Pocahontas County eighth grade students from Marlinton Middle and Green Bank Middle schools traveled to Snowshoe Mountain Resort last week for the annual business luncheon hosted by the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Along with meeting future classmates, the students attended three breakout sessions which gave them insight into conducting business in Pocahontas County, tourism and the pros and cons of living with social media.
Snowshoe Outdoor Adventure Manager Ben Brannon discussed the unique opportunities Pocahontas County has to offer for those looking for a career in the outdoors or in tourism.
Brannon said that activities including caving, kayaking, hiking and biking are what attract people to the county.
“These are all things that, to me, make this place like a recreational mecca,” he said. “The opportunities up here are literally unmatched anywhere east of the Mississippi.”
The high altitudes and low valleys of the county provide visitors and locals with an endless list of adventures.
“There’s not that many places where you can go cross country skiing on the ridge tops in the morning and then take a bike ride on the river trail in the afternoon,” Brannon said. “It’s really, truly unique to here.”
Originally from Ohio, Brannon said he was attracted to the county because of the outdoor adventures that he could turn into a career.
“Every morning when I wake, I think ‘oh, I’m going to work,’ but it’s like saying, ‘oh, I get to go play today,’” he said. Do what you love and you’ll love what you do. It’s pretty unique in that it can not only benefit you financially, it can benefit you kind of in your day-to-day life, getting to go out and do what you love.”
If working for someone else wasn’t attractive to the students, they were given an alternative in the session with Appalachian Sport owner Chuck Workman.
Workman opened his business in Marlinton 25 years ago and has been his own boss through all the ups and downs.
Although he has a degree in business management, Workman explained to the students that a degree is not a requirement for owning your own business.
“I have a college degree and I’m glad I got it, but everything I’ve ever done, I’ve not needed a business degree for it,” he said. “Don’t think you can’t achieve a lot without going [to college]. You have to find out what is in your heart and follow your heart – and your brain a little bit, too.”
Workman informed the students that there are possibilities for all types of jobs in Pocahontas County, and not all are tourism related.
“The other thing that people will say about Pocahontas County is there are limited opportunities – there aren’t great jobs. You can only do tourism,” Workman said. “I disagree with that big-time. There are a ton of opportunities available in the county. If you want to be successful and you want to stay in Pocahontas County, it’s up to you. Don’t wait for somebody else to hand you a nice paying job. Go out and find one and prove yourself.”
While the majority of jobs in Pocahontas County are related to tourism, Workman said that tourism and other industries in the county must work together to keep the county healthy.
“If we’re promoting tourism, people want to drive through towns that are vibrant,” he said. “They like seeing that. That’s going to affect our tourism if we have a lot of empty buildings. The myth that I’d like to dispel is ‘tourism versus industry.’ Let’s see how they work together. Loggers are just as important as the president of Snowshoe.”
After the students learned about the options for future employment in the county, they moved on to an issue that could affect them today – the harsh truths behind sharing their lives on social media sites.
Presidio Studios owner Timothy Luce, of Lewisburg, showed students that a simple post on Facebook or Twitter can leave a black mark on their permanent records.
Luce told the students that the world as a whole “does not care.”
“I’m going to say something that may shock you and may sound very harsh – the world does not care about you,” he said. “You have family members, you have friends, you have a club or a church that you belong to and people in that organization care about you. The world does not care about you.”
This was Luce’s way of explaining to the students that it isn’t important to post on Facebook the details of every thought or meal you have. Some discretion is important because that information will forever be associated with the person posting it.
Luce shared four real world instances where social media had a negative effect on the poster’s job and life.
“We’re going to talk about a CFO [Chief Fiscal Officer] who shared information about his company,” Luce said. “We’re going to learn about a teacher who apparently liked to smoke weed and also thought it was perfectly okay to post pictures to the world who does not care. We’re going to learn about CISCO and a fatty paycheck and then we’re going to learn about my favorite, the miner’s ‘Harlem Shake-up.’”
The CFO and the teacher who smoked marijuana were both fired from their jobs. In the case of the teacher, the story was covered by the national media, which will make it difficult for her to find another job.
The CISCO “fatty paycheck” was about a person who left a job interview and posted a less than savory comment on his Twitter account about the job.
“Someone who had a job interview at CISCO posted on his Twitter account that he got the job, looked forward to the fatty paycheck although he hated the job,” Luce said. “The recommendation to hire him was withdrawn and he did not get the ‘fatty paycheck.’”
The miner’s story involved a group of Australian miner’s jumping on the viral video bandwagon by creating their own version of the “Harlem Shake” music video. The problem? They did it at work, while they were on the clock, at a gold mine.
Luce said the punishment was not publicized but he assumed they received a harsh penalty.
The moral of the story is to be cautious of what is posted on social media sites because it will haunt, and possibly harm you forever.
“We’ve all made mistakes,” Luce said. “The difference is in the context of people who can post pictures of you making those mistakes. You may post it, a friend may post it. That can get you into trouble.”
Rhondi Fisher, CVB member and District Ranger for Marlinton/White Sulphur Districts of the Monongahela National Forest, shared two instances where social media worked against locals.
Fisher explained that she had a job interview with a student from Pocahontas County High School and while he said all the right things, and seemed well qualified during the interview, his Facebook page was the exact opposite. The student had several derogatory postings about women, as well as cursing and explicit photos. Needless to say, he did not get the job.
In another example, Fisher said a group of high school students had a party on the Williams River. They trashed the place and harassed other campers who were trying to enjoy their vacation. Luckily, one of the students posted photos of the party on Facebook and Fisher and the authorities were able to pursue those responsible.
During the luncheon, students were addressed by Linwood resident Terry White, who encouraged the students to get involved in their communities and find a way to help improve the county for everyone.
Students were given a “quiz” on things mentioned during the breakout sessions and received door prizes provided by county businesses.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org