Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction. - Al Bernstein
How many times in life do we begin something new, sometimes unintentionally, and come to realize it was the right thing to do, after all?
It's interesting when I think about where I was only one year ago. I had just started a college diploma in Career and Work Counselling at George Brown College in Toronto. I had also just quit a three year PhD program after getting through a year of coursework, grueling comprehensive exams, and an approved dissertation proposal, all of which took three years of my life to prepare for.
I was exhausted. I was burnt out. I was uncertain. I wanted a change.
Beginning a college program was not my first choice of alternative options to grad school. In fact, I didn't have a first choice. There was no clear indication of what I 'should' be doing if I quit my PhD. I played around with different ideas: volunteering, applying for jobs, traveling, sleeping, going back to school. I happened to come across the Career and Work Counsellor program online late one night when I was perusing college websites. The program seemed to align best with my interest and volunteer experience in mentoring undergraduate students who were dealing with the same or similar career related concerns I was: What do I do with a university degree(s)?!?
Little did I know that this new beginning would be the start of a career transition that, for the first time in a long time, felt right.
Being in a college program was so different from being in graduate school. The practical approach to learning was miles away from the theory I was reading in social history books. I didn't know if I would ever crack open one of these books again, and there was a part of me that wondered what those three years of PhD graduate work had been for.
As it turns out, the skills I developed in grad school did come in handy, and weren't just something I could talk about when I got that pestering question, "so what did you really get out of your university degree?"
My graduate level training was an invaluable tool in enhancing my understanding and approach to my new area of study, career counselling. While getting industry specific training at a college, I was devising new approaches in delivery of career counselling services based on my ability to research and critically analyze the industry, how it was evolving, where there was room for new ideas, and what my contribution, or niche, would be. I attribute this kind of thinking, brainstorming, and analysis to my graduate level training, especially all the hours of generating ideas for my essays and thesis work, founded on the studies and research of the brilliant minds that came before.
When I started on my pathway to becoming a career counsellor, I was uncertain whether I was embarking on the right pathway, or how I would apply the skills and knowledge from my previous degrees to a new learning experience. There is never a clear cut application of knowledge, unless you go into the exact profession you train for. For most of us though, that is rarely the case. More often, in today's labour market, students have to apply their learning and skill set to the work they do, or to the continuing education they pursue, which may not be directly related to their previous studies.
In taking a step in a new direction, don't lose sight of the learning you've already gained. You will most likely surprise yourself when you begin to use this knowledge in interesting and different ways. Especially if you change career pathways, all learning is good learning. It is sometimes when you start a new journey that you actually begin to realize it.