Cassidy O’Leary was one of 60 Carroll High School sosphomores to participate in a job shadow day for Becky Boes’ English class. She spent the day at KISS 107.5 studios in Des Moines.
Cassidy O’Leary was one of 60 Carroll High School sosphomores to participate in a job shadow day for Becky Boes’ English class. She spent the day at KISS 107.5 studios in Des Moines.
October 30, 2013


Work can be fun, after all.

This refreshing lesson was learned by 60 Carroll High School students in Becky Boes' sophomore English class through her annual career exploration and job shadow project. The students researched career fields ranging from military to medical. The reactions to their days on the job were as varied as the students and careers themselves, but for one common observation - work doesn't always have to be serious.

Micaela Bretey completed her job shadowing at KCCI TV in Des Moines. Bretey had always been interested in photography. She explored the field further, researching photography in the news field, duties of a reporter, and perks of a news anchor position.

"News anchors make way more than photographers," she explained. "I figured I could start out small and work my way up."

Bretey expected the studio to be strictly "down to business," but when she walked in, the news director greeted her by cracking a joke. She listed to the early news reports and sat in on the morning meeting, watching the reporters and camera operators joke with each other as the news director finalized assignments. She also learned that, as long as an individual owned up to any mistake, he or she wasn't likely to be harshly reprimanded.

"They were all laughing and getting along. It was just such a fun atmosphere," she said. "It was something worth the time to get paid for."

Lexi Reicks spent the day in the radiology department at St. Anthony Regional Hospital. Reicks was interested in studying law, but attorney-client privilege rules prevented her from being able to job shadow a lawyer. Her mother had gone to the hospital for radiation treatment and suggested Reicks check out that field instead.

"I thought it was kind of cool anyway," she said of the radiology department. "I think this (experience) actually outweighed the lawyer. It might have changed my mind."

Reicks started her job-shadow experience believing work in the radiation department was directly related to cancer. She learned that a radiological technician is involved in a variety of medical fields, working with mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans and nuclear medicine. The technicians in the department had equally varied personalities.

Delaney Schwarte also job shadowed in the medical field. Though she is interested in neonatology, a specific division of pediatrics that deals with newborn infants, she actually job shadowed a general surgeon at Greene County Medical Center in Jefferson and Guthrie County Hospital in Guthrie Center. While the experience confirmed her desire to work in the medical field, the day was not without its surprises.

"I was not mentally prepared to watch five colonoscopies," she said, eyes wide.

But the atmosphere was as she anticipated.

"The nurses are the talkative ones," she said. "The doctors are more antisocial. They do their own thing."

Dakota Holliday job shadowed a family friend at the Iowa National Guard Headquarters. Though he knew he was interested in joining the Army, he had no idea what specific area he wanted to work in.

The English class assignment helped him narrow the field. After a day that included disintegrating hard drives, Holliday expressed a preference for the information technology department.

"It definitely boosted my confidence," he said of the experience. "Some of the guys were strict, some joking, but they all had some form of smarts on tech so they could help each other out."

Tanner White and Destiny Rummel traveled to Iowa State University to delve into the world of post-high school athletics. White spent the day with the director of operations for the basketball program, while Rummel spent the day with an athletic trainer.

Basketball is White's favorite sport, but, acknowledging that he will probably not become a Division I player, he thought the next best thing would be to manage a team and stay involved in the sport. His day with the director opened his eyes to both the opportunities and responsibilities of coaching.

"You can go around the nation as a job, coaching players that could be famous someday in a sport you really have loved your whole life, so it's not really a job," he said.

Most surprising was the intensity of the off-season. The coaches aren't just running practices all day, but recruiting and attending national meetings and keeping an eye on players and their academics.

Rummel began considering athletic training after she received her last concussion. She may not be able to play forever, but she can stay involved in athletics.

Her day included assisting with taping ankles for college athletes and creating an orthoplast brace for the quarterback's shoulder.

Both Rummel and White were surprised at the relaxed atmosphere, with players and trainers joking about the latest iPhone software or video game rather than focusing on preparation for practice.

Cassidy O'Leary and Jason Ramos cited interests in music and audio production, respectively. However, they approached their job shadow opportunities very differently.

O'Leary traveled to the KISS 107.5 radio station in Des Moines, where she was taken right into the live studio.

Ramos shadowed Carroll Community School District superintendent Rob Cordes to better understand management responsibilities, a lesson he can carry into any field.

Though some students remained unsure of their next move, all agreed their job-shadowing experiences were valuable.

"You can research a job, but you won't truly understand the responsibility of it until you walk in their shoes," said Holliday.

Reicks, who credited much of her interest in law to the television show "Law and Order," said that the research project can dispel illusion.

Schwarte agreed, confirming that her day with a surgeon was "no Grey's Anatomy."

Boes, who has taught in the Carroll district 13 years, said the career exploration unit has always been part of her curriculum. The first step in the project involves a personality inventory and a skill assessment. An online program then recommends careers for each student, who then writes a research paper on one of the careers and job shadows someone working in the field. The project culminates in short speeches that present the student's findings to the class, enabling all to learn from each individual experience.

The most uncommon job shadowing experiences she has seen in her class include a student who followed a stand-up comedian in Omaha, Neb., and a student who was bitten by a turtle at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha.

"Some kids go thinking they are sure of what they want to do, and don't even need to job shadow, and end up hating it," Boes said. "But that is just as valuable, because they won't waste any more time being sure of things and can explore other interests."

Other students have made connections through job shadowing that have landed them internships or jobs, she added.

Changes in regulations over the past decade have made it difficult for students to job shadow, particularly in the medical field, Boes said, recalling a former student who was able to be in the labor room when a patient gave birth.

Despite these restrictions, she credits the community with the program's success.

"Overwhelmingly there are businesses who open doors and graciously invite kids in every time they're asked," said Boes, who estimates some businesses receive half a dozen requests each semester. "We can no longer function in education as an island. For kids to have these experiences, we need the support of the community. It is overwhelmingly to me how great this community is at giving back to our kids."