My niece and god-daughter, Suzanne, will graduate from George Mason University in Fairfax this weekend. Her dad, my brother, has been a single parent to her since she was about six. My mother helped too. And I would like to think I had a hand in it too. We talk often about all sorts of things, including her love-life, potential career and life.
Her degree will be in International Relations. While some think that is it not a marketable degree, I believe, with our world getting smaller it has potential. I guess I also just believe in her.
She has told me that some have express that she should have gotten a more practical degree. Before she declared her major, we talked about it. When I gave her my opinion, I cited my experience when I was declaring my major – communications with an emphasis in journalism. At Old Dominion University in the late 1980s, there were many business majors and engineering majors. There were education and nursing majors. Those in the liberal arts were constantly told by our fellow students “you can’t make any money in that.” The 80s were all about money. I thought long and hard about the money issue. I did not grow up with much money so it was a tough one. But I kept getting the pull back to journalism, especially after having terrific professors in Fred Talbot and the late (great) Alf Mapp. I decided it was what I wanted to do and did it.
Now, 25 years later I do not regret it. Folks were right. There was not a lot of money in it. In fact, while paying student loans, I took a second job in the summer coaching a summer swim team, another passion. The only regret I have in my career are the several years I spent doing other communication type work such as public relations and sales because I could make more money than cranking out the latest news at a daily newspaper. With one exception, three years at NASA Langley Research Center, I shudder to think about that time.
I recently heard on the National Public Radio that due to the high unemployment rate of 50 percent among recent college graduates, some students are pursuing majors that they really don’t like but are doing it because the job potential is high. While I am not sure pursuing a love for basket weaving is a good idea, I don’t think someone will be happy down the road in an accounting job if they do not love numbers. I wonder about the quality of life.
So if you have a high school student or early college student in your life, make sure they stop and think about the long haul of their career choice. I sincerely believe that if someone truly loves their work, like I do, then it will not seem so much like work but more like a paid hobby.