Growing up in a little suburb outside the city of Louisville in Valley Station, Kentucky in the 1980’s and 90’s was probably the ideal situation a kid could have. It was your typical working class area of town and it seemed to me that there were a lot other kids around the same age as me.
We did what all kids did then. We played outside and spent a lot of times riding bikes and getting in to this or that. Both of my parents worked very hard and didn’t miss a day of work, unless something really bad was wrong with them or my brothers and I. Which was never.
Outside of spending time with the kids in the neighborhood, taking the occasional vacation, usually camping somewhere, and visiting our family that all pretty much lived in the city. We lived a pretty sheltered life.
I just think that is how life was. Then if you fast forward to when I graduated high school and I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do. I ended up in two-year degree program in electronics.
After I finished that degree, I started working in a maintenance shop. Once again, in this position we were pretty isolated in our dealings with other people. We had to support the facility and the managers of the place where I worked, but we didn’t have a whole lot of interactions with them unless we had to.
From that position, my next position was with a company where I was part of a union. I worked there for a few years. Again this position was very insular. Myself and the other three hundred or so union employees were really focused on the work we did and doing life.
From there, I made a brief stop back to a previous company as a manager where I was leading a team of people to get things done.
But it wasnt until I landed at a university working in admissions until I really started getting a different perspective on life and the life that I had lived compared to others.
First of all, who in the world, would have thought I would have landed in a position where I would be responsible for recruiting students to attend a university? Not me. And my guess is not anybody else I know. I was a C student coming out of high school. I received a two-year degree in electronics, and for the most part my job was working on things to fix them. Usually with a small team.
So here I am in college admissions and it is now my job to work with people, lots of different people. Throughout my education I had been surrounded by diversity and people who were different from me. But I had never been responsible for working with them and supporting them in a way that I was now required to do in working in admissions.
It was now my job to call students who I knew very little about. Early on in my career in admissions, I was responsible to call the parents and guardians of these prospective students and tell them how they should be approaching higher education. It was now my job to speak with employers about their employees professional development and ongoing education. It was now my job to ensure the university that I was working for continued to thrive, because it had enough tuition dollars coming in to support the institution and its initiatives.
Up until this point in my career, everything was just a job. I had a task to perform. I fixed things and prevented downtime. Sure it was an important task, it required me to work with others. But at the end of the day we all wanted the same thing. I didn’t technically have to get those people to support what I was doing and influence them to see my way of thinking.
In college admissions I had to learn skills and techniques to persuade and influence other people. I had to create urgency with the words I used when speaking over the phone. I had to set down with parents who were divorced and tell them why they need to come together to support their children’s education. I had to speak with adults who were going back to college and help them develop a plan so they could see how they could afford their education financially as well as fit it in their already busy schedule.
I had to do all of this with a heart of encouragement and teaching, and at the same time create urgency to get them to act now. The skills that were required in college admissions were different from the ones I had been using up until this point in my life.
The biggest thing that I learned was just dealing with the public and dealing with people and their personal lives. As I shared, I grew up pretty sheltered. My mom and dad were still together. All of my aunts and uncles were still married. Most of my close friends parents were still together. I don’t remember having any friends that were ward of the states, or their grandparents were raising them.
Working in college admissions, I was being exposed to all of this. I learned that for the most part, my life situation wasn’t as typical as I thought it was. In many cases, it was really rare, and becoming increasingly more rare.
Here I am some fifteen years removed from starting my job in college admissions and I am thankful that I had the career that I had, because it taught me things that I would have never learned otherwise. Most importantly it taught me perspective that I didn’t have.
Sure, I learned a lot of skills that have served me well in all facets of my life. I learned business, sales, leadership, persuasion, how to coach people, how to manage conflict, etc. But learning perspective was probably one of the most important things.
And most of us never get that perspective, because we grow up in situations where we are sheltered. We go to school and we hang out with people who are just like us. We then take jobs and careers, and we work with people just like us, at least spend most of our time with people like us.
While working in college admissions and higher education I was forced to work with lots of people and lots of situations that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. And for that I am thankful, because the skills I have now you can never take away from me. These skills are very very valuable to the marketplace, because most businesses don’t require the diverse skills that are required in college admissions and they definitely don’t require you to get in to the personal lives of your customers the way college admissions makes you.
What I learned was most important, but equally important are the opportunities that I have had to grow my career, and the additional opportunities that have spun off from higher education because of the skills I have acquired and learned.
What are your thoughts? What was your most impactful job? If you are in college admissions, do you agree? Or have anything to add to my thoughts?
To your success and your future.