NORMALLY (there really was once such a word) when June hits, teenagers graduating from secondary school would be thinking about something other than covid19 or even protesting for Black Lives Matter. They would be thinking about their future and pondering that career choice that they feel will define their lives. It’s a typical thought that brings both excitement and worries for parents and teens as graduates head off to college.
Just know this: You will not be defined by that university degree, and your career will not be confined to that first degree. Instead, a combination of university degrees and job experiences will provide a sense of fulfilment and define your working life. You might just be surprised at the vastly different road you will eventually take. Examples are all around you.
Famous chef Ina Garten once worked in the White House and she has a Master’s degree in business. She left that job to take up the challenge of running the Barefoot Contessa bakery in the Hamptons. David McCullough got a degree in English and won two Pulitzer Prizes for writing history books.
Know this: if you choose to go to university, that first degree will always shape the way that you think about your other degrees or the many jobs you will encounter on your own personal road to success. These different degrees will combine in wondrous ways and offer unimaginable opportunities.
I speak from experience. My daughter, Ijanaya, got a first degree in fashion design. While waiting for a job in fashion to go through in China, she worked in my school library where she discovered she loved library science. A library offered opportunities for her to use her superb organisational skills. She enjoyed decorating the library and dressing up for special United Nations and school events. Of course she questioned a drastic career change right after earning a first degree in fashion.
“No degree is ever wasted,” I told her. “You will find interesting ways to combine those degrees.”
While Ijanaya worked on her Master’s degree in library science, she got the opportunity to redesign our school library and design the Port of Spain Prison library for the Wishing for Wings Foundation. When she decided to apply for jobs as an International School librarian, she got a job offer in Sudan, where she had not even applied to. In Sudan, she redesigned her third library.
By the time her contract in Sudan ended, she had 19 international schools interested in hiring her. Once again she had job offers from places she had not even applied to and she got her number one choice. It was the combination of fashion and library science that gave her a unique appeal on the job market.
As for me, my first degree in anthropology has landed me every job I ever had. It shaped my perspective in journalism. It helped me as an English teacher to understand students from all over the world in my English classes. My background in anthropology and linguistics provided invaluable information about how culture shapes language. When I became a librarian, my background in anthropology helped me to understand the importance of building an eclectic collection of literature at my school library.
The lesson here is to follow your heart when choosing your first degree. Don’t worry or even think of it as a life-long choice. Think of that first degree as a foundation from which to launch your career.
So, as you move forward in this important transitional point in your life, my advice is simply this: Trust your instincts. Go with your heart. If you truly love what you study in university, you will find a way to make it work as a career. Don’t be afraid to go the nontraditional route. Not everyone has to be a doctor, lawyer, business person or engineer. Follow your dreams.