Wednesday, August 28, 2019

At her ripe old age of 12, Smarty has a very straightforward view of the future in front of her, "I want to get good grades because then I can go to a good college and get a good job." It amuses me since I was equally firm about my future at my own 12 all the way down to the age when I get married (nope), have kids (nope again), and will be able to live in my own apartment (well, it was the Soviet Union view of the future, after all).
The first part of the plan went splendidly well for me. I did get good grades in school and graduated at the top of my class. I passed an entrance exam (I only needed to do one exam in physics on the account of my perfect high school record) and was admitted to the university of my choice. I continued to get good grades in a good college, graduated second in my year and landed my first job as an engineer in the Cybernetics department of our Belorussian Academy of Science.
At the time I was already married (that was actually also close in age to my "master plan", at my time most girls would get married while still in college), and my husband's family was planning to reunite with his brother who was living in the US. When we arrived in New York, we got a lot of support from now sadly defunct New York Association for New Americans where they admired my proficiency in English (too bad that I did not understand a word in the streets of New York or on TV) and immediately sent me to an additional C programming class. After that, lovely volunteers helped me write my resume and within 6 months of my arrival, I was making $30K a year as a software engineer in a small start-up in Soho.
During that first interview for my first job, the manager asked me, "Do you know Visual Basic?" I looked at him blankly and said, "No, but I am sure I can learn it if it's anything like the programming languages I already know." And that's exactly what I did... and then repeated again and again in my 25+ years of working in the United States. As I was moving from one job to another and increasing my salary as I went along, I learned new skills - mostly, by reading books or by following examples of more experienced colleagues. I totally expect that Smarty will also change jobs and maybe even entire fields. I am trying to encourage her not to think of her first job or her first college degree as her final destination. Life is fluid, and the only constant in it is change. I hope that she will be flexible enough to recognize new opportunities and willing to change and learn new skills to capture those opportunities. Learning how to learn is far more important than learning a specific skill... but so much harder to master!

Your Turn

Have you changed careers? Do you envision more changes ahead?

3 comments:

Joyful Learner said...

Been reading The War on Normal People and coming to realization that things are going to change much more than I anticipated. Being in the right fields at the right time will mean the difference between wealth and poverty. The US will face a revolution due to all the displaced workers thanks to improved automation and extreme capitalism that benefit the few.

MaryAnne said...

I've already changed careers several times...

Ticia said...

More or less yes....