Two of the region’s most dramatic career areas were in focus for the Northland Education and Business Alliance’s most recent Career Series installment Jan. 18.
The series is a monthly virtual career presentation featuring insights into area job opportunities. The January focus featured arts, audio/video technology, communications and information technology. Professionals in each field join NEBA staff in the Zoom conferences, detailing their work, what it takes to enter each field and answering questions sent by students and educators.
Different Careers, Similar Requirements
Although the fields are dramatically varied, many of their career trends are surprisingly similar. Pathways to success often vary and “soft skills” like showing up for work and being able to communicate are critical in all areas. And while certification is important, results are what count the most.
“I look for people who are good at problem solving,” explained Damien Boley, director of Technology for Incomm and also mayor of the City of Smithville. “I know a lot of people like a degree. Ability is number one with my team.”
John Hardwick, president of nXio and another IT presenter, agreed. “There’s value in certification, but there’s a lot more value in people who are ready to go with it,” he said. “The big focus for me is in troubleshooting and problem solving.”
Both were strong on education, although some “requirements” were surprising. “Learning how to write an email that gets your message across is really important,” Boley added. “I started reading ‘English for Dummies,’” he recalled. “I wanted to learn how to write a resume and an email. Most of our communications with our clients is through email, so if you can’t do that well, it’s a big problem.”
In a session on arts, audio/video technology and communications, two presenters noted similar trends in dramatically different fields. The biggest takeaway again may have dealt with getting early experience nearly any way possible.
Eryn Bates Kemp, associate executive director and arts administrator for the Harriman-Jewell Series, said contacts and relationships are especially important to enter arts careers, and there’s no better time to start making them than with internships or even informal job shadowing. In her case, one of the biggest benefits was learning how she could pursue a career in the arts without having to go on stage.
“Get to know people and find out what they do,” Kemp recommended. “I didn’t even know this job existed. I didn’t even know this was an option.”
Maddie Wright, area manager for Technical Services, Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, agreed. “I liked performing arts but wanted an area where I would work steadily,” she recalled. “I recommend reaching out to different businesses, like amusement parks, to learn about these different positions. I had no idea there were careers like this that could be a full-time job in the arts.”
Both Wright and Kemp noted “over-hire” positions in the arts field, jobs that are similar to temps and sub-contractors in others, are good avenues to gaining experience and making contacts. Internships, paid and unpaid, are other opportunities. School clubs, whether robotics, art or theater are another important option. Some students even gain experience helping school staff in IT, theater or other areas. Most of the time, the individual must make the efforts, reaching out to get a start.
“You learn a lot and make contacts,” Kemp said. “And a lot of organizations will look to them when they hire full time. A lot of this is relationships, and those can start there, too.”
The Right Approach
Several noted that young people often underestimate the importance of attitude, issues like making eye contact when speaking with someone or controlling themselves during stressful situations.
“Communication skills are critical,” Worlds of Fun’s Wright said, “and the ability to be calm. No one wants to work with someone who yells all the time. It’s always stressful at work, but you have to be able to communicate effectively and calmly.”
Attitude and communications are important in other fields as well. Amos King, CEO and software engineer for Binary Noggin, said a lot of his day involves meetings and email. “The ability to communicate in the written word is really important,” he said. “That’s one of the most important things you can know. You also need to learn to teach, to explain to people something that may be new to them. You to have patience with other people.”
Some aspects of these careers may be surprising. Nathan Welch, Global Strategic Account Manager for UiPath, said much of his work involves in-person and Zoom meetings, telephone calls and other communications with clients. That can be challenging when those clients are spread around the globe.
“I meet with people in England in the morning and Australia in the evening,” he laughed.
Like other NEBA programs, the Career Series is designed to bring awareness of specific industries that drive the local economy. Speakers provide background about their industry, company and local career opportunities. Registered attendees can pose questions to the speakers to learn more about the industry. All events will be held live via Zoom and require attendees to register for the link.
Those volunteering to present the series Jan. 18 included Amy Berridge, Museum Educator for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Carrie Hibbeler, executive producer and community affairs director for WDAF-TV FOX4; Jan Jensen, artist representative and art curator for Jan Jensen Artists LLC; Damien Boley, director of technology for Incomm and Mayor of the City of Smithville; John Hardwick, president of nXio; Eryn Bates Kemp, associate executive director and arts administrator for the Harriman-Jewell Series; Maddie Wright, area manager for technical services, Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun; Amos King, CEO and software engineer for Binary Noggin; and Nathan Welch, global strategic account manager for UiPath.
NEBA members involved were Courtney Reyes, NEBA co-chair and director of Government Affairs and Workforce for the Homebuilders Association of Greater Kansas City; Amy Washam, NEBA co-chair and director of Northwest Missouri State University-Kansas City; Brett Kisker, executive director of the Northland CAPS; and Brian Noller, former NEBA co-chair and executive director of the Northland Career Center.
Career Speaker Series programs and other events are also available to view on the NEBA YouTube channel.