View Full Version : How did you pick your career?

Donnie Raines
08-24-2005, 11:35 AM
My niece is entering her sophemore year in collage. She and I were talking last night, over dinner, about her choice of majors. She wants to be a teen counselor. The usual conversation developed...where would you work, what kind of hours, how strong of a demand is there for this postion...and maybe the biggie...how much money. She seem very in-tune with all of this, snapping off an answer one after the other.

My concern was that the career she is picking does not yeild much in terms of income. But....thats what she wants. I expressed this to her, and she came right back with how I tried what I wanted to do(I was a golf pro through and just out of collage...sounds great...but no cash).

Just curious, how did you stumbled into what you do for a living. I know many of you have had this same coversation..... :rolleyes: :)

Michael Stafford
08-24-2005, 11:59 AM
I know that most of us will agree that money and how much we make of it is very important. It however should not be the most important factor in determining what we do for a living. If a career is chosen that has limited income potential so be it as long as the job is entered with full knowledge that that is the case. What brings about discontent is when a job is chosen and then it is learned that the income is insufficient to meet our desired lifestyles. Many people end up in this position and begin a never ending cycle of debt as their desires and wants outweigh their income.

The most important thing that any of us can have is meaningful work; work that leaves us with a feeling of accomplishment, work that makes us proud that we did the work. In the end most of us will never be rich and have all the things we "want" but hopefully we will have the things we need. I think one of the most valuable things that a person can have is a feeling of self worth, not that artificially created self esteem crap, but real self worth that is known within our own minds because we have done something of value for ourselves and society as a whole.

Your niece seems to know her own mind and that is more than most of us can say at the same age. Her education is not complete at this moment so a discussion about her career options are good since opinions from valued loved ones can help provide facts about the career she is considering. She like so many of us cannot honestly say for any certainty where she will be in 10 years.

Each decision we make as we travel the road of life determines not only which fork in the road we take but what our final destination will be. It is with information that we make the right decisions.

I have managed to make a living in the field I chose after switching majors more than a couple of times but I am not doing what I thought I would be doing. Life holds lots of surprises. You must adapt and overcome.....

Ken Fitzgerald
08-24-2005, 12:03 PM
Donnie that 's an interesting question!

I graduated from HS in 1967 at age 17. I had worked nights on oil rigs and gone to HS my sophomore through senior years. I continued working on oil rigs through August on '67 when I had a fallout with my Dad for whom I worked. I went through a series of factory jobs until August 1968 when I got my draft physical notice. A train ticket to Chicago later, I enlisted in the Navy for 6 years.

2 years of US Navy eletronics training later, I worked in 2 air traffic control centers (NAS Meridian, MS and NAS Kingsville, TX during which I reenlisted for an additional 2 years ) and aboard a subtender (repair ship for fast-attack nuclear subs), the USS Orion AS-18.

A number of companies wanted to hire me because of my military training, experience and active security clearance. I chose to go to work as a service engineer in 1976 for a comany that manufactured CAT scanners. While another company offered me more money because of my security clearance, it depended upon a military contract. Those type of contracts were too politically volatile in my opinion. 29 years later, after a brief stint as a manager, I'm still a medical equipment service engineer. I enjoy the technical challenges of working on CAT scanners, MR scanners, and x-ray equipments and the headaches of dealing within the medical community. I also am looking forward to retirement in the next 4 years.

Stumbled is the correct word!

If your niece is convinced that's what she wants to do......Go Girl! Doing something just for money makes a lot of people unhappy.......

Donnie Raines
08-24-2005, 12:23 PM
Great response guys.

I feel the same way...you need to get some degree of satisfaction out of what you do. But, at the end of the day you need to pay the bills and save, save....save. She is smarter then I...she knows how much to expect in terms of pay. I went into the golf buisness somewhat blind. While I survived..it was tough.

While I am only her uncle...and frankly not all that much older then her...I have been the only male figure in her life(along with grandpa). So I guess you can call me "protective".... :rolleyes:

Scott Loven
08-24-2005, 12:49 PM
Me? I saw a Marine recruiter in a sharp looking uniform and decided on the military after HS, ended up doing 4 years in the Navy as an electronics technician. Worked for a year as a field service technician and then decided to go to college. I had three defense manufacturing jobs in the DC area, and went through a down sizing in 95. Couldnít find a job in defense so took a job as a 3ed shift supervisor at a small manufacturing plant in Iowa (close to my parents), and grandparents. After 10 months the job of Health, Safety, and Environmental Quality Manager opened up so I jumped at it, anything to get off of 3ed shift! Have been doing that for 8 years now. Learned it OJT. I also started a small woodworking tool business on the side a few years ago. I have had thoughts of doing it fulltime, but canít convince the wife that it is worth the plunge, she has high security needs.

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My wife worked as a counselor at a childrenís home when we lived in the DC area for a while. Not a way to get rich, but it was a good work.


Matthew Springer
08-24-2005, 1:02 PM
Can you talk her into Computer Science? :rolleyes:

I would echo what my fellow Creekers said. Do what you love. Figure out how to monetize later -BUT- As my mom said "Don't confuse avocation with vocation." Certain carrers really do work better as hobbies.

I lucked out. I've know I wanted to be an engineer since I was 6, the only trick was picking the right kind, electrical, mechanical, CS, aero, etc. I figured EE was kinda in the middle so that's what I picked and my only regret was not taking MORE engineering classes.

Turns out you can make a good living in tech, but that was never the motivator. I interview a ton of people for my company and folks in high tech that are only in it for the money tend not to last. Also they tend not to get hired. In some sense the bubble popping was great cause it let the real engineers get back to work.


08-24-2005, 1:05 PM
I chose my career based on money. I looked into salaries out of college and picked my major accordingly. I only wanted (and could only really afford) 4 years of college. So, the highest pay for a 4 yr. degree was Electrical Engineering. Worked out perfectly how my parents planned :rolleyes:


Matthew Springer
08-24-2005, 1:11 PM
One other thought.

MAKE her take a finicial planning class!! Make her take two! The best way to get rich long term is by contentment, patience and not getting poor. The best way to not get poor is to NEVER get into debt for anything other than a house. Credit card debt == Very Bad Thing.

Some perspective: I'm somewhat closer to the problem since I'm a mere youth of 31, but the other thing I wish I'd known was how to sit down and do capital budgeting and cash management. The paper work side of adult life came as a giant shock and I was almost totallly unprepared for how complicated things are. I now work for a Very Large Search Engine which brings a lot of cash, but also TONS of comlpication. I'm pretty smart, IMNSHO, but I am not nearly smart enough to deduce the rules of the paper trail game by observation.

Ex: Everytime you engage in a financial transaction, somebody hands you a piece of paper. How important is this paper? How long should i hang onto it? Why is this piece of paper a different size from all the opther pieces of paper? Can I make it into an airplane? What about a teradactyl? What happens if someone asks to see this important piece of paper later?

Lou Morrissette
08-24-2005, 1:29 PM
When I graduated from HS in 1960, I had been working in a wholesale ice cream factory on a part time basis. Being the eldest of 9 children, college was not an option due to financial restraints. I then became an ice cream maker on a full time basis. After a few years of that, a friend told me that P&W aircraft in East Hartford, Ct was testing for an upcoming apprenticeship class. I tested and made it and spent the next three years in a program that formulated my carreer of forty years in Quality Control. I did enjoy it and was very successful at it. It turned out to be very rewarding.
You never know.


Michael Perata
08-24-2005, 1:31 PM
Teacher, teen counselor, religious leader, social worker, animal control...can you imagine what our society would be like if the only reason for choosing a career was the amount of monetary reward you received?

Can you imagine how boring it would be to only have one career focus during your lifetime?

