probably met more interesting people this past week than in all four years of high school. The goal was to get to know real people, doing the real jobs we discussed, so I could see what “a day in the life” is really like. I found out things that I could never have learned from any book or course, and it was also pretty clear to see which people really enjoyed their jobs and which ones didn’t.

Did you know there’s an official name for speaking to people about what they do? It’s called “informational interviewing.” My mother took this process very seriously and booked me an interview every day of the week. I came prepared with a list of specific questions and a list of what not to ask (like, how much do you make?). The questions were pretty much the same for most jobs, and they covered topics like: How do you spend a typical day? Is there room for growth? Is there anything you wish you would have known before you went into this field? What kind of person is good at this kind of work?

My first meeting was with an event planner who arranges huge community events and business conferences. Her job includes everything from booking the location and managing the advertising, down to the details like making sure the coffee is hot. She can spend months preparing a single event. I thought she looked perfect for the job, put together but easygoing, very efficient and capable. She got to work with lots of interesting people, and though she works hard, she loves the flexibility of her job. There are certain times of year she won’t take on jobs, knowing it’s a busy time in her personal life. I liked that, as well as the energized feeling I got from her, but I’m not convinced that I’d do well with so much pressure and constant change.

Next, I met someone who works in the health department of a nonprofit community organization that helps people who suffer from specific medical issues. Her job is to create programs to help educate people on how manage their situations better. She also spends time applying for grants to sponsor the organization’s activities. I liked the fact that she is really making a difference in people’s lives and splits her time between working in a private office and presenting to small groups.

I got to meet the healthcare administrator of a local clinic too, and she was exactly what I expected her to be: smart, focused, and very efficient. What I did not expect was how much she cared about what she did and really took the needs of the patients to heart. She was running on passion, mission, and drive, knowing that through her efficient management, more people were receiving excellent care. This was something I could see myself doing. My main concern though, was working a full-time schedule. If my priority is working part-time, this may be a tough field.

(Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 757)