Life advice: Take your time

Last week, two students asked me to write recommendations for them for grad school. No big deal, except that one graduated in 2015, the other in 2017. Both have been working in various jobs at various places, and both were ready to get master’s degrees. (Neither is getting a master’s in journalism.)

Both had to work in the real world to find their true passion.

Their requests affirm what I have always believed: College teaches students to think and, if students are lucky, it teaches them to work hard. But what a student majors in — particularly in the non-STEM fields — do not dictate what field the student ends up in. Certainly, the lessons and skills taught in journalism school prepare you for all matters of trades and professions inside and outside of journalism.

I didn’t get a journalism degree. My college didn’t even offer a journalism course. After graduation, my occupations were, in order: junior high English teacher, unemployed beach bum and construction worker. It wasn’t until it was a sub-freezing day laying rebar on the construction site that I decided to try reporting. (Anything to get out of the cold!)

And there I found my passion.

When I talk about this to students, my shorthand is, “You’re going to hate your first job. Everyone does. The purpose of your first job is to find your second job.”

And eventually, you’ll discover what you are born to do. (And yes, I’m aware that many students love their first jobs.)

One of the students who asked me for a recommendation majored in journalism but became a juvenile counselor after graduation. She found out that she’s good at working with foster kids who need help. She wants to get a master’s in social work. The other majored in environmental science, but she ended up in a communications job. She wants to attend grad school in public policy.

Both want to change the world for the better.

I’m honored to write them recommendations — no matter that neither is pursuing  journalism. They know how to think and to analyze and interpret information. They’ve found the field they are passionate about, and they’re going to be good at it.

So, ultimately, my advice is, take your time. You have a long professional life ahead.

One thought on “Life advice: Take your time

  1. John, your advice is spot on. I’ve heard too many stories since our kids were in college about some of their peers who were frozen in their tracks with fear about making the wrong career choice. The answer of course is, “Get a job — almost any job — see how it feels to show up every day; get a paycheck; look around you. Give a decision room to arrive. Know that you may have to make it more than once.
    I was lucky, I guess. Left college with a BA in English knowing only that I wanted to be a writer, but not where or how. I got hired as a reporter at one of the best papers in the country and very quickly discovered the where and how. I n some ways (pay not among them) my first job was the best job I ever had. After 36 years at newspapers, I retired with no regrets — except maybe for majoring in English rather than history.

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