Glenn Clabo
08-24-2005, 1:47 PM
When your paycheck is your only reward you lead a life of wondering what it would be like to get up every morning looking forward to the day. When you do what you love the money takes care of itself.

I spent my early years doing things that I thought would make me and my family happy with the paycheck. Once I found what I really like to do both my job and most importantly my life became a joy. The money came in time...I'm eligible for retirement...but working with the people I work with...and the things we do everyday makes me get up every morning looking forward to a GREAT NAVY DAY!

I'm also married to a professor of nursing who absolutely loves doing what she has/is doing. When she was graduating from HS one of her teachers told her parents that going into nursing was a "waste of a great mind"! Many people tried to talk her out of it...but she knew what she wanted to do. I can't tell you how many young nurses keep in touch after graduation and tell DRLOML that she is their insperation.

Steve Ash
08-24-2005, 2:06 PM
I grew up on a large farm, 1640 Acres, with my dad and brother. I always figured that is what I would do with my life since it was a family farm. I went to Michigan State University and studied agriculture.In the winter time when it got slow I worked for the local builder when needed.
Money was always scarce, but when we had floodlike conditions and wiped out our bean crop followed the next year by a drought which never gave the beans and barley any chance to grow I decided I needed to do something different. Since the only other thing I had ever done was work for the local builder it seemed that was the obvious choice. So I started my own construction business.
That was 16 years ago and I am still building peoples dream homes, additions etc. I have found great satisfaction in my work and never seem to grow tired of the next "challenge". When I am having a "bad day" at work all I got to do is remember what it was like losing our crops those couple of years and all of a sudden things aren't so bad.

Mark Singer
08-24-2005, 3:40 PM
I always chose things that I loved....money was really not a primary factor in my early decisions. My mother said if you chose something you love, you will do well and money will not be a problem...so I chose from the heart and soul... My wife has always been very supportive of me charting a new course....not playing it "safe'...that is the kind of person you need behind you! I also decided early in my career to not follow the main stream, to avoid styles and trends and try to explore what was deep within myself....an architecture for "Living" ...after all that is what it is for. With that perspective you avoid "what looks hot" . Hot things tend to cool off fast and life is perenial...

So Mom was right and I had an honest approach....I try to take each project and do the best I can considering the site and the client...these objectives have remained constant of all the years..

A great deal of satisfaction comes from following your own path....starting with nickles and struggling has taught me to appreciate the basics...nature,family, people, love, life health, friends, my dogs..

I still love working with my hands....it is difficult for a subcontractor to tell me "it can't be done"....because I probably have already done it somewhere and I can pick up his tools and show him if I need to.

I have in a way tried to hone and refine my work ....it is a focused approach that does not try to satisfy all....but , those that like my work are very loyal.....I have done mutiple homes for many clients ...that is a good feeling.

Work...I don't need to do it....yet I need to do it! I could stop tomorrow and my lifestyle would not change....yet I can't stop ....its part of my being and I feel I am at the top of my game....why quit now?

After all ....all great work starts with love....then it is no longer work...

I guess I never have worked when I really think about it:confused:

Donnie Raines
08-24-2005, 3:50 PM
Thanks for the replies.

I understand I am makieng an assumption here. But, I would be willing to bet that those that say not to "worry" about money more then likely need not worry about it...meaning they are well placed. Did you truley feel that way when you first started off? I can honestly say that I did not worry about money when I first went out...simply becuase I had no concept of what real money was(I am still working on that...). A few thousand bucks was a big deal. Once I started out in the golf buisness...I loved it. But there was no cash. If cash was plentiful and was able to support the lifestyle I wanted(and that may be the key...lifestyle) I would have stayed in the golf buisness. Would you guys have stayed in the buisness if it styaed flat....or showed moderate growth?

Just curious.... :)

Mark Singer
08-24-2005, 4:03 PM
That is a good question....all fields are difficult and competitive...there is really no short cut. Find what you love to do and be smart look for opportunities and take them...Find that niche and be professional...Don't be afraid to take a chance...If you never swing at a pitch...you will never hit a home run. So I believe you can do what you love and be succesful...

Thanks for the replies.

I understand I am makieng an assumption here. But, I would be willing to bet that those that say not to "worry" about money more then likely need not worry about it...meaning they are well placed. Did you truley feel that way when you first started off? I can honestly say that I did not worry about money when I first went out...simply becuase I had no concept of what real money was(I am still working on that...). A few thousand bucks was a big deal. Once I started out in the golf buisness...I loved it. But there was no cash. If cash was plentiful and was able to support the lifestyle I wanted(and that may be the key...lifestyle) I would have stayed in the golf buisness. Would you guys have stayed in the buisness if it styaed flat....or showed moderate growth?

Just curious.... :)

Ed Breen
08-24-2005, 4:11 PM
Interesting question Donnie,
I can still remember as a youngster, sitting in class saying to myself, There has to be a better way! Went to college on the g.i. bill and became a special ed teacher. Knew going in that it would always require two jobs but that was okay. After about 8 years my son was born with a disability and I became emotionally committed in addition to intellectualy committed! Ended up going back to school, getting a doctorate and teaching in three universities. In one I was the department chair. Left that to work in insurance rehabilitation in the private sector and ended up running a wholly owned subsidiary for a major carrier. After some time I realized that I was turning into someone I din't like and I left to move from Chicago, Il. to Muskogee Ok. (culture shock) for about 1/5th of my base salary. Started a small workshop for the disabled which now has over 150 employees and about 4 mil. in revenue. At 76 I still go to work four days a week and don't envision stopping.
I can say that I'm happy doind what I do, and where else can I walk into a room and know unequivocally that I'm the smartest guy in the room.

Ken Fitzgerald
08-24-2005, 4:20 PM
I truly enjoy what I do for a living...I could have made more working at Northrup when I first got out of the Navy but.....defense contracts.....change in Congress........no defense contracts........Yes...I truly enjoy what I'm doing though I could have made more working in electronics somewhere else.........There is something to be said about doing what you enjoy......If you don't enjoy it......a career becomes just a job!.........Look at all the career military personnel....they must love it and get a great amount of self satisfaction out of doing their job because it sure doesn't pay as much as a civilian counterpart job would.

If you don't truly enjoy what you do for a living.....you could live a AWFULLY LONG TIME!

Ian Barley
08-24-2005, 4:37 PM
I just kinda stumble along and do what looks interesting and or achievable.

I left education with clarity only on things that I didn't want to do. I remember at school telling a careers teacher that I wanted to be a carpenter. I was told that "boys with my ability didn't do that sort of thing - get a job in a bank". Sadly at 16 I listened. 9 years in a bank - good at it but hated it. Got a job in mortgage lending 'cos it was more money. 8 years at that - good at it but hated it. Moved to IT support and training by the end of that and spent about 7 years doing that. Good at it but ended up in pointless position doing things that didn;t matter for people who didn't care.

Decide at 40 to do something like what I wanted to do at 14. Make my living working wood. In a good year I make half what I did in my last year in IT. On a bad day I feel about a hundred times better than a good day used to in my last IT job.

Money is only a motivator when there is not enough of it. I eat every day and pay my bills on time. If you have no feeling for what you do and have regard only for the money you will never be the best that you can be - life is too short and you only get one trip so make the most of it.

Dennis Peacock
08-24-2005, 4:47 PM
When your paycheck is your only reward you lead a life of wondering what it would be like to get up every morning looking forward to the day. When you do what you love the money takes care of itself.

AMEN to That!!!!!!!

I got into computers because my dad told me that I would starve and would never make it as a custom furniture maker / cabinet maker. My love / passion has always been woodworking, but dad said that the only way to make a decent living was to go into computers. So I did....and I've dreaded going to work every single day since 1984....... :(

To me? Enjoying your work and loving what you do is far more important that was comes in the paycheck. I'm just to far into my computer career to make a change now.

