Careers, like the design process, are constantly being iterated and improved upon. While it was once commonplace to have a job or trade that carried people through their adult lives and into retirement, that scenario is increasingly rare. According to an article published in Psychology Today, “Millennials have almost twice as many job and organizational changes as Gen Xers, and almost three times as many job changes as the Baby Boomers and Matures.” While this contradicts a report published by The White House that states Millennials actually stay in positions longer than their Generation X counterparts, the reality is that career longevity simply isn’t what it used to be.
As a member of the aforementioned Generation X, there have been many twists and turns in my own life and career. While very little has really been the result of intentional planning, I have to say that the path, though unexpected, has been a happy and rewarding one. My original educational interest was psychology which led to an opportunity working with a neurologist in a clinic focused on patients with brain injuries. Afterward, I returned to school and focused on neurophysiology and pain management. One thing I enjoyed most about my graduate work was teaching students and sharing my passion for anatomy and physiology. Of course, this led to a lengthy career as an instructor with positions at various institutions.
Teaching has been an incredibly rewarding pursuit, particularly because I firmly believe in the cascade effect. If I can help one student, and they go on to help others, then I have made a difference in not just one life but many. Over the years I have had students that have gone on to be doctors, nurses, physical therapists, teachers, and researchers, and I like to think that I helped, in some small way, to get them there.
My path in higher education has grown and shifted to academic advising, where the focus is on helping students succeed through their academic journey. As I work with millennials, and the now emerging Generation Z, it seems that often the fear of permanence in decisions has created paralysis in decision making and goal setting. While some majors and degrees are more directed and preparatory than others – chemistry majors becoming chemists, and engineering majors becoming engineers – these paths do not dictate the direction of a person’s life or career. There are substantially more examples of people working in a field or career that has no direct relationship with their undergraduate major than those that do. What truly matters is to pursue where a person’s passions lie . . .what truly keeps them up at night and bartering with themselves for just ten more minutes, then another ten, then another. Hopefully those things are within their particular area of study but, more often than not, it isn’t the case.
While I have been fortunate enough to work in a field I enjoy, I find myself searching for a new challenge and creative outlet. For my part, I have often joked that I can’t draw a stick figure and would never consider myself artistic. However, I have found myself drawn to software applications that allow me to express my artistic, creative side and that has driven me to explore new interests. These endeavors have kept me up at night and willingly suffering through sleep deprived days. I have pursued opportunities to broaden my horizons in new areas and challenge myself through classes at CU and beyond.
I am taking this class because I enjoy learning for the sake of learning. I recognize that I need something to encourage me to be creative and push myself to try new things. I am gaining creative confidence and motivation to continue. Maybe these endeavors will lead to yet another career change for me or, maybe, they will just be something I pursue for the sheer joy of it. Honestly, and somewhat unexpectedly, I find myself inspired and truly humbled by the sheer talent that so many students possess. This teacher has become the fortunate student and witness to the creative spirit that permeates CU-Boulder.