Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How college influenced my career path- Part 3

More answers to the question. See part 1 and part 2.

Soon after starting my first non-temp job, my boss suggested I actually take a computer programming course from the local community college. He assured me that with my experience I would do fine, even if I hadn't taken the prerequisite class. This was the same friend who got me the job. He was also Henry’s friend and former roommate. I had taken an introduction to computers class in college that mentioned basic programming, but that was it.

So, I went to the first class and didn't understand a thing that was said for an hour and thirty minutes. Before starting the class, Henry had volunteered to tutor me. (We knew each other from church.) I had turned him down. I think I'm pretty smart, so I didn't anticipate needing help. After the first class, I called him in a panic. We started "studying" together almost every night after work.

We spent a lot of time talking, but not enough time studying. Pretty quickly we started discussing marriage. After doing poorly on the first few tests, I dropped out of the class, and we decided that since we were going to get married, we should date instead of "studying." We were married exactly one year from our first "study" session.

While we were engaged, I took a few classes at a nearby university with the intent of pursuing a masters degree in marriage and family counseling. I needed a few more courses before entering the masters program. I found the course work nauseatingly politically correct. The department head was a lesbian with an agenda. She was also an awful teacher. The other course I took from another professor was actually pretty good and had useful information. After the course work, I decided that I didn't have the temperament for politically correct psychobabble.

I stayed at the start up company until it went out of business when my first daughter was six months old. After she was born, I worked part time from home. They forwarded the tech calls to my house. I would sit on my couch, nurse my baby and talk to customers.

One day, I had a customer pick up on the fact that I was nursing while talking on the phone. He stops mid sentence and asked with surprise, "Is there a baby there??" He then continued on with some pride in his voice, "I'm a pediatric surgeon!"

Since that time, I've been a full-time mom. I later wrote the installation manual for a software program Henry created when he had a home business, but that’s been about it for technical writing.

At this point I began, my next career. I care for children (nanny), direct manual labor (manager/slave driver), keep the house clean (maid), plan meals and food storage (nutritionist), prepare the meals (cook), decorate and remodel (interior designer), manage the finances (accountant), manage our retirement portfolios (financial planner), file the taxes (tax consultant), instruct our children (teacher), drive them around (taxi driver), file the homeschooling paper work (principal), provide clothing for our family (fashion consultant) and plan our many trips (travel agent). I’m not really quite sure what to call it, but I love this job.

So, how did a college education influence my career progression? In the workforce, a college education made it easier to get in the door and it made it easier to get raises. Companies often have salary guidelines. A degree makes it easier to ask for more money.

However, most of my promotions were NOT related at all to skills I learned in college. I learned computer skills by temping. I got the temp jobs because I could type. I learned to type in junior high school.

Picking up software programs easily was just something I did naturally. My writing skills were the same. Writing and computer skills mixed well for a career in technical writing.

My abilities were my gifts from God. They were magnified by the type of home in which I was raised. I grew up in home where learning and books were celebrated. My mother's idea of a fun time was to visit an archeology dig or a museum. The sight of old books and sharpened pencils makes me happy. Working hard and taking initiative was something I learned from my dad. The people skills grew by working as a checker at Kmart between my 1st and second year of college. (I highly recommend spending at least a few months as a checker for every young person.) These personal interaction skills were later honed by serving as a missionary.

The only tangible thing I took away from college was a piece of paper that got me in the door at work. However, there were still many important intangible things I gained from a college education. The year I studied social psychology helped me make sense of myself and the world. The religion and philosophy courses helped me make sense of the universe. The courses I took in economics and business made me a better consumer. Living in an apartment with room mates taught me about human nature.

I wished I had learned more about cooking and sewing in college. I had to learn those skills the hard way, trial and error. Also, a college degree is a safety net in case I need to re-enter the work force if Henry dies or is disabled. I have no plans to re-enter the job market, otherwise. I like my current job too much.

College also had a down side. I came out of college exposing socialist propaganda and embracing the classic “chip on your shoulder” feminism. As soon as I hit the “real world,” I realized that much of the world view I had been taught in college was utterly false.

So, this is the advice I give my daughters about college:

Choose the college you attend carefully. Don't worry about a college major at the beginning. Take the courses you are interested in. Just keep moving along until you stumble across your gift. Focus on gaining the skills you need to be self sufficient. Prepare yourself to teach your children the truth.

It does makes life easier if you get that piece of paper, but don't make the piece of paper your ultimate goal. Make gaining knowledge and wisdom your ultimate goal.

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2 comments:

Carol said...

This was a great story. I like the list of intangibles that you learned in college and the advice to your daughter about going to college.

I teach a career exploration class to homeschool students and try to explain they may not know what specific career they will have, but I'll teach them how to find their skills, interests and abilities. Those go with you everywhere...
I myself have been a fast food cahsier (yes, excellent education!), sewer inspector for a civil engineer, industrial engineer doing cost analysis and now a CPA helping nonprofit organizations. I can see how one career led into another and many skills spill and blend into the next job-even homeschooling.

Janine Cate said...

Thanks for the feedback. It is also fun to see how other people's careers evolved.