James Carmichael
08-24-2005, 5:03 PM
AMEN to That!!!!!!!

I got into computers because my dad told me that I would starve and would never make it as a custom furniture maker / cabinet maker. My love / passion has always been woodworking, but dad said that the only way to make a decent living was to go into computers. So I did....and I've dreaded going to work every single day since 1984....... :(

To me? Enjoying your work and loving what you do is far more important that was comes in the paycheck. I'm just to far into my computer career to make a change now.

Hmm, Dennis, we've been leading parallel lives, dating to the same year!

I'm a software engineer and if I could find a way off of this treadmill, I'd do it in a second.

As Matthew aluded to, though, the dotcom implosion was good for the industry, got a lot of folks out who didn't belong and slowed the pace of development to something resembling sanity.

Don Baer
08-24-2005, 5:15 PM
It's funny how life can change the way one thinks. When I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to do so I joined the Navy and volunteered for submarines. They sent me to school and I became an electrician on a Nuclear submarine. My dad was an electrician and I guess he was the happiest guy on earth. When I got out of the Navy I used my GI bill to get a degree in Physics. While going to school I worked as a technician for a company that made variable speed motor controls. Again back to being a electrician of sorts. After finishing college I looked around to see what I could do with a BS in Physics and lo and behold I stayed on with the company as an application engineer, designing systems using various types of motor controls and motors. Since then I have been involved in various type of motor controls and instrumentation. The only part of my career I actualy planned was joining the Navy, the rest just happened. Now that I an a lot older and a litle wiser I see that 1) I was very fortunate to take the path I took and 2) no amount of planning can beat dumb luck.

Am I happy doing what I am doing ? You bet! did I plan any of it ? Nope!

Jim Fancher
08-24-2005, 5:41 PM
I hid from my career and it still found me.

I grew up helping my Dad build cabinets during his vacation time as a police officer. I loved it. I loved everything about building houses. From the age of 6 I wanted to be an architect. I did the best I could all the way through middle school and high school to ready myself. Then in 1983, at the beginning of my senior year, my dream fizzled. I heard that architects were using computers.

I didn't want anything to do with computers.

So, I started my college career as an English major. I changed my major 13 times trying to find the perfect fit. While working in a warehouse one summer I struck up a conversation with someone in the break room. Two weeks later, he was my boss. He ran the IT department at the company I worked for.

That was almost twenty years ago. I've been in IT ever since and love every second of it. Do I wonder if I missed my calling in architecture? Sure, but I would have hated missing out on everything I've been a part of the past twenty years.

Pick your career or it'll pick you. Or, as in my case, it'll hunt you down and swallow you whole. :)

James Carmichael
08-24-2005, 5:51 PM
The advice I always gave my daughters (which they still haven't taken) was:

1. Don't worry about a major, just go to college. Pick a major that interests you and finish it (per Dave Ramsey, something like 80% of college grads are not doing the job they trained in college for). But the degree opens doors and if you decide the one you picked is wrong, it's easier to go back for more training if you finish the first degree.

2. Don't have children unless you're in a career you're sure you want to stay in for some time. Granted, there's no "good" time to have children, but it's extremely difficult to change careers if you have a family to provide for.

Cecil Arnold
08-24-2005, 5:52 PM
After a number of false starts, many of which were unrealistic, I backed into what was to become a low paying, rewarding career. Perhaps it is because I always had my priorities backward, in that I wanted too many material things and attempted to prepare myself for jobs that had the potential for monetary rewards, that I stumbled along with life and learned to hate business (pre-law, business major). I understand, as well as anyone not immersed daily, macro and microeconomics, accounting, business law, ad nauseum. And I really donít care. Altogether too many sycophants and not enough honesty, IMHO, populate the business world, not that there are not honest people there, but they know enough to keep their mouth shut and draw their paycheck. I have always had a problem keeping my mouth shut, as some of my fellow creekers may recall. After dabbling at a number of things, flying, sales, the Army, and business, someone suggested the Houston Fire Department. The pay was never great, the hours were long, and there was always an extra job. For those of you who remember the old tickets at Disneyland, it was a 20-year ďEĒ ride. Somewhere along the way I discovered an interest in writing, so when I retired I spent the next 15 months finishing a degree in media communications and started work as a tech writer. Tech writing lead to safety work, which was again in business and very BORING. Then a job came along a job offering that put me back, indirectly, with the fire service. Director of Fire Protection Technology at a small community college allowed me to once again be back among my old fraternity and to realize how much I had been missing it. No, I never got rich, but I have a decent pension with a 3% escalator every year and an extra check to boot. I married a social worker, who has also retired and also get a decent check, without the automatic escalator. We have two cars that are paid for and virtually no bills (house payment and utilities) a shop full of good tools. We travel when we want, where we want, and while we donít splurge we also donít skimp. So what more can you ask from life? Work that is rewarding and makes you feel good about yourself at the end of the day, enough money to have a decent life for your family, and a decent retirement at the end of a career seems to me to be more than most people have today. I think Mark (or his mother) has it right. If you love what you are doing it is not work, and th erest should take care of itself.

Vaughn McMillan
08-24-2005, 6:41 PM
Good question Donnie. I'm still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

I graduated from high school with a desire to be a professional guitar player. My dad the civil engineer strongly urged me to pursue engineering (something to fall back on) and offered to pay for college. Being interested in electronics, I started on an EE path, but after one semester realized I didn't have the math background necessary to do well in that curriculum. (My basic Algebra 101 professor suggested that I drop the class before he had to flunk me, and I didn't do much better in physics.)

Second semester of college I changed majors to music pedagogy, with the intent to become a private guitar teacher. Before the semester was over, I was working as a guitar teacher in the same studio as my long-time mentor. In the meantime, I flunked a couple of key music classes (due to a registration foul-up) and the A's and B's that I was making in other classes didn't make it onto my transcript (due to the same foul-up). Since I was already doing the job that I was ostensibly studying for, I dropped out of college.

I was relatively successful as a guitar teacher, but eventually the band I was playing in started touring enough that I couldn't maintain a workable teaching schedule, so I closed up shop and did the band thing full-time for a few years. During this period of time, I reached pretty much all the musical goals I had set for myself back in high school, with the exception of making tons of money. Instead, I got a good lesson in how to live on a shoestring. Poor as I was, I enjoyed the job...it's one of few jobs where people clap and cheer for you every 3 or 4 minutes. As a bonus, my band mates were (and still are) long-time friends,so life was generally good.

Eventually, the band dissolved and the members went separate ways, and I reluctantly ended up working as a technician in a construction materials testing lab. (I had previous experience during high school summers doing the same kind of work for my dad's lab. I didn't like it, but I needed to make a living) I went through a series of employers and projects, and eventually ended up as an inspector/project manager for an architectural/engineering firm. The work was stressful, but I learned a lot every day on the job, and I eventually enjoyed it. When work slowed down in the early 90's I was laid off and ended up taking a job as an estimator for an earthwork company (which I didn't really enjoy).

About this time, I got an offer out of the blue (via one of my sisters) to move from New Mexico to California to work as a tech writer/editor for a software company. I had no experience as a writer, but my sis knew that I was literate and could write in (usually) complete sentences. I taught myself about computers as best I could when I was doing construction inspection, and I guess my sis figured if I could do that, I could learn whatever I needed to know about the software I needed to document.

14 years later, I'm still with the same company (my sis left the firm about 6 months after I started), and although I've had a variety of titles and a range of responsibilities over the years, I'm still primarily a tech writer/editor. I'm not really enjoying the job as much as I did in years past, but I've become dependant on the steady paycheck. (Mortgages have a way of doing that to people.) I'd love to break out of the salt mines and do domething that I enjoy (woodworking, music, non-technical writing, etc.), but I've got to do it in such a way that I won't go broke or hungry trying. Just haven't quite figured out how to do that yet.

