From our first jobs as teenagers and throughout our entire professional careers, we're constantly learning and growing. Hear from Portland Workforce Alliance's newest 2020-21 board members about their first jobs, early life lessons and career advice. In addition, learn more about PWA's new 2020-21 leadership here.
Best career advice: You don’t need to have it all figured out - lead with your heart and be open to change.
Most memorable job as a teenager: I worked as a Coach at Self Enhancement Inc’s summer camp. I was in charge of about 15 2nd grade students. What I thought would be easy turned into a real lessons about responsible leadership and compassion for our young ones.
What I learned in high school about work: It’s okay to make mistakes - each one will teach you something so lean into the lesson and allow it make you better.
What draws me to serve PWA: Growing up in the SEI program, I was exposed to a plethora of programs and opportunities I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. I want to do my part to ensure that young students have equal access to career exploration and mentorship.
Best career advice: Know that only very rarely, is the journey a straight and narrow one; most of us have had an organic and meandering pathway with twists and turns and stops and starts all along the way.
Most memorable job as a teenager: I worked as a day camp counselor at the community center for 2 summers and loved it. I was the youngest in my family, so didn’t have many opportunities to be with little kids. At camp, I loved the chance to be a role model, to help kids learn new skills, and to meet and hang out with other counselors.
Something I learned in high school about work: It’s pretty cool to realize that other people depend on you – to show up, to be ready for the day, to contribute, to be a member of the team.
What draws me to serve PWA: The chance to help widen the field of opportunity for all youth. The world is a complicated and complex place and navigating it as a high school student can be really challenging. PWA’s commitment to bring opportunities to students inspires me and I’m thrilled to work with their team – especially to ensure more students have STEM learning experiences and find a fit for their own interests and talents!
Best career advice: Your first few years out of college should be hard, and you should be challenged and pushed to your limits. Put in the extra hours and extra effort because that hard work will pay off immensely in the long run. Nothing is given, it is earned.
Most memorable job as a teenager: My first big job as a teenager was working as a gas station attendant. My job was to work the cash register, take inventory, and stock the shelves. This was my first real lesson in responsibility.
Something I learned in high school about work: High school taught me how to learn, and how to seek out knowledge. Upon graduation, we are all exposed to a harsh new reality of self-sufficiency and unknowns. It is invaluable to know your resources, and to have the dedication to continue to grow as an individual and as a part of a team.
What draws me to serve PWA: The opportunity to expose students to a diverse range of careers, and to connect employers in the area with our youth.
Best career advice: Figure out a way to get paid to do what you love.
Most memorable job as a teenager: I spent most summers in high school painting houses. I loved being outside, and I also appreciated getting paid every week.
Something I learned in high school about work: By working different jobs in high school, I learned what was important to me in a job - supportive colleagues, work that has a purpose, and that I needed to get some more training if I wanted to get paid a reasonable amount of money.
What draws me to serve PWA: The mission and the focus on connecting with students. I was the first person in my dad’s family to go to college. I didn’t have a “real” job until I became a teacher (because a real job was a union job in my family). I know that students are often told to go to college after high school, and I want to make sure that students know all of the different options that they have after high school. Having the opportunity to learn about a variety of career paths is important for all high school students, and it is most important for our students who don’t see themselves heading off to college right away. PWA gives students a wide variety of opportunities and experiences to help them understand what is possible after high school.
Best career advice: Embrace challenges that take you out of your comfort zone as invaluable learning opportunities.
Most memorable job as a teenager: I was an indoor soccer referee for two years in high school, working three to four days per week throughout the school year. After working a few less enjoyable jobs in the summers that followed, I recalled what I loved about refereeing: thinking on my feet (literally), applying rules to a set of facts to support my position, and working with others. It’s not so different from what I do now as a lawyer.
Something I learned in high school about work: I learned that even if I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, I’d always have two reliable tools at my disposal: 1) not being afraid to ask questions when I didn’t know the answer, and 2) there’s no substitute for hard work. The combination of both, to this day, are usually a recipe for success.
What draws me to serve PWA: I didn’t know what I wanted to do in high school, and I think a lot of my classmates felt the same. The town I lived was predominately low/middle-income and didn’t have many employers or career opportunities for young adults. I believe most of my graduating class did not attend any college and ended up working minimum wage jobs with few career growth opportunities. If my school had the opportunity to participate in PWA’s programs when was in high school, I know it would have opened many eyes – including my own – about the opportunities that exist in this community. I don’t want current and future generations to miss out on their potential due to lack of awareness of what’s out there and exposure to the many wonderful employers in the Portland area.
Keli Van Holde, Zapproved
Best career advice: Find the right mentors or managers early in your career. The right people will have creative ideas even when you feel like you've exhausted all of yours and lend you inspiration to keep going.
Most memorable job as a teenager: For several years in high school I was the only employee aside from the owner at a small office supply store. As a result, I learned how to do just about everything and frequently managed the store by myself.
Something I learned in high school about work: It's important to learn what you like to spend your time doing - whether that's through work, academic pursuits, or extracurricular activities. If you dread doing something, or love doing something, figure out why. This knowledge will help guide you toward the types of careers you might enjoy most.
What draws me to serve PWA: There were so many careers and industries I didn't know existed (or that I would be qualified to work in) in high school, and even college! I want to share those creative career path opportunities with others.
Best career advice: Reflect on what you are good at doing and the things you enjoy doing, then pursue a career in which the job best reflects your passions and allows you to use your talents.
Most memorable job as a teenager: My most memorable job as a teenager was working in Office Services for Kaiser Permanente. One summer I was "loaned" to the Center for Health Research and spent my time at the Oregon Historical Society looking up records of Kaiser members on microfiche because there was no internet.
Something I learned in high school about work: In our personal finance class, I learned how to fill out a timesheet, collect a paycheck, and deposit it into the bank. In addition, I learned about annual salaries and how to complete my taxes.
What draws me to serve PWA: I believe that youth should be exposed to various career options. I love that PWA allows youth in our community to explore career opportunities by providing an array of hands on real life work experiences and exposure to various business leaders throughout the state. I hope my experiences, knowledge, and educational background can assist with helping the organization fulfill its mission as well as help with the great work that the PWA is already doing!
Best career advice: Be curious, ask questions and don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to new experiences.
Most memorable job as a teenager: I spent summers working at an outdoor basketball camp in the woods. It included teaching drills, organizing meals and keeping racoons out of the bunkhouses. I learned how to manage multiple responsibilities!
Something I learned in high school about work: You’re not expected to know everything on your first day, just show-up and try your best.
What draws me to serve PWA: Students should have the ability to explore different career paths and gain information and experiences, that’s what PWA does! I appreciate the people and mission of PWA and am excited for the future.