What'll I be when I grow up?

OK, so it’s that time of the season, or the season of the life, where manny of my friends’ and acquaintance’ kids are dealing with higher education and its place in their lives. I’ve for manny years used a shoot-from-the-hip conversational figure of about half of my acquaintance having gained purchase on careers unrelated to their “finished” education.

The IT explosion only explains a bit of it - i.e., I think this is a long term phenomenon. That phenomenon being that people blossom often as adults, beyond the career-prep ages. And society’s demands for certain fields fluctuates more rapidly than academe can easily accomodate. Or some such.

I know I fall into the category of “mustangs” who’ve become professionals in a career unrelated to my academic credentials. One of my most successful friends is a philosophy grad who rakes it in as a commercial real estate broker - and, apparently loves the life.

I also have a friend who is a licensed attorney who has never practiced (he hasn’t even done an auto-title for a friend). So, twenty-five or thirty years down the road, I’m wonderin’ what to tell the kids. Yeah, I know folks who realized early on they’d experience more remunartive careers if they walked out the door as E. E. s (as did my nephew), and the early '80s proliferation of MBA’s certainly drew manny moths.

Persistently I believe that the new trails open up daily and the new kids on the block can travel such.

So, remaining bewildered and enquiring of all of y’all, how manny of y’all are either in the career path you chose during your time in the education system or, alternatively, are in careers you chose later?

I studied marketing in college and became a stay at home mom. I’m about to enter the workforce again, and I’m not sure what I’ll be doing…eventually I want to make a living as a freelance writer.

My father got a degree in chemical engineering and is now a database something guy.

My Uncle has a law degree, but has been an investment counselor for as long as I can remember.

Wanted to be a librarian - not enough money for grad school.
Went into teaching (music)
Quit teaching, joined the carnival.
Traveled along the Eastern US for several months as a carny.
Got a job at a dinner theatre.
Worked in a theme park.
Worked in a bookstore.
Volunteered at a raptor rehab facility.
Got a job at an international conservation organization (where I am now) where my job description includes “ta-dah!” - librarian.

Rich? No.
Happy? Hell yes.
And I still love music, and teach privately on the side.

And I wouldn’t trade any (okay, most) of my life experiences - they’ve made me what I am, positives and negatives.

(My apologies for the long post)

I have to say that my education was not what I would call a “positive experience” for me. I went through high school with my parents telling me (ok… forcing me) to go to college because that was where anybody went that wanted to be successful. As a HS senior, at my dad’s insistance, I toured the College of Paper Science and Engineering at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. The guy who gave the tour was impressed… not by my grades (that were sightly above average), but by the fact I was an Eagle Scout. At the further insistance of my dad, I applied to WMU and got accepted into the Paper Science program.

After one semester of that, I was nearly failing most of my classes. I HATED that program with a passion. Chemistry was impossible for me. So I changed my curriculum to “Undecided” and took some general stuff to get my grades up and give myself some time to decide what I wanted to do.

Figuring out what you want to do is really a tough task to put on yourself. I had no clue, so I went to the university for help and took this test that is supposed to tell you where you might do well. My results showed I would do well as a teacher. So I changed my major to elementary education. I did well in classes and got up to student teaching.

I was assigned to a 5th grade class room. To make a long story not quite so long, I failed the student teaching miserably. I didn’t get along with the teacher, the students were absolute monsters, and I really didn’t have what it took to be a teacher. They just don’t teach that in college. The college of education would not let me graduate without the student teaching. I had more than enough credits to graduate with something, so I got to graduate with a degree in “University Studies”.

Since I had an interest in computers, I started looking for jobs where I could use that knowledge. After many such entry level jobs, I’m now doing web page design and loving it.

So, I call my degree the “Sienfeld Degree”, because it is a degree in nothing. I’ve used nothing from college in my profession.

Again, sorry about the long post, but I have needed to get this off my chest for a long time, and the topic fit perfectly.

A liberal education is not intended to teach you how to earn a living. It is intended to teach you what you’re living FOR. This is the crux of some of the worst modern problems. I see tech geeks who learned on their own, focusing on coding or some tech specialty. But they have virtually no education outside their specialty, so they can’t see the big picture. Thus we have a rush to do things because we CAN, not because we SHOULD. I’d encourage most confused students to study something totally without practical commercial value, like ancient Greek language, and in the process, learn about how to evaluate a wider base of information on any problem. The problem is not in knowing the right answers, the problem is in learning how to find the right questions.

I started college as an Honors chem major. I switched majors to Art & Art History, and took a lot of math and computer classes but they wouldn’t let Art majors do a minor in comp sci (artists are too dumb to do math, right?). I figured that if I wanted to do art, I better learn a practical trade as well. But then I got kicked out of art school partly because of my radical theories about computer art (this was 1977). I only came back and finished my degree in 1996, getting 2 degrees, a BFA in Art (painting and photography) and a BA in Japanese Language. I’ve earned my living doing commercial graphics and prepress for a few years before returning to school, but since then, I’ve been convalescing from a major illness and I don’t know if I will be able to make money from my degrees in the future. I’ve been doing computer graphics for so long, I’m sick of it, I’d rather do oil painting. Nobody makes any money at oil painting. And Japanese companies don’t want to hire anyone over 40, let alone foreigners over 40 who had the temerity to learn their language, which as every Japanese person knows, is completely impossible for foreigners to learn…

Oh, BTW, as far as success in my chosen field, the arts, here is as close as I ever came to success: When I returned to school after about 20 years, I bumped into one of my favorite old photo instructors, he said “Oh, I remember you, you were doing that computer stuff before ANYBODY.” I felt vindicated for some odd reason. Then I thanked him for teaching me one photo obscure process that has become my specialty. He asked me what people think of my work and if I ever made any money at it. I said I had never made one penny from my personal artwork, and mostly, people hate my work. And he grabbed my hand, shook it profusely, smiled broadly and said, “Congratulations!!”