The upshot of this long history lesson is that despite what a person thinks they'd like to do career-wise, life's road often has a lot of unexpected twists and turns. You never know how good or bad something might be until you go around one or more of those turns. I do think it's ironic that I flunked engineering and music in college, then went on to make a living since then in either the music or engineering fields. On the job training (and a natural curiosity) can still get you pretty far if you work at it enough.

Good luck to your neice. It sounds like she's thought things through pretty well. Keep in mind, a lot of stuff (careers included) can change 30 years or so down the road.

- Vaughn

John Hart
08-24-2005, 7:33 PM
As I was listening to my niece tell me what her career choice was, I was taken aback with how focused she was on the amount of money she was going to make. Some career counselor convinced her that there would be corporate scouts at her graduation with offers around $100K. I fear she'll be terribly disappointed on graduation day when that doesn't really happen....but then...life is full of lessons.
I wanted to excavate ancient civilizations when I first enrolled at Boise State University back in '76...but that dream never happened. As I grew and my hopes and dreams advanced, so did my career choices. Including my Navy service, I've changed careers a dozen times...always to something I wanted to do and always a step up. This has left me more than enthusiastic with getting up and going to work everyday and I make enough money to raise a family comfortably and look forward to retirement. I shall die happy....even if it kills me. ;)

Jim Becker
08-24-2005, 9:34 PM
I have a degree in Business Logistics plus several MBA-level courses taken years later. But I work in the telecommunications industry 'splaining technology to folks and helping the people who develop the stuff understand what "real customers" want in the same. So now my title is "Sr Consultant". :D I've never used the logistics part of my degree much, but have fully utilized a lot of the broader business education in the various things I've done, especially the financial and cost accounting. I remain very business oriented even in my approach to technology and I think that's what makes me successful in what I do. I'm going on 9 years with my present employer (14 October is the anniversary date) and that is the longest I've ever worked for one employer by two years...and I plan on staying put if I can.

I used to say that money wasn't my prime motivation, but that's changed in the past few years for a number of reasons. The details are not important, but in general, it's because the business world has become so focused on Wall Street that it's forgotten about it's prime mission to customers and the intrinsic value of its employees. (This applies to most large and mid-sized companies today, unfortunately) So anything I can do to increase my income which in turn increases my savings is ok by me. It helps to protect me financially if my "number" were to come up...

I truly do enjoy what I do because it allows me to teach and learn at the same time. I would prefer to continue to do that, even if I had to or could make a change. (Such as if the Prize Patrol showed up at my door tomorrow...)

That all said, I think it sounds like your gal is pretty focused on a career from the point of view of "what she would be doing" instead of "money, money, money". I respect that a great deal. I wish I had known what I wanted to do at that age, although I'm not complaining about the lessons I've learned along the way--even the bad ones. While money is certainly important to everyone, personal satisfaction is what really keeps you in the job, even when you could be "making more" elsewhere. And you always have the option of pursuing something else if financial reality dictates...

Randy Moore
08-24-2005, 9:39 PM
I tried going to college for three (3) days, 1971, decided that I wasn't going to make it doing what I wanted to do, Architect. I just barely got out of H.S. by the skin of my teeth. Went home and talked to my Dad and told him school wasn't for me and that I am going to have to find a job.

He owned a sheet metal shop, but I didn't want to work for him. He told me that I needed to go to such and such address and talk to the man in the office. That got me into the sheet metal apprenticeship with the local union. I have spent the last 33 years doing this. Am I happy? Well, after missing time due to the economy, the weather and other things, I do at times enjoy my job. But when I have to sit on my rear at home and wait for the next job, the answer is NO. There has been times that it has been very rewarding. I can retire from this rat race in four (4) years, at the age of 55. And don't get in my way on that day 'cause I will roll over you getting out the door. I have found #3 wife and she is the best in the world.

As for the money well if I had saved it, and not been married and cleaned out two (2) times, I did party hard, spent 90 % on women and liqour and the rest I wasted for 25 years I would have a goodly amount. I did not plan on this career but when I was younger I was too stupid to go to school and learn.

And like Dennis said it has ...been a very long life...

Donnie, I hope that you trust your niece to make her own decision and enjoy her life to the fullest.

Joe Mioux
08-24-2005, 10:01 PM
AMEN to That!!!!!!!

So I did....and I've dreaded going to work every single day since 1984....... :(

Dennis: I truly hope this is not true....

There is creativity in every endeavor.........;) :)

I remember taking some Computer Science/programming classes back in the late '70's (remember punch cards:rolleyes: ), I looked at this stuff as a creative process. Remember structured vs unstructured progamming? That stuff was fun.

I think we all go through ups and downs. The key is to continue to pursue the things you love to do. The money will follow.


P.s. Started out at the Univeristy of Illinois in Ornamental Horticulture, switched to Agricultural Economics, studied Commodity futures trading and grain merchandising, Got a job as a Commodities Broker, from there a Soybean Market Analysts, from there a Public Relations Director for soybeans, to ............the family business. Since 1989, I have been back selling and growing plants and flowers. I am a fourth generation florist. The business was started in 1876 and its at the same location. I love the business, but the personnell issues are discouraging. For those of you who have always worked for a large company with good benefits, thank your employer. Today's small businesses simply can't compete.

Dale Thompson
08-24-2005, 11:14 PM

Back in 1959 when I graduated from HS, I went into engineering because that was where the "money" was. With a degree from the University of Illinois, I had no problem getting a job. Back in those days the saying was, "If you are 'just' an engineer for five years or more, you are probably not a very good one"! Whatever, after two years, I was promoted numerous times and soon became the VP of Engineering in my company. I must admit that I had a good time in the process. My income was considerably above average. Actually, I think that my company promoted me because I was creating too many disasters as an R&D engineer and they wanted to put me in a position that would minimize my negative impact on their "bottom line". :eek:

My daughter "followed" my footsteps ("I did this for YOU, dad") and got a double engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin. She also passed her exams as a Professional Engineer in both Wisconsin and Illinois. Within a couple of years, she was making a six figure income complemented by profit sharing and lucrative stock options. SHE WAS MISERABLE!! I got to the point where I didn't even want to talk to her on the phone. EVERYTHING was wrong! :mad:

I am not a church person. She was! She was struggling with GOD in terms of her future. When she received the news that her grandpa (my dad), who was a Pastor, was in his last hours, she defied my firmly expressed warnings and drove for 200 miles in a raging blizzard to be by his side. :eek: During her drive, she promised GOD that if she could see grandpa alive one more time, she would dedicate her life to replace him with the message of the Lord. :)

She walked into his hospital room and simply said, "Hi Grandpa". The raspy breathing of those close to death ceased. He opened his eyes and a smile came across his face. "Stacey"! I think that that was the last word he ever said. :)

She quit her job and became the Music (her favorite subject and her greatest strength) Director of a large church in southern Wisconsin. Her salary was less than 15% of her former job. From that day on, however, I couldn't wait for her calls. She was always happy, positive and full of joy with her GREAT job! :D

She is now married, has given us two beautiful grandchildren (2 yrs and 7 mo), employed part-time by the church and employed part-time as a registered professional engineer in a field that she REALLY loves! Best of all, she can do most of this work as a full-time mom! :cool:

Ask your neice if she wants to be rich or happy. Dumb choice - right? :confused: Sometimes they go together. Most of the time they don't. :(

That's MY story, Donnie, and I'm stickin' to it! :)

Dale T.

John Hart
08-25-2005, 7:03 AM
Nice story Dale.:)

Karl Laustrup
08-25-2005, 7:13 AM
Donnie, what a great question. And what great responses. Each one a look into a lifetime of choices, even if they weren't chosen.

