Last year sometime, in the throes of my graduate program, I was visiting my family back in Denver. While at dinner, my brother, a person that can sometimes forsake entirely the concept of social tact, looked up from his ribs and asked me, “So does it bother you that you’re not using the degree you earned the first time?”
I was taken off-guard by the question so I put together some kind of terrible answer that was far from eloquent about how my undergraduate experience helped me learn what I want to do more long-term for my career, so I didn’t really see it that way at all.
Fun fact: that was absolutely a lie. For some reason, I had that in the back of my mind for quite some time. Like somehow pursuing anything else that wasn’t along the lines of what I earned my undergraduate degrees in (English and journalism, for those keeping track at home—and who isn’t, really?) was a betrayal to the pieces of paper on my wall, the time and money invested in earning them, the faculty members that helped me get there, and the institution as a whole. How could I ever show my face there again? Because surely every single alumni born from Drake University went on to establish a life-long career with a very obvious and direct link to the very thing they majored in! I am the black sheep bulldog that did it wrong. They have probably already destroyed any and all records of my attendance.
I’m sorry, am I being dramatic? The point is, it was hard for me to let go of feeling like I repaid my undergraduate institution for all it had given to me with outright betrayal.
The longer I’m doing what I want to do, and the more I discover my “passion path” as I call it, the more I realize that I am absolutely using what I gained from those degrees. I use those talents every single day. I can read, write, and think critically. I can ask good questions. I can pay attention to details. I can communicate clearly and effectively with the people around me. I can be creative and thought-provoking and strategic and team-oriented. And all of that is because of the groundwork that was laid in my academic programs as an undergraduate student.
It feels so ridiculous to have to come to these conclusions or have these “should’ve had a V8!” moments about all of this because I have this exact conversation with students every day (which makes me feel like that I should probably have it worked out for myself). Working for a liberal arts college, I have to remind students that majors and career outcomes aren’t one-to-one. You don’t study English and become an English-ologist. Doesn’t work like that. Career paths are a result of the skills, interests, and values that we develop and discover through the course of our own learning, which is a process that is never complete. As a result, those career paths are far from linear.
Let’s embrace the curves then, shall we? It sounds like an adventure.
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