Westfield Middle School hosts its first Career Symposium

The 17 presenters who each talked with Westfield Middle School students about possible career paths. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- Professionals, business owners, and elected officials visited Westfield Middle School Tuesday morning to talk to kids about potential career paths for their first ever Career Symposium.

Among those who talked with the kids were Mayor Brian Sullivan, the Director of Sales for the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau Alicia Szenda, IT Consultant Ed Watson, and Nursing Educator Connie Blake. There were 17 total speakers for the students to choose from. Each student was allowed to sit in on two sessions of their choice.

Mayor Sullivan spoke with students about what it means to follow your dreams, and how knowing what you actually want to do when you grow up is more difficult than is let on. He put an emphasis on the students taking the opportunities available to them right now.

“When I was in middle school, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grow up. I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,” Sullivan joked.

He said he took the first job where he was given a salary, but it didn’t help him realize his dreams in anyway. He told how later on, he ran for City Council and, to his surprise, won.

Mayor Brian Sullivan addressing students at Westfield Middle School. (Photo by Peter Currier)

“I really didn’t think I could,” he said.

His main message was for the students to try new things to test the waters of what they may want to do when they get older.

“Don’t be afraid to give yourself some shots at something you may not know,” said Sullivan, “and don’t always feel like you have to take the first job that comes to you.”

Students were allowed to ask questions following each presenter’s speech. Students asked insightful questions about his life, his early political career versus his political career now, and what his plans are after his current term is over. Sullivan said he plans to somehow keep working after his time as Mayor ends.

Another speaker, Alicia Szenda of the Greater Springfield Tourism Bureau, talked about the process of not only selling something to people, but selling a place to visit for people. As Director of Sales for the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, her job is to get people to host their events and conventions in the Greater Springfield region.

“My job every day is to look at this map and promote it,” said Szenda while looking at a map of surrounding cities and towns, including Westfield.

She discussed the sales process with the students for getting people to host their events in the area. She said the process starts with a lead source, she then develops a professional relationship with that source, then Szenda will offer a proposal of where in the region the source’s event could be held and what logistics are involved, then, of course, the source is left to decide if and where they want to host their convention.

Alicia Szenda of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, talking to students about her job. (Photo by Peter Currier)

One of Szenda’s accomplishments in the 13 years she has worked there was getting the Babe Ruth world Series to be hosted in Westfield in 2016. Her calculations show that the result of an increase in visitors was 1,100 room nights in local hotels and a $1.3 million economic impact to the city. The Babe Ruth World Series is returning to Westfield this August.

Szenda also discussed the logistics of bringing large amount of people to a local city or town for just a few days. She has to figure out where people will stay, transportation, and giving them a space to hold their event or convention. She added that one of her biggest challenges is competing with other, larger cities such as Boston, Albany, or New York City.

Szenda said that she loves her job, and often feels like the job chose her, rather than the other way around.

“Any job you choose, you should love your product,” said Szenda.

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