I, like others have said, wanted to be an architech. Found out that mathmatics and I don't get along very well, even though tests taken way back when said I was quite literate in math. This shows up today as "measure once, cut twice" and then make the piece smaller than originally intended.

I have worked many jobs over my almost 60 years, not one of them longer than 9 years. I owned my own business, auto electric repair, which I didn't know anything about when I bought the business. Each time I left one job [one way or another] I have branched out into some field that I really didn't know anything about. I am a jack of all [well a lot anyway] trades, but a master of none.

I never worked at a job long enough to gain any kind of retirement, nor did I ever have a job that paid much more than living expenses, so savings was a word I didn't know the meaning of. That's just the way it worked out. Would I change anything if I had it to do over? I don't think so. While I had bad times at each job I had, I only remember the lessons I took from each one and how much I enjoyed learning all that I have.

I've been retired since 1997, not because I could, but because my wife has a great job with great benefits. It just worked out that we were caring for her Uncle and he needed full time care at that time. He has since passed on, but now we have my mom living with us. Just moved her from Hemet at the beginning of August because we want her to be with us. She'll soon be 83.

We have managed to save a few bucks in the last few years, but it's meager at best. I guess I'm not that concerned. I can always get a job at WalMart as a greeter. With my demeanor that would probably be another short lived job.

All in all I've enjoyed my ride.


Michael Gabbay
08-25-2005, 8:33 AM
Well here goes....

My Dad is a CPA (refuses to retire at 80). I did not meet his expectations of being a straight A student like my older sisters did. So when it was my turn to go to college I decided on a small school in SW Virginia, Radford Unversity. At the time I wanted to be an engineer and architect and had applied to VA Tech. But my math was too weak to get in. :( So for my freshman year at Radford I took the basics. I made A's in chemistry but did not want to major in it. Radford was a major party school and I realized that if I were going to get a degree, Radford was not going to be the place for me.

Over the summer, I took a couple of classes at George Mason University near home while I worked. I liked the school and stayed for the Fall term thinking I'll see how things go. A year later I decided to major in accounting and take computer science as electives.

Then it happened....

I woke up the beginning of my final semester and realized I CAN'T BE AN ACCOUNTANT!!! :eek: I hated the subject. So I talked to the dean and decided to stay antoher year (the 5 year plan) and finish my degree in computer science.

So here I am, 20 years later, a systems analyst. I have been a consultant for the major consulting firms. I've been a self employed consultant. I have been a development manager for large teams. Lately I've decided that I don't want to manage people but rather be an individual contributor (regular staff). My company really wants me to manage teams so I guess I'll be back doing that soon.

My career has been ok but if I could do it again I would have followed my original dreams of pursuing arcitecture and engineering. I love to work with my hands and build things. My advice to my boys is to do what you love. Don't worry about the money as much as personal desires.

That's my story....


Jim Becker
08-25-2005, 9:02 AM
Ask your neice if she wants to be rich or happy. Dumb choice - right? Sometimes they go together. Most of the time they don't.

As usual, Dale...you cut to the heart of the matter in a most unique and wonderful way. Thanks for your story...it's true to the core.

Donnie Raines
08-25-2005, 10:55 AM
I guess I am boreing! I went to school and majored in buisness mang/law thinking I would go into the insurance biz with my dad. I dablled in the golf biz for a few years, then realized it was not for me. Now in the insurance biz for the last 4 years or so.

Michael Cody
08-25-2005, 8:35 PM
MONEY vs HAPPINESS -- hmmmmmm....

Cool question .. me I just fell into what I do .. I am another architect wanna be.. Took it in VoEd in HS in 1975&76 .. went to Ferris State College in Michigan for 1 year .. decided I liked it but didn't think I wanted to spend my life bent over a board. Switched over to Indus Chem Technology (2 yr) as I always had a bent for Math & Science. Got my degree but best offer I had in 1979 was 5.50$ an hour. I didn't spend all that time drinking beer and chasing girls to waste my small amount of studying for 10k a year so I went back to Bus Adm school with a minor in Manf Eng..

Got out in '81 but the job market wasn't so good. I got a job w/HeathKit Electronics as a assistant supervisor. Learned about electronic assembly and PC's .. had an old CPM machine on my desk and I wrote a lot of Benton Harbor Basic Code to use in my department. But was only there a couple years and got married, moved back to my hometown and got a job as a supervisor building Automotive Test equip, but I got to program CNC drills and automatic insertion equipment (always say if they offer training take it .. even if it's not related to what you do).

Wife graduated from Western Mich w/a degree in paper - got a job at a Mill in Port Huron making twice what I did, so I followed. Got a job in an boat/auto upholstery shop doing setup/shipping/receiving. Learned how to fix sewing machines, etc. Then got a job making a lot more being a QC Tech at a local Masking tape company.

Spent 10 years there moving from QC to Maintenance, Production control, Process control then IT. I took training in PLC's, networking, etc.. (always grab those training courses). Wherever I went I was someone who knew PC's and always was ready to point that out. Everyone wanted me to work on that for them because IT wouldn't. It opened a lot of doors for me. I got into IT full time and I ended up doing phones & facilities mgt too, helped build a new factory for them, but the politics got unbearable when we were bought out.

So wife was not totally happy with life of an engineer at a paper mill, those 80 hour weeks along with my IT life of similar bent. Kids spent more time at babysitter than home. We decided something had to change, I voulenteer'd to be a house dad but she was having nothing of it. I got a job back at home on other side of the state working for the best boss I ever had. IT Network Manager.. wife was going to go to school but it didn't work out that way. I worked for 5 year for Durametallic, DurIron, BWIP, Flowserve -- and other names. Bought, sold, re-orged 5-6 times in 5 years. Wife ditched the paper industry, now she runs a Day care center for the local school system.

Me I dropped out that buyout/politics/rat race and took my jack of all trades approach and went to work as a full time IBM tech for an Computer Integrator .. not the perfect job but it pays well and I get enough time off. I like it enough to keep at it but do I love it .. not really --- it doesn't define my life, it just pays for it. Do I equate money with success -- well no but it's easier to be happy w/money than w/o in my opinion. I left jobs I hated but not for less money - always for more. If you are good at what you do, the rest takes care of itself.

I now spend my free time with boy scouts, fishing, woodworking, reading, etc.. I like giving my time to the younger folks, I enjoy being around them. I am not deliriously happy, but neither am I unhappy, could it be better yeah, but it's not bad.

For your kids, you encourage them to choose wisely, money matters but you have to an avocation for it and drive. My oldest understands how things work, just like my dad did and like me. He applies his avocation to mechanics and machines. In that light I just committed "40 K+" for my sons education. He's going to NW Ohio Univ next year to study Auto/Diesel repair -- 2000$ every 6 weeks for 1.5-2 years. I hope it's what he loves and it doesn't pay that bad but I know he can be good at it.. if you are good, you can always find work and you should be proud of your skill set.

It's not a romantic as follow your dreams, but I've always noted that dreams are not always realistic that's why they are called dreams. So be careful of wish for..

My motto is be very good at what you do and be proud that you are. But you don't have to define yourself by your job. I wouldn't work a job I hated but I don't have to want to live my work either. If you can follow those basic tenets I think you will be happy and be able to support yourself and your family. That to me is good enough.

Frankie Hunt
08-26-2005, 11:13 AM
<!--StartFragment -->Donnie,

Finding a great vocation is a marriage of 3 things. What one likes, what one's natural abilities are, and what one can earn a living with.

If all 3 are not met you won't be as happy in life as you could be.

I think kids today focus way too much on the money aspect. In today's materialistic world they seem to think that money=happiness.

I think that ones natural tendenices are not considered well enough in the choice of a vocation.

Not everyone is not "wired" the same. Some people have the natural ability to analyze data and technical things. Others are born with great "people skills". Why not build upon your own natural ability? One might make a great coach the other might make a great engineer. If you were to put them in the opposite environment they would not be nearly as effective nor would they be as happy.

