Lindsay Kuhn was working toward her PhD in Material Science at Brown University when she received a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant required her to teach science once a week at Nathan Bishop Middle School. “I realized that I never really knew what it was like to be a teacher until I spent that time in the classroom.” The experience gave her the idea for Inventing Heron, an online career resource named for the ancient Egyptian bird of light and self-creation. “We take a radically personal and empathetic approach to career discovery; we are a career resource rooted in storytelling,” explains Lindsay.
“Shape your work to fit you, don’t be shaped by it. It’s work, it’s not life” is among the many bits of wisdom that a high school student might find from over 600 professionals featured on the site. Pharmacists, writers, engineers, teachers, pipe fitters, athletes, lawyers, even a mine clearance diver in the Royal Navy are all among the topics available to search by career, interest, subject, or strength.
In addition to the professionally produced videos and stories at InventingHeron.com, there is an accompanying curriculum that introduces students to all of the 16 career clusters specified by the National Career Cluster Framework. Lessons emphasize soft skills (such as work norms and culture, workplace attire, and resume writing) and provide opportunities for self-reflection, guiding students through exploration, goal-setting, and developing a vision for the future.
A former journalist and engineer at Boeing, Lindsay used her skills to build a resource that would help students learn about various fields and professions and give them a taste of what each career looks and feels like for different people. Implementing a graduate student listserv, she recruited others to assist her in creating the site. This year, schools around the state utilized Inventing Heron to incorporate career exploration into the curriculum and to help give students a vision for the future.
“Inventing Heron is an innovative approach to showcasing real people in real jobs,” notes Karen Haberstroh, associate director of Engineering Programs at Brown’s School of Professional Studies. “It’s a relevant online tool to guide and mentor students in their career pursuits.”
Even college students can benefit from learning about the range of career options open to them. Providence College Professor of Biology James Waters finds the site helpful to show his students how the study of biology can be used in a variety of professions: “Every year I teach approximately 150 students who are first-year Biology majors and who, almost across the board, consider only about three job options: doctor, nurse, or physician’s assistant. I don’t know exactly where, when, or how we are collectively failing to educate these students about their future career options, but we need to let them know that there are endless other possibilities. There are no other resources on the web that could offer my students what Inventing Heron offers.”