A Fantastic Day!

Sheila Johnson, alumnae, and others share experience, insights, and advice at Career Fair

Engelhard Gymnasium was abuzz last Thursday as students availed themselves of a terrific opportunity to learn from and network with nearly 60 professionals at the Mentor, Internship, and Career Fair so ably organized by Gretchen Eagen, mother of Brianna '14. A "fireside chat" with entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson and brief comments from a dynamite group of speakers, including six Foxcroft alumnae, set up the networking/fair part of the afternoon, and a number of common themes about how to succeed in the working world emerged:
  • Meet as many people as you can -- all kinds -- and create networks. "Feeling at ease with other people is key," is the way realtor Julie Martin Matheson '80 put it.
  • Be flexible  Said Lisa Patterson '89, "I am an engineer. I will always be an engineer, but life changes and we all have to adjust, and decide what our priorities are at a given point in time."
  • Follow your passion . . . "That's really what you bring to the table, whatever you do: Your passion, your interest," said lawyer and child advocate Liz Hanbidge '00. "That's what will drive you to succeed." 
  • . . . but try many things and stay open to opportunities. Senior Director of Programs and Events for the Northern Virginia Technology Council Taran Heilman Horan '93 reflecting upon her circuitous career path, said "Here's my advice: Follow your heart but try many, many things. There may be something out there that you don't even know about that you would absolutely love."
  • Embrace your fears and take a chance "You might find yourself in a better place than you ever could have imagined," said Meg Midyette '00, an research associate for the Institute of Defense Analyses.
  • Be honest and do the right thing. "Ultimately it's all about integrity and relationships," said Michele Carmassi, President of Demand IT, a federal government contacting firm.
During her informal fireside chat moderated by seniors Brianna Eagen and Monèt Foster, Johnson hit on many of the same points. "Be the best you can be at whatever you are doing. Don't take shortcuts; don't burn bridges; meet as many people as you can to network; and when you face adversity, use it as an incentive to make whatever you are trying to accomplish happen," was her parting advice.

Earlier, Johnson shared her own experiences and how she has used her own advice.  "All my working life, men have said, 'Why would you want to do that?' Or 'You can't do that, you're a woman'," said Johnson. "Whenever men said that, I would get madder and try harder." Noting that one of the reasons she became a part owner of two Washington, D.C.'s professional sports teams (the Wizards and Capitals) was to send a message to women across the country, she added, "I believe that one person can crash that glass ceiling and open the door for others to follow."

Staying open was another point Johnson emphasized with her own story. "I was a violinist and my ex-husband had a degree in teacher's ed," she said, after recounting the story of starting Black Entertainment Network, her first wildly successful enterprise. "But you don't have to stay on one path. You have to watch for opportunities, and you jump on them. . . I don't plan my life out; I sort of let it happen and then decide what I want to do. Keep doors open and be flexible and more than anything, be sure to keep your mind open to people and to possibilities."

When the speakers were done, our students went out and did just that by visiting with everyone from a prison supervisor, a lawyer, and a nurse, to a photographer and a fundraiser. Organizations on hand ranged from local establishments such as Middleburg Bank, Popcorn Monkey, Middleburg Eccentric, and Salamander Resorts, to national establishments such as the Atlantic Council and Mary Kay. For a complete list of participants, review the program.

The girls had been well prepared the previous day when Ms. Eagen gave an overview of career issues from mentoring and interviewing to how to dress professionally. With fair bags and resumes in hand, they visited different tables, discussing interning and employment opportunities with some and the building blocks to success in various fields with others. They apparently made a good impression as many of our professionals commented, both to organizers and to their friends and colleagues back home.

Thanks again to Gretchen, to Dr. Johnson and all our speakers, to current parents who participated, Kris Gali, Jennifer Lassiter, Corinne Steyn, and Melanie Herman, and to trustee Chip Gruver, who spent time with many students at the Gruver & Cooley table he shared with his daughter Cathleen Gruver Adkins '07.  
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.