d always been interested in, but not necessarily where I thought I’d end up. A combination of life events and opportunities led me to my job, and I’ve been happy in it since.’
‘I really appreciated the thoughtful questions from the students, as well as their obvious interest and participation in the forum itself,’ commented Lee. ‘I think this is a great thing to do for the students and could tell that they valued the experience as well.’
Photos by Ashley Mayou and Sally Shields, 12th Grade
Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Media and Communications, [email protected]
Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.