The last weeks of the semester are always busy for student meetings. Some are what you might think–“YIKES!! It’s the end of the semester and I haven’t shown up in 6 weeks!” But, others are my seniors who are having that 20’s moment where they realize there is no more “one more semester” and they are entering the workforce.
When I first started teaching at the collegiate level I guided them about career choices. I was knee deep in the conversations about how they become good members of society, get a job, etc. This really wasn’t a conscious decision to counsel in that way. Society tells us that it is simply the natural progression after finishing college. We never stop to reflect on this idea that if I am pushing them to get a job what does that really mean about their LIFE? Yes, yes, we must work. However, I was not counseling them on how to leverage their degree in a way that helped them achieve the kind of LIFE they wanted to have.
But now, I talk to them about the kind of life they want to lead and how a career can facilitate that life. What do they value? Do they want to travel? Do they want to live near their family? Are they starting a family after graduation? How can we take a degree in sociology and find a starting point for them to start thinking about the kind of LIFE they want and not just the career. I was only counseling one piece of the student before this. I was not thinking about my whole student. You should see the look of surprise when I ask them about LIFE and not a CAREER.
Don’t get me wrong–I love my career. But, my career facilitates the kind of life I want to lead. Does this mean that my career never comes first? Absolutely not. I have to nurture my career so my family can continue to have the kind of life we want. At times it means very long hours. It means days (and weeks) away from home. It means that I have to rely on my husband a great deal to make sure our life keeps operating while I’m focusing on the career. I work very hard. But, it also means I can take extended periods and go home, I control my schedule to some degree, and my career has meant I have the flexibility to care for my parents. I am so very fortunate in that respect and know that I am very, very privileged in that way.
I want to help my students think strategically about how their career can help them live life. If there is anything I’ve learned in the last 10 years is that we are never guaranteed an easy ride. We are not guaranteed a “later on” with family or friends. I don’t want to come to the end of my road and wonder if I made the right decisions about the kind of LIFE I’ve had with my family and friends. I want to help my students think about LIFE early on so that way other values drive their decisions regarding their career and they are not simply driven by the utility of everyone telling them they need a career and then the career ends up driving LIFE.
Idealistic of me? Maybe. Probably. But, I want these young people to know I care more about them then simply giving career advice. I want them to know that I want them to LIVE. I want them to experience. I want them to have the time they want with the family they will create. I want them to come to their end days and say, “I lived life.” And that starts with someone like me guiding them from the very beginning to ask those deep questions of, “How do I want to LIVE?”