“Miss Education” is a public-school teacher in the New York area. Until she finds herself a shiny new career and can leave the blackboard jungle behind, she’ll be posting anonymously.
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
Ever since I became a teacher, people have spouted this delightful little cliché in my direction, helpfully reminding me how this country views its teachers and its education system: as overpaid babysitters who had no real knowledge or marketable skills, and who only pursued a career in education because they couldn’t get a real job and because teaching seemed easy. (Those people have a point—it must be easy, since a mere half of all teachers quit after the first five years).
I always knew that the saying was a whole lot of hogwash, and I paid it no mind. I would leave the profession at the end of the school year and spend the summer vacation looking for other work. Surely I had marketable skills other than teaching…right? Then I began the job search and started to wonder if perhaps it was true, after all.
Every time I looked at an online job posting and saw the requirements—x amount of years in the field, x amount of technical proficiency, a certain specific degree—I felt overwhelmed. The job postings might as well have said, “We require mastery of seventy different languages, blood type O-negative, and your first child once it is born.”
I searched and searched, and the whole time I looked, a song from the musical Avenue Q ran on a constant loop in the back of my head:
What do you do with a B.A. in English?
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college
And plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree.
I had spent my college years studying literature, pursuing academic enlightenment, and analyzing rich, complex texts that challenged me and brought me joy. WHAT HAD I DONE?!
(And at the time I thought I had been pursuing a practical career path. Before switching to English Education, I was a drama major. Chew on that one for a while.)
But it was too early for me to despair. Some successful English majors include the former chair of the Ford Foundation Kathryn S. Fuller, former New York State governor Mario Cuomo, and Sally Ride, the first woman in space. That’s a sample of the wide variety of successful careers that are possible with an English degree, and a far cry from “unpublished writer/part-time waitress.” Maybe there was hope for me after all.
Now, I am secretly working in my second job as a curriculum coordinator at a company that will remain nameless. By developing classes with the instructors, I am still putting my teaching and curriculum development skills to good use. I am also gradually developing business and marketing skills that will help me in the future.
The degree you pursue in college is not necessarily going to correspond with the career path you choose in life. I never took a single marketing or business class before this year, but am blessed with the opportunity to learn these skills on the job.
Still, I didn’t simply luck into a position that business and marketing majors would love to have. I got the job because I’m a good writer.
The lesson? Don’t sell yourself short or miss exciting opportunities because of skills you think you lack. You’ve built a set of important skills in your last job, no matter what it was. Be creative in your job search, and you’ll find a position where you can exercise the fabulous skills you’ve already developed and build ones you never knew you had.
Look at me: I did find something to do with my B.A. in English!
[Photo: Ulisse Albiati/Flickr]