Here is a link to an organization that can help. I am not affiliated with them but plan to use their resource soon to help my teenagers. They offer very sound advice in other areas too.


As for me I fell into my vocation. I wanted to go into marine biology. My junior year in high school I mailed off and got many college brochures. However my dreams were dashed when the reality of the cost of a major university was revealed. It soon became apparent that it was the local community college or nothing. I chose electronics as my career. It has worked out well enough and I am happy. But this was not the case with my brother. He saw my success and did the same thing. He really doesn't like the field and should have done things differently. BTW I took up scuba diving to get the marine biology thing out of my system.


Lee DeRaud
08-26-2005, 11:37 AM
<!--StartFragment -->As for me I fell into my vocation.BINGO!! The concept of "picking a career" as a fresh college grad (much less a high-school senior) just Does Not Compute.

Frank Pellow
08-26-2005, 12:03 PM
Until I got to University (Math and Physics at the University of Waterloo), I was planning to be an architect. My maternal grandfather, Frank Rosseter, who was both a civil engineer and an architect was my role model.

Then, in 1961, I discovered computers. No one at our university knew much about them -the prevailing attitude was that a computer was a bigger calculating machine. About 10 of us got together and we taught each other what computers could really do. The computer dream replaced my architect dream and, after a temporary job as a high school math teacher, I joined IBM and never looked back. I was always a software developer and I always loved my work. The money and international travel and assignments just happened.

I never worried about money and, looking back, Margaret and I always managed our finances very well. I was (and am) very lucky.

Ken Fitzgerald
08-26-2005, 12:10 PM
Excellent observation Frankie. Your three things really get to the core of the matter.

Another thing that also enters into the equation is where do you want to live?
It's easier now to use a computer engineering degree in Lewiston Idaho or other remote areas due to geater uses of high tech devices and high speed internet services but a short time ago that degree and other highly technical degrees severely limited employment opportunities and income capabilities. Even now, my brother sporting a BSEET is having trouble finding a job utilizing his degree in Gillette, Wyo. He followed his wife there. While he was employed in a different state where he'd received his degree, he detested living there. His wife astutely moved back to Gillette where they'd lived before. She was able to immediately find employment. He followed some months later.

I moved to Lewiston Idaho in 1982 from a Chicago suburb. This country boy enjoyed the income I was making there but really didn't enjoy city living or raising my family there. I'm not passing judgement on city life...it's just not for me or my family. Because of a competitor's offer, my former employer found a place for me here. A competitor since bought us out. I was and still am a salaried employee and also receive overtime pay. I lost 30-35% of my income (all overtime pay) when I moved here but I wasn't gone out of town 30-40% of the time. I was able to spend more time with my family. I could load the family up.....drive 2 hours into the mountains .....fish in a rushing river....see mountain goats, eagles, black bear, elk, moose, whitetail and mule deer. In short, it was my style of living.

Knowing what I know about employment in remotes areas....today I'd recommend somebody becoming an electrician rather than a BSEE if they wanted to live in a remote area. Every little logging or cow town has use for an electrician. The needs for a BSEE are few, far between and intermittant at best in those same towns.

You really have to know what you "likes" are to plan your education. But...somethings you only find out through experience! :o

Matthew Springer
08-26-2005, 1:21 PM
>BTW I took up scuba diving to get the marine biology thing out of my system.

To follow up on what Frankie said above: If you really have it in yor heart to go do something, go do it, esle it will leak out in weird ways. I became an engineer because I wanted to build things with my hands. No such luck, engineers do math and type on computers. So I ended up building my own guitar gear as a hobby which got me into woodworking again building case wrok for my amps. So for me it was a combination of job + hobby that got me what I needed.

Also one other thing, no career can make you happy even if you love it. If you are looking at a career to tell you who you are and what you're worth, you're looking in the wrong place. Those kinds of questions and needs are _way_ deeper than what you work at.


Matt Meiser
08-26-2005, 2:24 PM
I thought I knew in HS that I wanted to be an engineer, electrical or mechanical. Ended up getting an EE degree and going to work for Caterillar programming the onboard computers. Hated living in Peoria (sorry to those that live there :) ) so took the first job I got offered with a consulting company back here in Michigan. Did "real" electrical engineering (lighting, power, etc.) for a while until we got a big plant floor IT job. Liked doing that, so I did a few more projects in that area. One day a customer requested that we do some web programming for him. I had ever done it before, but I volunteered. Been doing that ever since. In late 2000 I began to learn about software architecture and was recently given the title of Senior Software Architect. I also have to do a lot of project management. Several months ago I was really hating my career and seriously thought about doing something else. I talked to several people about it and thought about it more and haven't changed anything. It brings in a good paycheck, but I see a lot of other people who enjoy work more than I do.

Keith Christopher
08-26-2005, 4:39 PM
After exiting the Military I looked and looked in the local papers and it seems that combat soldier was no where to be found. I decided I needed to dispense looking for a job that my military skills would help me obtain. :) So a friend of mine got me an entry level computer position within a HP UNIX (HP/UX) shop. I worked while going to school. And that is how I do what I do now. I've worked plenty of different things, even as an animator. But computers were easy for me so I stuck with them. But I always liked working wood. So it's been a companion of mine for my whole life it seems. I think I would completely enjoy a full time wood working business, but more so to accept jobs to supplement my retirement income _vs_ earn my income.


Gary Herrmann
08-26-2005, 7:24 PM
I'm never going to be one of those people that can answer the question - where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I've got a Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. My first few years out of school I was a statistician (36 hrs of stats classes in grad and undergrad).

After that I was a management consultant. Got into that because I was subbing to another consultancy, got to know the people and they asked me if I'd like to use my degree. So I did reengineering, change management, org development etc for 6 years. Towards the end of that I was always managing projects that involved the installation of some enterprise system or another. Last two, budgets were tight so my boss asked me to figure out how to customize the systems. So I started writing code.

After doing that for a few years, I started consulting as a business analyst, project manager and management consultant, and gradually just did IT work only. Now, I'm a full time IT PM.

If I look at my jobs and my roles, the basic skill sets seem (at least to me) pretty similar and consistent. Be presented a problem or a goal, figure out a potential solution, work with a team to deliver it.

What do I like about my work? Working with the client to help them figure out what they need, then working with my team to deliver.

But I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up...

Ken Fitzgerald
08-26-2005, 7:46 PM
Donnie....Thanks for starting this thread! It's interesting to read the stories of different people's career paths and personal philosophies on careers vs happiness!

Bob Borzelleri
08-27-2005, 11:21 AM
I guess my career picked me. On the other hand, I should probably own up to the fact that I have had several fits and starts along the way and some probably qualify more than others as having "picked me"?

Your niece sounds like she wants to focus on a career where she can have a positive effect on the lives of people who might otherwise end up with a pretty sad life experience. If that is what is motivating her, then I know the feeling and thought process she is currently experiencing.

My first significant job was as a counselor at a county juvenile hall. That prospect came about while I was a junior college student working in in the campus student advisor's offices. I used to administer Kuder Vocational Preference tests (anybody remember those?)

What preceded all this was me dropping out of high school at 14 (my parents had died a few months apart) and living in a one room apartment over a small neighborhood grocery store. I worked in local tomato fields, washed dishes at the W.T. Grant department store lunch counter, pumped gas at the local Shell station (until I refused to use Shell furniture polish to clean oil filters instead of actually changing them) and generally did what I could to keep eating regularly. On occasion, I found myself watching for grocery delivery trucks parked by the stairs leading up to my room. Living for a week on a case of peas had a lastng impression on me; I have only recently started appreciating split pea soup.

