Thursday, April 7, 2011

How did I get here?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between a career and a job. Somewhere along the line what I thought were jobs have seemed to develop into a career. I never expected (or even dreamed) about having a career in Higher Education. Not in the Student Services/Affairs arena at least. But here I am 28 years old at my fourth college/university with no end in sight.

I remember growing up and the various “careers” I dreamed about.

When I was in elementary school I remember I either wanted to be a Marine Biologist (grew up in San Diego going to the beach, Sea World and the Zoo) or join the Navy (my godfather/cousin was a Navy Seal). I had no idea what either of those would really mean – the schooling, the physical requirements, etc. Then as the years went by those “dreams” just fizzled away and I wanted to become a teacher. A teacher of what changed constantly – a kindergarten/preschool teacher, a history teacher, a theatre teacher, etc.

Museum Coordinator

Ideas came and went. Then, my senior year in undergraduate I was hired as a Community Assistant (RA-job) for my dorm/program – a job doing what I had been doing the previous three years, helping out my community members. The last few months of my senior year, on top of preparing to teach a class, I was asked to step into the Community Coordinator position; when our Resident Director left to climb the Appalachian Trail. *BAM* Instant promotion.

After graduation I returned home, doing odds and ends for a temporary placement agency. I started having the post-graduation “What am I doing with my life?” crisis. Then a friend of mine suggested looking into continuing with Residential Life and Housing. I was good at my job and might excel. Why the hell not? I needed to take that next step of growing up and move out of my family’s house. So six-seven months after graduation I found myself moving to San Diego to become a Residential Life Coordinator for an art college. The process was so fast (between applying and moving into my San Diego apartment) I hardly had time to breathe let alone process what was happening.

Three years later I had reached burn out. A number of things factored into this. My not wanting to get my MA in Higher Education (therefore being told I would never be able to climb ResLife career ladder), having three bosses in a matter of three years, and the fact that (typically) most people don’t stay in that type of position (live-in Residential Life) for so long. So I quit. I had looked into and applied at other jobs before turning in my notice but when nothing came along, and after long/multiple conversations with my mother, I just handed in my notice – packed my bags – and moved away.

Four months after returning home I was so stir crazy, moving from a large beautiful beach city back to my small desert home town. Thankfully I have amazing friends and two of them offered to let me move into their apartment, crash on their couch and try living in the Bay Area. So off I went and eventually landed a job as a Director of Housing. (Take that everyone who said I had to have a MA in Higher Education to be a Director).

The reasons I left that job aren’t important to this blog. Life happens and things change and I turned in my notice to move to Portland, OR – again determined I was done with Higher Education. So here I sit, once again working at a college, helping students, attempting to deal with office politics and defining of job duties.

Somewhere I went from having a job in ResLife to my career being in Higher Education.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy working with my students. I’ve always said the reason I continue to come back (time and time again) is because I want to help make a difference in students’ lives. I remember so many people, fondly, during my college years that made a difference – big and small. I want to have the opportunity to share in that experience for other people. It has nothing to do with not being able to let go of the past. It has nothing to do with retaining my “youth” (if anything I sometimes feel younger now than when I did in college).

Yet, here I am – again - frustrated with other people’s lack of delegation and ability to let me do my job. I’m here wondering how much longer I can survive before I start pulling out my hair or start stabbing people with pencils.

I thought a career was something you planned. Something you went to school for and intentionally went for. A career wasn’t something you fell into. It wasn’t something you wondered “How the hell did I get here? And how the hell do I leave?”

Am I just disillusioned with 1950s ideas and philosophies?
Am I the only one who feels this way?
Am I the only one who has found them in a career they didn’t plan on?


  1. I'll post this here so it's not seen on FB. Yes, things are frustrating, but I don't know if you had planned it or fell into it that you wouldn't be having these same issues/frsutrations.

