Working for a Living: 3 Young Adults Share Their Career Success Stories
“What do you plan to do when you graduate?
”It’s a question every high school student has been asked more than once. But how do you even begin to answer it?
At first, you may think only in terms of what classes you like best, but then you start having conversations with teachers and counselors, and other questions emerge: How am I going to get to where I want to be? What is my path?
And then, as you begin the process of choosing the right curriculum for job training or college, as you decide whether you should intern during summers or perhaps enter into an apprenticeship program, you might begin asking yourself: What will success look like? Where do I see myself in my early twenties?
We asked some Delawareans in their early 20s who graduated from Delaware’s vocational-technical high schools to reflect on where they are, how they got there and where they think they’re going next.
As Teresa Pembroke might tell you, he who hesitates… sometimes makes the best decisions.
“Honestly, after high school, I wanted to take some time off to think,” says Pembroke, who graduated from Indian River High School.“ Although I did well in high school and was an honor student, I still felt a little bit intimidated about going to college. Additionally, I wasn’t sure that I was ready to commit to the financial costs of going to a traditional college. What if I changed my mind?”
And so she worked for over a year at odd jobs, saving money she made as a dog bather, house cleaner, baby sitter. Finally, six months after the pandemic had shut down most businesses, Pembroke decided to enroll at Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC).
After graduating with honors and as a member Phi Theta Kappa in 2022, today she is back at DTCC, now as an employee at the school after first working for about a year as a LAN or network analyst with the City of Dover. “Now I’m part of the IT team, working to help students with their work. Even when I was a child, I was fascinated with the internet,” she says, “and I did IT for the whole family. It was then that I realized how much I enjoyed it.”
And now? “The impact that my teachers had on me has convinced me that I may want to be a middle school teacher working with computer courses,” she says. That means “in a year or two” Pembroke thinks she will be ready to go back to college and getting her bachelor’s degree, most likely at Wilmington University.
At this point in her career, and no longer seemingly intimated by anything, Pembroke probably is done hesitating.
Mark Benson Jr.
When Mark Benson answers his phone to talk about how his career is progressing, he is between service calls around Newark, where he is a customer service foreman with Nickle Electrical Companies.
To the Paul M. Hodgson Vocational Technical High School graduate, the work comes naturally. “Both my brother and dad are electricians, so the profession sort of fell into my lap. Even when I was a teenager, I worked odd jobs at Nickle around the shop.”
Even so, Benson reminds younger people that, while rewarding and stable, being in an apprenticeship program is hard work—8,000 hours of on-the-job work combined with 144 hours of classwork spread over several years.
“It can be stressful at times,” he says. “After a hot, tiring day on the job, you have to change and go right back out to school from around 6 to 8. My classes were at Delcastle [Technical High School], and they were helpful in learning more about how to do my job. It involved a lot of study and testing.”
But now his apprenticeship is completed, and Benson has five years of work experience with Nickle under his belt, spending his days on service calls for homeowners who either have electrical problems or want to add capabilities to their homes. And so, he says, his learning process continues.
“I would eventually like to have my master electrician license,” he says, “which would broaden my opportunities.”
Even though being an apprentice might have fallen into his lap, Benson has placed doing the hard work necessary for his career advancement squarely on his own shoulders.*
Want to read more success stories? Check out the 2023/24 edition of Careers & STUFF, publishing September 19