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Interns learn from pros
Local professionals were part of a panel discussion Wednesday at the old courthouse in uptown Martinsville, where they answered questions from New College Institute’s summer interns. Above, panelists shown are (from left) Terrence Strickland, current NCI summer intern with The Harvest Foundation, recent graduate of Radford University and former NCI intern with Henry County Schools; New College Institute Executive Director William Wampler; Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce Deputy Director Sharon Shepherd; Mary Jordan, who recently retired as executive director of the Spencer-Penn Centre; and 4-H agent Brian Hairston. The girl in back is not identified. (Bulletin photos by Ashley Jackson)
Local professionals offered the New College Institute’s summer interns a few words of advice Wednesday on how to be successful in the work force.
The professionals were part of a panel discussion at the old courthouse in uptown Martinsville. They answered various questions about their professional careers during the event, which was facilitated by Steve Keyser, coordinator of community engagement at NCI.
The panel included Terrence Strickland, an NCI summer intern with The Harvest Foundation, recent graduate of Radford University and former NCI intern with Henry County Schools; former state senator and New College Institute Executive Director William Wampler; Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce Deputy Director Sharon Shepherd; Mary Jordan, who recently retired as executive director of the Spencer-Penn Centre; and 4-H agent Brian Hairston.
In the work force, a boss will not “accept a job half done,” Jordan said.
Once you get a job, you must put in a lot of effort and “prove that you deserve the job,” she added.
Hairston advised the interns to pursue careers about which they are passionate.
“Don’t settle for less” than a job you love, he said.
Wampler still carries the lessons he learned from his Army sergeants, he said. He advised the interns to find a professional role model and mentor at work who will help guide them.
Wampler also told the interns not to worry about being a chief executive officer at the age of 23 because it takes time to distinguish oneself and stand out above the rest.
A key purpose of NCI’s summer internship program is to influence interns to return to the Martinsville area after graduation to live and work. Strickland told the interns about his experience moving away from Martinsville and then deciding to return.
After he graduated from Radford, Strickland decided to move to Delaware to find a job in public relations. He said he ended up sorting mail, which was a reality check. Afterward, he decided to return to Martinsville, where he became a substitute teacher and met Leanna Blevins with NCI, who helped him to find internship opportunities, he said.
“Don’t be afraid to come back to Martinsville,” Strickland said to the interns.
Shepherd recalled leaving her hometown of Beckley, W.Va., to move to Martinsville to work. That was scary, she said, but it turned out to be a great decision, and she enjoys living and working in Martinsville.
“Don’t be afraid of change,” she added.
At one time, Hairston was offered a job in Brazil, but he decided to stay in this area because he was committed to his career in Martinsville and didn’t want to uproot his family, he said.
The panelists discussed many aspects of being a professional, including the importance of balancing work and a personal life.
Strickland said it is important for a professional to have an outlet outside of work, such as going to the gym or another activity, to keep one sane and balanced.
Hairston said that when he first started working and was single, he was a “workaholic,” but now that he is a father, he sees the importance of focusing on his family once he leaves work each evening.
Shepherd finds it soothing to volunteer outside of work. However, she advised the interns not to become overly involved because they might become overwhelmed.
The panelists also were asked what they would have done differently in their professional careers.
Strickland said he wishes he had done more internships because that would have boosted his résumé.
“Do some unpaid things” because the more experience and more professional connections one has, the better off he/she will be, Strickland added.
Having connections with other professionals “can change your life because you never know what they can do for you,” he said.
Looking back, Hairston wished he had pursued a master’s degree right after receiving his undergraduate degree instead of waiting, he said.
The panelists also told of experiences that inspired them to pursue higher education and a professional career.
Shepherd said that when she was in high school, there was no question that she would go to college. She grew up near coal mines and wanted to prepare herself to do something other than mining, she added.
Jordan was inspired to go to college because in her mother’s time, it was difficult for a woman to do so unless there was a history of college graduates in her family, Jordan said.
Jordan’s mother always wanted to go to college, but no one supported her in that decision. Her mother always told Jordan and her sisters that they needed to be able to support their families on their own. Jordan thought the best way to do that was to obtain a degree, she said, adding that she was the first person in her family to go to college.
Hairston’s father was a tobacco farmer, and every summer, Hairston would help him pick tobacco, he said. Hairston chose to go to college because the only other option was to continue picking tobacco, he added.
Before joining the Army or becoming a state senator, Wampler worked in construction. Working long, hot days in the sun made him appreciate the value of getting a college education, he said.
Following the panel discussion, Sammy Redd, coordinator of college access at NCI, talked to the interns about the importance of networking.
Having the best network could mean more than having the best application, Redd said. “It’s not what you know, but who you know” many times, he said.
As college students, it’s never too early to start looking for a job and setting up interviews with company representatives to simply find out more information about the firm, Redd added.