One day I decided that things weren't going very well and that I should consider whether I really wanted to coast along and simply take what comes my way or to make some effort to improve my opportunities. Up to that point, I had felt that opportunities were something that apparently came along for other people because none were dropping in on me.

My first step was to figure out what to do about not having graduated from high school. I was eighteen by now and was able to enter junior college so long as I could demonstrate a willingness to succeed. My goal was to earn credits toward a high school diploma. At that time, it was possible to attend junior college to earn a H.S. diploma or to transfer credits to a state university, but not toward both (today, one can apply credits to both goals). By the time of my second semester, I was on academic probation. While there was a hint of truth to the notion that my lack of H.S. experience made things a bit difficult (study habits and the like), the truth is that I spent most of my first semester making up for the fact that I hadn't had any high school social experiences.

One of the conditions that accompanied my academic probation was the work study job reporting to the Dean of Students. Perhaps he saw something in me that I hadn't been aware of. In fact, the effect that evolved from his interest has been with me all my life. He called me in one day and said that he was ending my work study job in his office. I remember staring at him and wondering where I had screwed up. He added that the local juvenile hall had called and needed someone to work the night shift. It would be a real job and I could study while on the job. I thought that might be a pretty good setup, but was totally unaware of the effect that decision would have on my life.

Back at school, I had picked up the slack to the point that, by the time I had enough credits to graduate (or transfer credits to the state university), I had made up for a full semester of failed grades to the point where my GPA was above the 2.0 level needed for either the H.S. diploma or to transfer the credits. One of the last things the folks at the student advisor's office did before I was off for the summer to decide what was next, was to throw a small office party for me. They gave me an envelope that contained my academic record. The faculty had gotten together and decided that my efforts following the disasterous first semester were sufficient to justify a decision that the first semester had not happened. Suddenly my GPA took a large turn upward and that was enough to help me make my decision to transfer on and go for a B.A.

Before I was finished with my late start formal education, I earned a B.A. in Social Work followed by a M.A. in Counseling Psychology and did all academic work toward a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. The Ph.D was interupted by a bout with cancer that left me reassessing my priorities and I eventually decided to spend more time getting well and never went back to complete the dissertation.

Along the way, I continued to hone my skills in counseling as a licensed therapist and as a counselor for severely disturbed adolescents. For much of my counseling experiences, I worked for California's Youth Authority in specialized parole and intensive treatment residential units. During a 2 1/2 year stint, I established a residential treatment center outside of Portland, Oregon which I had to opportunity to visit last summer. After 35 years, it is still going strong.

After quite a few years working directly with kids, it became apparent to me that a significant part of what was wrong with the immediate lives of the kids I was working with had little to do with how they developed as kids or young adults; what was having a significant effect on them was the institutional experience they were currently in. While the kids I was involved with had it much better than most in the Youth Authority system (since we were in an established treatment program, the kids were surrounded by trained and committed professionals), the vast majority of the institutional population were essentially warehoused in what were increasingly becoming training grounds for honing delinquent skills and mindsets. Added to that environment was the fact that criteria for staff hiring and training were increasingly leaning toward a "lock down" philosophy and the result was that California institutions for kids were fast becoming at least as significant a negative developmental factor as any family growth and development problem might present.

Several years working in direct service left me with the impression that I knew something about kids that appeared to be missing in the minds of the administrators of the agency. After several attempts to influence policy through the means that were then available for "line" staff, it became clear that, in order to be seen a serious contributor to the policy debate (to the extent that there was really any active debate at the time), I needed to have administrative or management experience under my belt first.

I decided to take an entirely different approach and left the Youth Authority to begin to establish myself in the "policy" realm of government. My plan was to get the kind of experience that Youth Authority policy makers would respect and to one day return and work to make Youth Authority institutions places where kids would have a fighting chance to leave the institutional experience in better shape than when they entered.

To make a long story less than complete, I never went back. Strangely enough, my venture out into the policy world resulted in me eventually being appointed to several high level positions in state government (by two Governors of different parties). While my original intent had been to simply become "validated" as a person who had some good ideas about government policy, along the way, I ended up running one of the largest environmental regulatory agencies in the country.

That's where the notion of the job picking me comes in. It's easy to get involved in new things and change what's important in life. Protecting the environment, during a time when environmental protection was just getting off the ground seemed to be a good thing to focus on while honing my policy development skills. What I hadn't considered was that I was fast becoming an integral part of the newly developing environmental ethic in the country and, over time, my plans to change the Youth Authority became a distant memory. When I was about 2 years from retirement and discussing my re-appointment to my job during the previous administration, I was asked if I would consider going to the Youth Authority as Director. It had been nearly 20 years since I had left and the irony of the offer was pretty intense. My decision was not as hard as I thought it would be. Since I knew that I would retire within 2 years, I had to consider what I might be able to accomplish during that period. Over the years, the agency had fallen into such disarray that legislative hearings and revealing newspaper articles were commonplace. Lines had been drawn in the sand between staff and management and the kids had long ago been relegated to bit players in the drama. It was clear to me that necessary changes would take 5-10 years and, after 35 years in public service, I didn't have 5-10 more years to give. I passed on the offer and accepted a re-appointment to the position I later retired from.

Let me offer the following as advice for your neice.

Do what you love to do and the rewards will come. If they don't come, it could be because you were not realistic in what you thought you could or should accomplish. Many people go into the helping professions with the thought they they will become a more complete person as they help others grow. The problem with that expectation is that some folks will not grow. Others will grow in fits and starts and you might never see the fruits of your efforts. If you can come to grips with the notion that doing your best is the best you can do, then satisfaction is not as difficult to attain as people often think.

One day you might look around and decide that there is at least as much wrong with the external circumstances your clients live in as there is with their decison making processes. Then you will find yourself in the middle of a very old conflict in the field of therapy; are you an agent of change with respect to how your client thinks, feels and behaves or should you take on the external factors that often help keep people in self defeating places? People who do not make that distinction conciously are destined to fight its effects throughout their career with little probability for satisfaction. You don't always have to focus on one approach or the other, but you do have to understand what you are taking on and when.

At this stage of your life, you have probably already decided that the rewards of helping people make their lives more meaningful go beyond the relative value of money. I must admit that I felt that for many years. However, when it came time for me to decide whether I would continue to pursue the Ph.D., I did a quick calculation of what I was then earning (in the environmental protection field) and what I would have to charge clients, as a Clinical Psychologist, in order to come close to maintaining the lifestyle my family had grown accumstomed to. Using our then lifestyle as a standard, my rates as a Clinical Psychologist would have eliminated most of the people who I had entered the field to help in the first place. Ultimately, I decided that my work to help improve peoples lives had taken a different but equally important turn and that that was OK with me.

Good luck with your decision.


Bob Nieman
08-27-2005, 4:22 PM
A timely topic. My oldest just started college and is sure she wants to be an occupational therapist. I couldn't imagine being so sure at her age. It would be a good fit with her personality though.

As for me, I went into college knowing I would major in science--either biology (what I loved) or chemistry (my dad's a prof). After my third class of calculus I decided for sure to go with biology despite all the pre-meds (chemistry required another math class). Fall term junior year I took geology enjoyed it so much I seriously considered changing majors.

After college I moved to Phoenix with the idea of taking a year off and then go to grad school. I worked as a landscape laborer for 6 back-breaking months and then ended up going into construction surveying for 3 years. Not exactly what I wanted to do, but inertia (security) is a powerful thing once you start paying bills and starting a family. I did apply to grad school, but my application was lost. I realized that I knew a lot of unemployed PhD ecologists, so I started taking classes toward teaching certification and a Master's. Ran out of classes I could take at night and got laid off.

