Starting a Career
This will be the first story in the journey that has gotten me to where I am today. When I went to high school I had already pretty much decided that I wanted to work in the IT field in some capacity. It was what I had studied all through high school and into college. I landed on Computer Programming as a major the first week after graduation after taking every programming class my high school had to offer and was confident that this was something I wanted to continue doing the rest of my life. I had even done an internship during summer vacation junior year at the Naval base near me doing some programming for an acoustics laboratory.
When I graduated high school, I already had been working almost full time at the local grocery store doing everything from stocking shelves to ringing up customers to managing departments in the back. I didn’t care what I was doing in the store, I did it with everything I had in me because I knew that action would reflect on my paycheck. At the same time that I was transitioning to a full time worker, I was also a full time student. Taking all the BS prerequisite classes towards my Computer Programming degree and spending pretty much every waking moment I had free to hang out with my friends and just relax.
Nothing really changed for the first couple years after high school and the cycle of work, school, and partying had become my day to day. Then something changed in my head. I can’t remember the exact moment that it happened but one day it just seemed like I had a fresh set of eyes and saw the world around me for the first time. I started to see people that had graduated before me still stuck in the same dead end jobs, making little to nothing, and then blowing whatever they made on drinking and partying with friends. The fuse burned out at that moment in my life, and it was time to get out of this rut and start job hunting, interviewing, and getting away from my job and finding a career.
When I say that I send out more resumes then I could ever remember, I mean it. For some reason in my childhood, schools made it seem that there was a linear path to success: School, More School, then Career. Nothing was ever said about skipping the part where you waste your late teenage/early twenties just going to school and getting your hands dirty and doing work. I would apply for things I had no business applying for just to get interviews and see what the process was about, network with recruiters, and network with people within the fields I eventually wanted to work. I did it for the experience. Experience has become another four-letter word for these younger generations. And it’s not our fault. It’s the entire educational system letting my generation and countless others down by placing 100% of the emphasis on education and absolutely no time spent on how much experience plays a part in the workforce of today.
In our parents’ generation, when parents were just getting to a point of stability to start looking at sending their children to college, the Degree was God. If you went to college, it was a status symbol, it was the pass to get to a lucrative career. But as the time as passed, the salaries have grown, and the education system has done it’s job, people have been able to afford to either finance their children through college or outright pay for that education. Thus, the amount of people entering the workforce with 2-year or even 4-year degrees has grown tremendously. With that growth came the response of companies everywhere not just requiring the degrees but the experience to go along with those degrees.
I interviewed with probably a dozen companies of all different sizes for everything from delivery driver, to electronics technicians, to fleet vehicle mobile GPS tracking, and back to typical entry level IT support desk jobs. Anything that I could possibly be considered for, I applied for it. I was a relatively anti-social introvert when I graduated high school and that only became more apparent as I made my way into the world after graduation. Knowing this, I wanted to do as many interviews as I could. Even if I knew nothing about the job. It was a test, a challenge, that I put myself up to in order to force me to grow and learn how to talk to people, how to act in a professional environment, and how to spot the needs and wants of employers. Every single interview was different and more dynamic then the last. It was actually enjoyable after a while. It was like speed dating employers, hoping that one of them liked my personality enough to look passed the fact that I had zero experience and was only halfway through an associate’s degree in (more often then not) a field of study that had absolutely nothing to do with the job I had applied for.
I went on this job hunting bender for about a year when I finally broke through. And that breakthrough came in a place I had never considered working once in my entire life. My whole life was leading into a cubicle jungle, white collar, air conditioned career path. And I pulled a 180 and jumped head first into a blue collar, balls hot, 12 hour shift job. And surprisingly, I love it. I currently work at one of the largest fossil fueled power plants on the east coast. It is a job I never would have guessed that I would love, but it is a job that is never repetitive and is unpredictable every single day. It’s been over 8 years and I still feel the way I did when I started. Staring at some of this massive equipment would be enough to make many people turn around and walk out of the door. And many have(about 15 or so people have come and gone in my 8 years). But I have stuck around and plan to stick around for the foreseeable future. It’s a job that I am not aggravated to walk into every day, that has paved the way for everything I have accomplished so far in my life, and it is a job that has provided and will continue to provide for my family for the rest of my life.
The moral of the story here is to not follow the path that has been dictated to you by your family, friends, teachers, bosses, and peers. Don’t have tunnel vision when it comes to what you want to do in life. If you are anything like I was at 19, you aren’t zero’d in on a career, you are just focused on breaking through to the next step of your life and leaving your childhood in the dust, in favor of an independence you could never imagine.
Dream Big, Execute Huge.