All career fairs are not created equal, and the one hosted by Jobs for Maine’s Graduates at Oceanside High School- East in Rockland was proof of that. Sure, there were businesses and colleges promoting their programs and services, but that was just the beginning.

At the Oceanside Career Day Friday, May 16, 400 students, from freshman to seniors got to choose from a smorgasbord of career-related workshops. Students interested in social media heard from the folks at Dream Local, a startup social media marketing firm; those leaning toward the healthcare field spent time with staff from Pen Bay Medical Center; and biotech wannabes met up with a scientist and manager from Lonza, a company that manufactures products for life science research. The day was designed to inspire students to develop a plan for life after high school.

Joann Martinez, a sophomore at Oceanside said, “Right now, high school is our life. So, it can be a little scary to think about what we’re going to do next.”

Martinez admits she didn’t always enjoy school and her attendance record used to reflect that. She says, “But, this morning, I jumped out of bed, because today was important to me. I have to start thinking about my future. We talk about this a lot in JMG. So, today was about finding employees willing to hire me this summer, but also talking with them about the educational requirements I would need to get more than just an entry level job.”

Along with the career workshops, Martinez and the other students spent time grazing for information at the event’s Career and College Expo where they got the chance to talk with more than 40 Maine employers, colleges and charitable organizations. One employer, Pen Bay Healthcare, sent a small army of people to help students explore a variety of healthcare careers.

Dottie Morley, a recruitment assistant at Pen Bay, said, “We’re a community healthcare system. We employ 1,600 people, and we hope to encourage these students to consider us as an employer. And, this fair is great. A lot of these young people may never have been exposed to shaking someone’s hand, making eye contact; communicating with an adult in a professional way. This is a great experience.”

Scott Browning, the JMG teaching specialist at Oceanside, and the chief organizer of the event, said the day was all about connections. “Most people don’t just wake up one day and know what they want to do. Something, or someone, has to spark your interest. That’s what this is all about. By making connections with these employers and continued education reps, my hope is that these students may have some ah-ha moments that lead them in a direction toward their future.”