Students get personalized approach to jobs at Bethel Park
Bethel Park High School is trying a more personalized approach to help students choose a career that bypasses crowded career fair booths and brochures in favor of daily lectures and presentations from area professionals.
The Career Spotlight Series brings more than 40 people working in a range of fields to deliver a half-hour talk about their jobs — what the work entails, the skills and education required, salary expectations and what the job market is like — to an audience of up to 30 students at a time, Tuesdays through Fridays in November and December.
Students sign up to learn more about the careers, or teachers bring their classes to see how the skills they’re teaching are used in the working world.
“What we were doing before was large career fairs, and students weren’t getting a real depth of information,” said Lorri Smith, one of the guidance counselors who put together the program’s pilot last year. “It became a question of who had the coolest booth, and all the students would gather there.”
On Tuesday, graphic artist John Hinderliter, 58, of Bethel Park, walked 30 students through examples of his work, including storyboards, illustrations for books, movie set designs, advertisements, package designs, digital paintings and acting spots in commercials.
Rather than working for an agency, he’s been a freelancer for all 40 years of his career, he said, getting jobs through hard work, jumping at every opportunity (a gig illustrating children’s paperbacks came from quickly responding to a publisher’s Tweet) and persistence, such as sending out a regular email pitch to a growing list of potential clients.
He recommended anyone looking to become a working artist take at least basic-level business classes so they can handle their books and billing.
“The amount of hustle it takes to be self-employed is astounding. On the other hand, all of it is your doing, and the feeling of accomplishment is amazing,” Hinderliter said.
“I had no aptitude for being a business person, no interest in being a business person, and I’ve spent my whole life as a business person.”
Students asked about what kind of money he could make — usually a fixed rate for illustrations in books and magazines, then a scale of prices for advertisements based on what the client wants and how much time it would take. One ad illustration, turned around in a single day, earned him about $1,200, Hinderliter said. His black-and-white book illustrations take about an hour apiece but earn him $100 each.
Students said they enjoyed the lecture approach, and were happy to hear it was possible to make a living from art.
“I was always interested in art, ever since kindergarten, and that’s what drew me to this,” said Nick Bench, 16, whose art class came as a group to the lecture.
Victoria Nee, 18, got to skip her regularly scheduled classes to hear from Hinderliter, as well as an earlier lecture on fine art and teaching by artist Peggi Habets.
“I found this one more interesting,” Nee said. “At the first one, the (pay) ranges were smaller. I was really surprised by how much you could make off advertising.”
Smith hoped the program would lead to networking opportunities and internships for student participants.
Fellow counselor Kristen Michaels said each lecture was covered by the student newspaper and filmed for rebroadcast on local cable TV, and the recordings will be posted on YouTube for students who couldn’t attend.
“This takes a lot more coordination (than a career fair), but it’s been well worth it,” Michaels said.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625.