Saw a job opening at a hazardous waste storage facility and decided that it wouldn't be a bad job to get into. $6/hr, part time and no benefits/no promises was scary, but I went for it. I left that job 11 years later (and 5 years too late). It was *never* boring, especially cleaning up meth labs. It didn't pay all that well, but my next job was much better (explosives!). A few months later one of my customers from the previous job started harrassing me to apply (I had done so twice, only to lose the job to locals with less experience). I was very hesitant but decided to apply, but only for a much better salary. They didn't flinch and here I am back in a small town where I belong, raising my family and getting involved in all sorts of interesting things that would have never happened in Phoenix. I am in Transportation, especially of radioactive waste. Not the sort of thing anyone plans to do. Looking back, planning seems to have very little to do with where I am and how I got here.

I see life as a number of paths both taken and not. So long as there is something interesting along the way, I usually don't regret the path not taken. I refuse to let my job get boring! I have learned to write Access databases to make my job easier and some have become indispensible. I have managed to continue biology as an avocation, whether volunteering at a raptor rehab center, editing a newsletter for Audubon or conducting bird counts. Next week I will probably officially become the Go-To Guy for critter challenges at work (birds nesting in vital pieces of equipment, etc.). Inertia is still a powerful force in my life (especially with a kid in a state college). I doubt that I will be here the rest of my life. After 25 years in the desert southwest I would like to get back to someplace greener and wetter.

Dale Thompson
08-28-2005, 5:42 PM
Donnie....Thanks for starting this thread! It's interesting to read the stories of different people's career paths and personal philosophies on careers vs happiness!

You are MORE than right! It's been a GREAT thread and has given us a chance to know each other better. Now I know that even a "bottom feeder" like me has a chance to succeed. :)

From all of the above, it sounds like what I have to do is "get the lead out", get an education in SOMETHING I like, learn a few things about "redin, riten and rithmatic", look up the word "computer" to see what it means and go on to higher heights than I have ever known. ;)

I am very impressed by the number of folks who answered who are into "computer science" related subjects. My engineering days in college involved a slide rule and an occasional shot of "light" oil to make it work faster during an exam. Be that as it may, I have recently updated my computer to a Commodore 64. It will be a challenge to convert my 2kb memory to the advanced system but I will depend on my "buddies" to help me. :cool:

Anyway, as a last note to Donnie's niece, I would suggest that she be realistic in her pending choice of careers. Engineering aside, I REALLY wanted to be a writer or a journalist. The problem is, in those fields, the initial remunerations were far too small to support a family. In any event, I can now use these dreams without having to worry about making a living. My literature interests range from the Works of Shakespeare to the writings of Hemmingway and Churchill and extend to a total dedication to Tom Clancy.

Believe it or not!! :) My range in music appreciation is even GREATER than my interest in literature!! :eek: THAT interest ranges ALL THE WAY from Johnny Cash to Willie Nelson!! Most of the time, my flexibility in this area even amazes ME!! I MUST be some kind of a music genius!! :) :) ;)

Dale T.

larry merlau
08-29-2005, 10:09 AM
I too had a dream, wanted to be a conservation officer. got told in a pre-college meeting that the waiting list was over 3 yrs to get a job. well i couldnt go 3 yrs without job, dad had that instilled at an early age :) so i opted for my next best dream. to be a shop teacher i had done well in those classes and enjoyed it alot. helped teach it in the last 2 years of my high school years.. well i was off to my vocation i thought, pride stepped up to the plate and the finiances ran out. got married and needed a secure real job and trying to work full time and go to school fulltime wasnt working so after 2yrs of that i left that dream on the stove for someone else to acquire. stayed with the real secure job till the door closed on me after ten years. thought it would be back but that didnt happen, got into construction which i had done partime while working fulltime at the foundry. and that was going good, another partial dream was to be a carpenter when i was young. then the jobs ran out in the factories for awhile, and everyone who could pick up a hammer did in our area and so the jobs got less and the pay as well! made for some real tight winters. fortunatly i was able to get a printing job that was steady and had medical insurance. on the way back up the ladder, but now that ship is sinking and i am headed back to the hammer again. i never left it and its a good thing to have something to fall back on. as for the neice issue, i have raised 2 daughters and have been fortunate to get them both threw college and they have gotten good jobs. just the other day my youngest asked my opinion on what she should do in a new job offer. i told her the same thing i had tried to for years, get somethng that you like becasue your gonna be at it for a long time. well i quess it sunk in. she told us that she had decided against the promotion. becasue she felt she could do more of what she wanted to acheive and have more free time with what she was doing and that money wasnt her main objective :D so as to my dreams i got another one granted that day she had become smarter than me and made me proud. oh i got to have another dream fullfilled during my stint as a normal guy. i have had the oppurtuntiy to help out the fisheries division on my area with fish surveying and restocking for a few years. no pay but i got my appetite for being in the conservation field filled. and the dream of being a carpenter well that one is still being enjoyed and soon to be done more so. so my advice to your neice is like so many of the others. do what you want, when you can and let the other work out later. you can never get rich enough to be happy but you can be happy doing what you want. so what ever happens next //this redneck is ready. might have to step in a differnt direction but i aint dead yet.

Donnie Raines
08-29-2005, 10:18 AM
Donnie....Thanks for starting this thread! It's interesting to read the stories of different people's career paths and personal philosophies on careers vs happiness!

This thread has been great. I am really enjoying the varity of jobs we all have, and the means by which we fell into them. I appreciate everyones candor.

Karl Laustrup
08-29-2005, 3:20 PM
Be that as it may, I have recently updated my computer to a Commodore 64. It will be a challenge to convert my 2kb memory to the advanced system but I will depend on my "buddies" to help me. :cool:

Dale T.

Pesh, had I known I would have made you a great deal on my '82 vintage Texas Instruments 'puter. It had a 10MB hard drive and I think a wee bit more memory than your upgrade. :D Besides everything was on 5" floppys, so you didn't need a whole lot of hard drive memory. :eek: :D

Alas, I've given it to St. Vincent de Paul to be used as a boat anchor for the S.S. Badger. They say it's just what they've been looking for. ;) :eek:


P.S. Sorry, all didn't mean to hijack the thread.

Mark Singer
08-29-2005, 4:01 PM

I really love your story and it is exactly how I feel...love it and well told!

Joe Blankshain
08-29-2005, 5:41 PM
As the fall school year begins, this is one of the more timely topics of discussion I have been able to participate in, let alone learn from. I (like others) was looking to architecture as the answer to sooth my creative mind. As I graduated from HS (1977) my mother said "architects are starving and CS folks are eating well". How she knew this I still do not know, but taking her advise as sage-like wisdom EE was where I went. After a BSEE from University of Illinois and a MSCE from MIT, along with career moves with companies like TRW (sat guidance system development), Bell Labs (Unix kernel development), AT&T (Sr Systems Eng), three companies of my own (one e-commerce and two consulting) and multiple start ups I am still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.
At the age of 46, it might be time for a decision and with the support of the LOML I believe I may be on the right track. She is wife #2 (and the last one) and has a unique insight into how my brain functions. She has informed me that if I can locate us in a region that is not cost prohibitive, we can aquire enough property so that I can be left alone (about 5 acres) and still make a comfortable 6 figure income for the next 5 to 9 years she will allow me to quit and do woodworking full time. She's the best. As you have seen from a previous thread I have almost all of the equipment a man could want (except for the big Minimax and Felder stuff that some of you have-- I envy those individuals) so this track seems the best to follow. I just want to know how she figured it out for me.
That all said, I have been in technology for 25+ years, had some good and bad times. Some of the times have been great and my advise in those times is SAVE, SAVE, SAVE because they typically do not last unless your name is Gates. The advise I give many young people is to chase your dreams, but be able to support your stomach and keep a roof over your head. They look at me with a queried look and some figure it out after about 10 minutes.
I only hope that in the end, when its time to take that long sleep, they have a shop for all of us to create in together and a bar room for cool drinks.