    I am one of the very women in my company. We have female field hands, but there are 3, count them 3 females in upper management positions in my company. And that is fine, kinda how this business goes. But, I am still treated differently, part because I'm on the bottom of the ladder, and part because I am a girl. There are company outlines of what i should be doing, and what I need to learn to do to move up. Even though I can do those things, I have been at the same level for 4+ yrs. Others have been hired/promoted ahead of me, but I am still at the same level.

    I'm still asked to do meanial things, like send out emails, file, scan, staple and the like. And I over time I have learned it is because I am female, not just because I'm at the bottom.

    So now that this has turned into my own person little rant, I will back track and say, yeah, it is going to suck for while. Until you are more in the middle or at the top, you are going to have all those frustrations. The lower ladders can band together at the bar!

  2. My concern isn't so much being on a lower ladder. I knew signing on for my current job that I was starting back at the bottom. That I had spent four/five years working my way up in Housing only to now be back on the bottom (so to speak).

    I also don't have the gender discrimination as a factor (thankfully). My field (which just sounds bizarre and weird to say) is predominantly women. All four Deans at our school (including Associate Deans) are female. In my office/department four of the five full time employees are female. It's the nature of the beast really in Higher Education.

    Where I get lost is the when and how did this (Higher Education) move from being a job I was doing in college and right afterwards(something I was good at and was fairly easy for me to do) to something I could (and sometimes do) call my career? I didn't plan on this. I never dreamed of it. I never sat down and intentionally said I'm going to work in Higher Education/Student Services for the rest of my life.

    Yes, I understand I'm only 28 and have much of my life ahead of me...but that's the thing. At this point in my life I've only ever really done one thing. I don't have a variety of jobs and skills under my belt. The only other thing I'm really qualified for is being someone's Admin Assistant or receptionist. (Not that there is anything wrong with these jobs, I've done them often before. But also not something I want to make my life ambition).

    I guess my real question is - how are "careers" determined? Am I the only one who has found themselves in a career they didn't plan on? Did anyone else wake up one day to find themselves buried under a pile of crap called their life and they're not sure how they got there?

  3. Glad to hear I got demoted in your blog from Complex Director to "Resident Director." *sigh* ;)

  4. lol. whatever. There were so many damn titles and names I'm lucky I remember what my titles were. haha

  5. I tease, I tease that is all! ;) I wish I had more sage wisdom...I just don't believe in "careers" anymore, so I am not the best person to advise you! xoxo

  6. to be perfectly honest, i never saw myself being a server in a restaurant EVER. Now I've been doing it since I chose on my own (vs. my parents' life plan for me) to back to college, starting with community college, and then when i was home on breaks from University of Redlands, which is now going on 10 yrs. And i fell right back into it after graduating, since it meant i didn't have to look for a job...and it's been almost 7 yrs. It's just weird b/c the restaurant I work in was first opened in 1993, and in the Midwest, where I live, in 1998. So the business hasn't been around that long, but I do go out to restaurants and know the servers have been there forever and are probably older than my parents, and i wonder "will that be me someday?" I know I'd never want to be in management b/c the hours are just too long, and I don't like having to deal with angry customers. But, at the same time, I have no idea what I want to do with my life, as far as careers go. When I completed my bachelor's degree, i thought I'd go to grad school, but the reality of student loans hit and I didn't want to be in a position of accruing more debt, especially since I am fickle about most things- really passionate one minute, and hating it the next. Besides, I don't like reading things I don't want to or having to write papers, so I'm not sure that a Master's degree or beyond would be for me. I guess I have interests I pursue as hobbies, but I can't see a career out of it. Morgan, you would make an amazing professional cupcake person! :)

  7. Found you from 20 something bloggers. I can relate to your post and career stuff. I am in an in between time now (caring for Grandpa) but don't really know what I want as a career. Growing up I had lots of ideas, but they are changing now. I am not sure, but I am okay with that. I am learning that plans are not everything, and living life and being in healthy relationships can be more rewarding than that perfect career.