Do you remember the moment you decided what you would do with your life? Was it a moment of clarity or a moment of desperation? Julie Champion discovered her passion for mentoring high school and college students when she was a freshman in college and has since devoted her time and gifts to guiding students toward their ideal career and/or life path.
4word: What led you to mentor high school and college students?
Julie: I have always enjoyed being around students. I spent my high school and college summers coaching and working at camps. So when I accepted a job at a K-12 school out of college, the position was a natural fit, even though my degree was in Psychology. Something in me loves helping people understand concepts and apply information to their lives in a practical way.
My own transition from high school to college had a big impact on me. It was such an important time in my life. I had a wonderful high school experience where much of the foundation of who I am -- my values and my faith -- was formed. My first semester in college was a challenging time of watching people around me place a high priority on partying and going out to be seen by members of the Greek community. I did not share the same priorities.
I knew enough about who I was to realize that I needed to put myself in environments important to me. Those environments would allow me to meet the kind of people I wanted to connect with. I got involved in a campus ministry and, having an athletic background, several intramural sports. I began forming lasting relationships with people and loved every minute of my experiences! Even though it was lonely at the beginning, I saw how important it was to stay true to myself.
I believe this season of life cultivated a passion in me to help students become aware of who they are and to stand confidently in their new-found sense of self. This awareness can serve as a guide when many other things compete for their attention. Knowing who they are is extremely important in helping a young person face new challenges and make decisions wisely.
4word: What are some challenges students face when trying to determine their goals for the future?
Julie: One big challenge I see students struggle with is simply not knowing where to start. I remember being asked, "What do you want to do as your career?" For a time, my mind would go blank as my thoughts turned to the overwhelming sea of options. This is the point in a student’s life where I like to come in to help funnel all the ideas, suggestions, questions, and concerns and begin to make sense of it all.
Also, due to the increasing cost of education, many students face the challenge of how to pay for the college or program they are interested in pursuing. While this issue can be addressed through a variety of avenues, it has become more and more of a challenge for families. The additional concern of graduating college with a solid undergraduate degree only to have difficulty finding a job is also plaguing college students. Graduates are left with mounds of loans and can't find positions to effectively pay them down.
Because of this, it has become more common for students to take a "gap year" after high school in order to gain some working/real-world experience, especially if they aren't sure what arena they want to pursue. This experience can serve as a valuable time of clarity, propelling the individual more confidently in their direction of focus.
4word: Is there a particular student you've mentored that has made an impact in your life as well?
Julie: Each of my clients impacts me in some way. I love getting to know the families and working with them in depth. One of my first clients was a young high school girl ("Sarah") who was raised by her single, hard-working mom ("Mary"). I had known them before I started working with them, so I knew a bit of their background. Mary has a strong personality. She is tough, direct, doesn't operate by emotions, and sees things in black and white. Her mom had been a hairdresser, and Mary was determined to do something different with her life. Mary went to school to be a teacher, got through her program, went into her first student-teaching experience ... and hated it. She realized she didn't enjoy being around kids all day and found the work completely exhausting. She also said teachers don’t earn enough money to support a family in a single-income home.
Mary was incredibly frustrated and not interested in going back to school. So, she did what she said she would never do and became a hairdresser. She is still in this line of work today and doesn't hide the fact that she's a little bitter about it. Mary's daughter, Sarah, is gentle, thoughtful, and people-oriented, but she and Mary butt heads quite frequently. Sarah came to work with me, and we discussed what career options she had thought about. She told me she had always wanted to be a teacher, but she knew that they don't make a lot of money, so she should probably pursue something like marketing.
When I pressed a little bit, I realized how much Mary's influence had impacted Sarah’s thought process. Mary and Sarah have completely different personalities and interests. I knew Sarah would make a wonderful teacher and would most likely love that line of work. After spending several sessions with Sarah, I met with Mary and her to discuss what we had discovered. I explained their personality differences and respectfully told Mary that her negativity towards teaching, mostly based on her unfortunate experience, were taking something away from her daughter. Sarah wanted to please her mom (part of her personality) and didn't know how to confidently tell her mom that she wanted to pursue teaching.
