ETX professionals offer career day advice for graduating student - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

ETX professionals offer career day advice for graduating students

Laura Mason Laura Mason
Steve Spitzer Steve Spitzer
Dr. Meg Reitmeyer Dr. Meg Reitmeyer

It's the last week of school for some in East Texas, and that means the seniors of 2012 are starting to look ahead to future careers.

I held my own mini-career day this week, visiting professionals we hear about every day who use their jobs to serve us all in some capacity

There aren't many service professions more popular than becoming police officers or firefighters, and I learned that first and foremost, good candidates for these jobs are people who are in excellent physical shape.

"You've got to be in good shape. You really need to have good endurance. So just weight training is not enough. You need to be able to run, you need to be able to lift, you need to be able to go for long periods of time," said Laura Mason, an assistant fire marshal for the city of Tyler.

"You have to do so many pushups, pull-ups, run so far," said Don Martin of the Tyler Police Department. "You have to take a hearing test, an eye test, you have to go through an extensive background check, an oral board, and a polygraph."

But even more than the physical skills required to become a firefighter or police officer, both Mason and Martin say candidates for their departments need to be people of good character.

"We have a saying in our area saying a cut above. And that's what it really takes to be a law enforcement officer. They have to be a cut above the standard population because that's what people expect of us," Martin said. "When they put a gun and badge on us, we need to be held to a higher standard."

Both professions have academies and agility tests to pass, and some departments may even require some college hours -- but even so, Mason says applicants need basic reading, writing, science, and math skills for their everyday work.

"You have to have the higher math because we get into some more complex types of what we call friction loss and how to be able to get the right amount of water to the end of the hose for the firefighters to be able to put out the fires," she said.

And despite all the demands of both jobs, both Mason and Martin recommend their professions for the exact same reason.

"Getting out there and helping people in crucial times and possibly saving a life -- that's all very rewarding for a police officer," Martin said.

"Helping the people, I think, has to top anything else. Being able to make a very bad situation for somebody a little bit better is the reason I come to work," said Mason.

But there are a lot of jobs someone could have to help someone -- just ask Tyler lawyer Steve Spitzer, who has been practicing now for more than 20 years.

"I decided to become a lawyer because I wanted to help people and I knew that I wanted to speak and have somewhat of a competitive environment, which you do in the context of a lawsuit," said Spitzer, a civil litigator with the Tyler firm Ramey & Flock.

Spitzer says you have to make good grades in school to become a lawyer, because getting into law school is competitive.

It also takes some time -- getting your Juris Doctorate degree takes three years after your bachelor's degree -- but Spitzer says helping people is worth it.

"It gives you a feeling of satisfaction to take a person who's facing some challenge in the legal system, to get them through that in a way that gets them further down the road and allows them to continue on with their life," he said.

Becoming a doctor also requires a lot of school -- a bachelor's degree, 4 years of medical school, and at least 3 years of residency.

" Despite what you may think, the best doctors aren't always the gunner students," said Tyler endocrinologist Dr. Meg Reitmeyer, who works at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital. "They're people who have a lot of depth to them, because medicine requires you to use a lot of things. You do have to have a good brain. You have to be able to learn things and use it. But you also have to have good people and communication skills."

Tyler dentist Dr. Loyd Dowd was conducting cancer research at MD Anderson Cancer Center when he was drawn into dentistry for a special reason.

"It combines the surgery with artistry. You can't be a dentist and not be an artist, because you're not just doing surgery. When you're doing restorative dentistry, you're basically sculpting someone's smile," Dowd said. "And I like both of those."

Both Dowd and Reitmeyer encourage future doctors and dentists to strongly consider how the business aspect of their respective jobs may affect the medicine.

"Even more now, medicine is a business. Health care has a lot to do with managing people, marketing, running your practice, so having business skills is essential too," Dr. Reitmeyer said.

"Talk to them about what really dental practice is like from the clinical aspect as well as the business aspect, because if you don't run it like a business you won't stay in business," said Dr. Dowd. "You have to blend the two together."

But they both encourage students to stick with it.

"It takes a long time. It takes a lot of dedication. In the old days, a lot of people went into medicine for money reasons -- that's going to be changing in the next few years because of cutbacks in healthcare," Dr. Reitmeyer said. "But if you care about people, if you're bright, if you really want to make a difference in somebody's life, this is a great way to do it."

The one thing every professional I saw this week recommended was to take some time to shadow someone who has the job you want to have -- it gives you a great idea of what the day in, day out of that job is really like.

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