Graduation Days

April 30th, 2012

I spent summer 1981 as an intern at KDFW-TV in Dallas. In late August, I was preparing to go back for my senior year at the University of Texas – needing just 18 hours to graduate – when sportscaster Dale Hansen pulled me into his office and said, “I want to offer you a job.” I replied: “Super. I graduate in May, and I’ll definitely be back.” Dale shook his head and said, “The job won’t be here in May, so if you want it, you start next week.”

The next few days are a blur, yet I recall Dale speaking with my parents and guaranteeing them I would finish my degree, driving to Austin to meet with the dean of the Journalism School and finding him surprisingly open to my request to create a special degree program, and accepting the position of sports producer for a starting salary of $5.05 per hour.

In 18 days our oldest daughter graduates from UT, and as with many students she’s trying to land that first job. I’m reading a lot lately by columnists questioning the value of a college degree when so many kids are finding it difficult to earn a salary commiserate with their education. Many of these writers suggest only getting a degree in something that’s highly marketable such as teaching, engineering or science.

That’s a great theory; however, it’s difficult to place an 18-year-old in that box. My three older brothers majored in finance. One became a lawyer and the other two earned advanced degrees. As a teenager, I grew so tired of hearing them talk about business that I decided to pursue another path.

When our first-born was in the womb, every night I whispered, “Left-handed hitting catcher” to her, figuring that would be a valuable skill someday. When a newborn girl appeared, each night during her 2 a.m. feeding, I looked her in the eyes and said, “You should be a doctor.” Instead, she grew to be a talented artist and musician. Her dual degrees are in French and Linguistics, and she’s completing an internship at a museum. That’s the career she’d like to pursue.

While the financial road may be challenging, I am confident she’ll find the path to a joyful life. Everyone has different gifts and we should encourage our children to utilize each of their individual ones. Some of the most frustrated folks I’ve met are those who pursued a career ‘because my parents wanted me to’ and ended up in jobs they couldn’t stand.

Eventually, I fulfilled Dale’s promise to my parents – taking one class each semester for two years at UT-Arlington then returning to UT-Austin for a summer session – earning my degree in August 1984. Now 31 years after getting my break in television, I’ve changed careers three times – owning a travel company, working in franchising and going on nine years as an executive coach. My advice: pursue what you love. Everything else will take care of itself.

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