Mary truly heard her daughter's words. It was a powerful experience in their relationship. I saw a connection and mutual understanding that hadn't been there before begin to blossom. It was beautiful. Mary admitted that she had been holding on to her own issues and projecting them onto Sarah. She told Sarah that if she wanted to pursue the field of teaching, she would fully support her. Seeing them come together and understand each other in this new way was incredibly impactful for me and a brilliant reminder to me of why I love doing this kind of work.
4word: What are some tips you can give to students, or even adults, who are struggling to decide which career or life path to take?
Julie: The assessments I use can be foundational in certain aspects of discovery and are helpful tools. I do recommend using them, not in a defining way, but to serve as a guide. It is not uncommon for me to hear clients say, "I guess I already knew most of these things about myself, but I hadn't ever put them all together like this.” Much of the information I draw out of people isn't brand new. Finding a professional who can walk you clearly through the results in order to avoid any confusion is also an important aspect of the tools.
Another tip I can give is to spend some time thinking through questions like:
- “What are some things that I really love to do?”
- “What are things I've noticed are draining for me and not productive?”
- “What do I feel passionate or excited about using my gifts towards?"
Notice if there are any similarities or trends in your answers. Asking a trusted friend or family member what areas they've seen you thrive can be helpful as well. Think through previous jobs, leadership positions, volunteer experiences you've had, and write out what you liked and didn't like about them. This can be indicative to you of what path to take. While we may not always be fortunate enough to work completely within our areas of passion or interest, we can find ways to exercise them through other mediums (such as hobbies or volunteer opportunities).
Once you can narrow down a few key aspects of how you will use your gifts, let these points guide you through your decision-making process. As new opportunities come up, look back and weigh what areas line up with your prospective job. Ask yourself what you’re willing to compromise. Know your priorities. Stay true to yourself, and think proactively about your goals. These guidelines can make all the difference in finding a positive fit for you.
4word: Any additional thoughts you'd like to share?
Julie: I believe the Lord created us all in such a unique way. We have our natural personalities and tendencies, and we also have interests and passions that form as the result of our different life experiences. While learning about ourselves is so important, I encourage my clients not to stop there. If we only focus on ourselves, we can miss something. Our strengths, interests, and talents are given to us for more reasons than to just make us happy. I like to encourage my clients to look outward once they learn about themselves. Ask yourself, "How can my gifts be used to serve others? How can I contribute to the greater good? In what ways can I give of myself to strengthen the Kingdom of God?"
As we learn about how we were specifically designed and how to best use our gifts, let's not forget to keep an outward mindset. We were not meant to keep our riches to ourselves, but to pour them out for something bigger than ourselves. It is in this outpouring that we may truly be fulfilled.
Every one of us struggled with finding our path at some point in our lives. It is women like Julie, who can come alongside and offer a guiding hand, that have the influence and heart to mold the next generation of professional Christian women. Look outward and see whose life you can touch with your specific gifts.
How has your life been impacted by someone who took the time to help guide you down a certain path?
Julie Champion is a native of Nashville, TN. She attended Southern Methodist University (SMU) graduating with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in French. Hired in 2006 to be the Assistant Athletic Director at a K-12 school in Nashville, Julie returned home after college. She spent five years teaching Physical Education, coaching volleyball/basketball, and serving as a social skills coach.
During her time teaching, Julie returned to school to pursue her interest in counseling. In 2010, she completed her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Lipscomb University.
In 2011, Julie decided to combine her passion for working with young people and helping cultivate their interests on a deeper, individual basis. With the help of her husband, she started the Know You Project. Julie is a certified practitioner in a series of personality/interest assessments (including MBTI, DiSC, Strong, PLACE).
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