When I graduated from high school 38 years ago, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do.
Fortunately, the university I went to in the United States didn’t mind and they allowed me to wait until the beginning of my second year before I had to declare a major.
But when that time rolled around and I signed up for a communications and broadcasting degree, I can’t say I did it with a great deal of conviction.
All the same, I had a fantastic four years at Penn State taking TV and radio production classes and liberal arts courses like philosophy and comparative religions and when I finished the programme I found myself a low-paying job as a radio newscaster in western Pennsylvania.
I think I could have landed the job without the degree.
Then, when my car’s transmission packed up and I needed to buy a new one, I had to give up my chosen profession so I could earn some decent money working road construction.
That’s right, unskilled construction work paid better than entry-level journalism in those days in the States, and it still does.
Anyway, after another brief spell as a radio newsman I spent about eight years travelling around Africa and the States, working in the tourist and building trades and doing various service jobs, like cleaning bathrooms and making beds and lots of other exciting stuff.
But here’s the thing… even if I could, I wouldn’t change any of those education or work experiences.
Actually, I could have just said I wouldn’t have changed any of those education experiences because that’s what all the jobs were, even if some of the actual work involved wasn’t very difficult to master.
Sometimes it’s just interesting to observe how people treat you when do different things.
It’s also interesting to discover how much money you can save if you are not too concerned about your image and you manage to land work that provides accommodation and one or two meals a day… but that’s another column.
The reason I’m sharing this bit of personal history with you now is because a lot of school kids – kids a lot younger than I was when I went off to university – are being asked to narrow down their fields of study and decide what they want to do for a living for the rest of their lives.
Sure, some people have a calling and they know very early on that they want to be doctors or musicians or architects or whatever, but I suspect there are a lot of kids today who are more like I was.
For them narrowing down their fields of study is a scary chore as it means they have to eliminate many fields of study that might be quite interesting.
The good news for them is that education and learning are not processes that are confined to the classroom so it will always be possible to gain knowledge about a topic you are interested in after you leave school.
The other thing for both students and professionals to remember is that it’s okay to change professions even after you have invested time and money into learning something that makes you a living.
Gaining knowledge is never a waste.