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Hindsight is 20/20

It’s funny! I remember looking for a job years ago, before I decided that I would need a degree in order to land a decent job, feeling somewhat bitter that it was so difficult to prove my capabilities in the work force. My first adult job in 1990 introduced me to clerical work with no education outside of my high school diploma. I quickly excelled as an Administrative Assistant, learning as I went along. In fact, I had a boss who referred to me as “Radar,” from the TV series, M*A*S*H. (If you’re not familiar with this show, Radar was the company clerk who kept the army office running smoothly, often anticipating the needs of his boss and completing tasks before they were voiced by his superiors.) I took this designation as a huge compliment. I was good at my job. 

Some years down the road, I got married and had children and ended up staying home to raise and homeschool my children. Needless to say, when you try to use skills from ten years ago on a current job application, it doesn’t matter how much you know what you’re capable of, or how much you try to convince employers that you’ve maintained and even improved skills by working on the side. None of that mattered because I didn’t have any tangible proof of my abilities. Employers wouldn’t look twice at me. All verifiable skills were extinct in the working world. Fortunately, I fell into a position as a Paraprofessional at Alwood Middle/High School where my own children were finishing out their school years. I loved the work, but there were downfalls. Primarily, paraprofessionals didn’t receive pay year-round. No pay for summers, holidays, or snow days, and no benefits were available to part-time employees. I was in my mid-late 30’s and I coveted a career.

After numerous job applications and just as many disappointments, I finally concluded that I should go to school to get a degree. I often referred to this decision as the need to have that special piece of paper to conclusively prove to all employers that I knew what I said I knew, those words often filled with indignation. I felt I had no choice but to change the trajectory I was on. Initially, I thought I’d become a teacher. I’d worked in a school environment for several years and it seemed like a natural fit. But as I studied and learned in my college courses, I began to discover myself as a person. I realized that teaching wasn’t my passion. While it’s still something I haven’t completely ruled out, I discovered that my passion existed in writing, editing and publishing.

Looking back, I see now that this degree that I’ve officially and finally earned is a lot more than just a piece of paper. It’s more than just a symbol that will prove to employers that I know what I say I know. All of the studying and occasional all-nighters and extensive reading and even the frustrations… over time it all started to develop meaning. I’ve actually learned something. Image that! I gained skills and broadened my mind in ways that I never imagined. True, college is not for everyone, and that’s okay. Everybody’s different. And even though college came later in life for me, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! I feel extremely privileged to be named among The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Class of 2020!

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