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Archive for Monday, July 24, 2006

Education never a waste of time

July 24, 2006

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Q: I was wondering if I have chosen the right career path. I am a senior in high school, and I want to go into nursing, but I know that I will quit once I have kids. Am I just wasting my time with all that school? - Donna

Dale: Let's start with Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple and Pixar, speaking about his college experience: "Reed College offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer was beautifully hand-calligraphed. I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts." Jobs then observed: "Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later." The point here, Donna, is that education is never wasted - it gives you more dots to connect. (By the way, if you want to read all of Jobs' comments, just put "Steve Jobs commencement address" into Google.)

Kate: Nursing is a great field for someone who wants to scale back once he or she has kids. The huge shortage of nurses is projected to last quite awhile, and that means you can decide to work part time, or even to work from time to time. Then, when you're ready, you can work full time again.

Dale: There's great wisdom, Donna, in that little phrase "you never know." You might end up a working mom, or living some other life you never expected. And even if your plans work out just the way you map them out - and you'd be the first - then look out a bit further in time and see what might be waiting. I met one nurse who works every weekend but gets the rest of the week off. She uses those days off to travel the country visiting her four grown children, who live in four different cities. You never know. Cherish those dots.

- Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O'Clock Club, a national career-counseling network. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab.

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