The best career advice given to the young is:
“Find out what you like doing best and
get someone to pay you for doing it.”

[Katherine Whitehorn]

I composed the following mini-essay on careers for my writing group and wanted to share it here:

Daddy went to the General Electric apprentice school in 1927 and worked for them as a tool maker until 1970. His work era spanned the depression during which he was laid off several times; World War Two during which he worked so much overtime that he paid off the mortgage on our home; and my young adulthood during which he sent me to college and saw me earn a higher wage than his when I was a new graduate. That was an era when many people thought that responsibility meant finding good jobs, keeping their jobs until retirement, and then living on their pensions.

When I graduated from college, I went to work as a Navy nurse for several years, then taught at a nursing school as a civilian. That was an era during which people talked about career tracks. Many people thought responsibility meant only changing employers to advance in a career. Frequent lateral job changes didn’t look good on a resume.

After a decade of homemaking while my children were young, I needed to go back to work. If I went back to nursing, I’d need a lot of refresher training then I’d start back at an entry level which meant night duty, weekends and an ever-changing schedule. I didn’t want to balance that with my children’s adolescence so I thought about changing careers. At that time, my father was starting his decline into altzheimers and confessed to me that he’d worked at GE to meet his responsibilities, but he’d really always wanted to be a cowboy. That motivated me to ask myself what I’d always wanted to be. I went back to college and studied graphic design along with students who were half my age. I have now been an independent (self-employed) graphic designer for over twenty years. My definitions of “career,” “jobs,” “retirement,” and what is responsible changed drastically over the years.

Before the end of this year, I will turn sixty-five, go on MediCare, and be eligible for reduced rates on airlines and other such services. I received a letter from Social Security asking me when I planned to retire. I answered, “when I die.” What is magic about the number sixty-five? Why should I quit doing what I love to do? I now believe that responsibility, in terms of an occupation, is earning enough to keep a roof overhead and food on the table — in addition to that, a person needs to be working at something that feeds her soul.