Tips for parents on Career Day

This year, I set a goal to do a speaking event. Apart from Speech & Debate and Theater in school, I’ve never done a formal speaking event and the thought of starting out in front of 100 thirteen year olds, seemed like a grand idea! So, I signed up for my son’s Career Day at his Junior High.

“This will be cool,” I thought. “Just ten minutes and then I get to answer questions and listen to the rest of the parent’s speak.” Nope. I soon found out my presentation would have to fill FORTY MINUTES and I’d be giving it three times!!! In a panic, I sat down to brainstorm and all that came out of my pen was, “I take photos of people for a living.” Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh kay.

After twenty minutes of staring at the carpet and then drinking a particularly strong coffee, I was back to square one, but with new eyes. I actually remember being in 8th grade quite well, so I decided to plan this out for my 8th grade brain. I remembered being easily inspired. All it took was one well placed quote or a well versed storyteller and I was dreaming big. So my goal was to inspire someone through photography. I also remember being easily distracted. So I also decided to inject fun/funny/quirky/ridiculous elements into my presentation as well.

We started with fun photography facts. We saw the first photograph (Like, ever). We saw the first selfie! Show me an 8th grader who doesn’t want to see the first selfie! We saw the first silly cat photos (from the 1870’s!), we talked about the first Presidents to be photographed and learned that the Windows XP desktop image is the most viewed photo in history.

I told my own story… of losing my family photos as a child and how photos are important because they tell the story of your life. I even included a meme… I mean….my PowerPoint was shaping up pretty well.

I brought in my vintage cameras and some strips of film for them to hold the negatives up to the light. We looked at my early work and compared it to my recent work to emphasize the importance of lifelong learning and persistence and improvement over time. We talked about grit and rejection and being able to get back up, improve and try again.


We talked about the rule of thirds and canonical perspectives and then we got out our cell phones and used those principles to take some photos around the classroom.

We talked about how being an artist means you have to be an entrepreneur as well. That you wear different hats all day long from marketing to accounting to customer service. I explained that taking photographs was the fun part, but finding people who would pay you to take those photographs was the majority of the work. I also told them that it is entirely possible to be a full time creative and that they can carve out their own path in life if they’re passionate about that path.

Lastly, we discussed some artistic photographs and what we liked/disliked about them. What we thought about the colors, composition, focus, techniques, processing. And with that, I answered some questions (One of them being “How old are you?” :/ ) and I gave them candy and said goodbye!

Okay, so that was the basic outline of my presentation. On the other side of career day, here is my advice:

1. Come Prepared: Filling 40 minutes is hard! I had a PowerPoint and note cards to help me remember everything. I also practiced about five times at home. Just saying the words almost creates a muscle memory in your mouth (that sounds SO weird) and it really helps you to not trip over your words the day of.

2. Ask them lots of questions. The first “Fun photography fact” we learned was when the first photo was taken. But instead of saying “The first photo was taken in 1826”, I asked if anyone had a guess when the first photo was taken. Keep them involved as much as possible. If you’ve talked 5 minutes without anyone else talking, you’re not including them enough.

3. Entertain. Ok, you don’t have to tap dance or anything but maybe infuse a meme or a cartoon into your presentation. I added my 8th grade photo which got a big reaction. Think of what [eighth] graders like and try to incorporate that. Again, this doesn’t mean “PERFORM!”, it just means, add some color and try not to be too dry.

4. Aim to inspire. Why do you do what you do? What’s the importance? How do you find fulfillment in what you do? What do THEY need to do to get where you are?

5. Bring visuals and if you can, a giveaway. I brought little candy camera boxes to give away and they were super inexpensive. I also brought film, vintage cameras, and a very lively PowerPoint. Have something for them to look at. Listening to anyone talk for 40 minutes straight is hard…. spice it up!

6. Emphasize the importance of lifelong learning. I think I read this in an article somewhere and I ran with it.

7. Ask your friends for help! I have four teacher friends and they all gave their own advice. One said to set expectations early on and to not give them candy until the very end. Another said to tell them what you thought you’d be doing at their age and what path led me to photography.

8. Set intentions for your presentation. I wanted mine to be fun, inspiring and informative so I made sure each section had at least one of those elements incorporated.

That’s it! Have so much fun creating your own career day presentation!!

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris