Work

My Shifting Values of Higher Education and Dream-Job-Chasing

I recently became a fan of Marty Nemko, and it was the video at the bottom of this page that did it. There is a man who has consumed a lot of higher education and also worked for and in such institutions (both teaching and evaluating, at Berkley), yet he says higher degrees are often unnecessary and indeed a bad choice for many individuals.

This is no new idea; really, it’s very folksy wisdom in some ways.Ā  America is obsessed with chasing dreams (a great thing), and we’re all about “finding one’s passion in life.” There a plenty of business podcasts and tweets telling us to quit our jobs and start our dream coffee shop. To an older generation, though, perhaps this sounds ridiculous.

After all, how many accountants ever had a burning desire to do accounting?

I’m not saying people should keep a job they’re miserable with, but I do say:

Finding a job you’re passionate about might not be as important as finding a way to be passionate about your work.

Some say it’s not what you do that matters but how you do it. Perhaps that oversimplifyies things a bit, but you get the point. A recent podcast from The Art of Manliness (Brett McKay) interviewed Cal Newport. Cal and Brett mentioned the research he found for Cal’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. I listened during breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can find it here.

Here’s why I care:

I was in college for two or three years (it’s hard to keep count, considering how long I was there), and I had no major. After finally choosing Global Studies, I decided I wanted something more–practical. I wanted to teach, so I changed my major to English, with a minor in Secondary Ed and kept Global Studies as a second minor. By the way, this was after the two photography classes I took that went towards no part of my degree. I then proceeded to accept a scholarship to study Chinese for a year in Hangzhou, which counted nothing toward my degree but was an awesome experience that changed my life. I married my wife there; in fact, she’s one of the main reasons I applied. šŸ™‚

I now study at Harding School of Theology for a Masters of Divinity and love every class. Nonetheless, I’m 26 years old and married, so I spend much time thinking about work and school. For me, I have to balance the two, and the ratio is always an area I debate in my head: should I work more? Should I study more and finish sooner?Ā  Do I need this big degree or should I go for a shorter M.A.? I can only answer for myself and not for you.

That being said, here’s my two cents:

One shouldn’t go to college just because it’s the next “logical” step for a high school student with good or decent grades. If one does go, unsure of what to study, I recommend choosing a narrow degree in business (if engineering or another topic isn’t clearly calling to you), and sticking with it: Get in, get out. Then, if you realize you want to do something else, pursue a master’s in that field.

If you really are passionate about something that doesn’t make lots of money, pursue it. But ask yourself if you need a degree to start doing that kind of work. If you want to be a writer, I’d suggest you just start writing and save your work. Build a portfolio and present yourself in front of the person you want to work for.

If you decide to go to college, though, spend some serious time studying careers before you start. Don’t lolly-gag. Look at the United States Department of Labor’s free Occupational Outlook Handbook online, and you can find estimates on specific careers (that you’ve never even considered, perhaps!): projected growth rates/demand, salaries,Ā  required training, et cetera. An entire branch of government is dedicated to this research. Take advantage of it.

Watch Marty Nemko’s video. I like his observation that community colleges might be a great value! That’s great news for folks in McMinnville, Tennessee and just about anywhere. Watch the video to hear his thoughts based on experience and researching and working in that field. His job, after all, is to assess these things. Give him a listen and see what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

This has little to do with intelligence and much more to do with pragmatism. Of course continuingĀ learning is good for everyone, but bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are not the only route to a smart, successful, and happy lives. Experience, seminars, internships, apprenticeships, certificate programs, trade schools, and community colleges are valuable options for continuing education.

What Colleges and Graduate Students Don’t Want You to Know:

 

Additional Resources: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/24/is-college-for-everyone-part-ii-the-pros-and-cons-of-attending-a-4-year-college/

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Medgar Evers Through Bob Dylan and Paul

Fifty years ago, a hard-working, risk-taking, family-loving man was shot in the back, dead in his own driveway for his efforts leading the NCAAP in the Civil Rights Movement. His name was Medgar Evers.

That was only fifty years ago.

evers_medgarmedgarmarching

As we get older, history seems shorter in perspective. In high school, to me, the Civil Rights movement and segregation soundedĀ so far away because it was forty of fifty years earlier, and that was almost three or four times my age then. To a twenty-five year old now, however, fifty years ago is only twice that age, so the perspective changes.

Thankfully, We The People have come quite far in the last fifty years, in terms of segregation, by the grace of God. There is, of course, still work to do, and there always will be.

I first heard of Medgar Evers, though, Ā in the opening lines of “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” a song Bob Dylan wrote in 1963, the same year of Evers’ death:

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Eversā€™ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a manā€™s brain
But he canā€™t be blamed
Heā€™s only a pawn in their game

The last verse also explicitly references Evers and his burial:

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
Heā€™ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game

Read more:Ā http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/only-a-pawn-in-their-game#ixzz2VNQnQiUO

Thirty yearsĀ passedĀ beforeĀ the jury convicted Evers’ murderer, according to Debbie Elliot’s NPR blog today. Those years surely crawled by, especially forĀ Reena Evers-Everette. Even when Medgar was alive, however, the last decade of their marriage was still fettered to fear, she says:

“And we never knew from one day to the next what would happen. I lived in fear of losing him. He lived being constantly aware that he could be killed at any time.” (NPR-Elliot)

So the shooting of Medgar Evers was not something that happend randomly: it had been a long time coming, and Evers lived waiting for it. Ā Yet he kept at the work he knew he was called to do.

In the book of Phillipians, Paul writes:
Brothers,Ā join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walkĀ according to the example you have in us.Ā (3:17, ESV)

I am certainly no expert on Medgar Evers nor the Civil Rights, but it seems clear that Evers was a man who looked fear and evil in the eye, without a blink, and kept on working.

Such a person is to be honored.

To read more about Medgar Evers, see his entry in theĀ encyclopedia of the King Institute,Ā here:Ā Ā http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_evers_medgar_1925_1963/