A few weeks ago, I went to a round table discussion at the US Studies Centre, in which we talked about the academic program. There were a few postgrads there but, for the most part, the group was made up of high-achieving undergrads. Those running the session seemed particularly interesting in what could entice the undergrads to pursue a postgrad degree with the centre. And it was interesting, hearing them talk, because they were fixated with the idea that they would only pursue further study that would “help their careers”.
When it came time for me to contributes I tried- rather unsuccessfully, I think- to communicate to them how misguided the “help my career” idea is. Rarely does a degree open a specific opportunity- except, obviously, in more vocational training. But the fact the degree doesn’t deliberately present an opportunity doesn’t mean it is useless.
Before I enrolled in my Masters degree at the USSC, I applied- and was accepted- to a digital media program that would have been far more closely related to my “real life”. It would have provided expertise that helped me in my job. But, at the last minute, I decided I’d rather do something that interested me.
It was one of the better decisions I’ve made. Because while I thought the degree would edifying and enjoyable- which it certainly is- it has also enhanced my career in unexpected ways. By indulging in the intellectual stimulation the program provides, I’m more engaged and switched-on in all areas of my life: especially at work. And working on my communication skills- and being constantly challenged to improve, rather than remain complacent- makes me a better employee.
Plus, other opportunities are opening up for me. One is the UCWIP program. But I don’t have any idea the other things that may come about because of the program. They are unpredictable and uncertain, but likely. And while that uncertainty may once have been scary, it’s now rather exciting.
And this is what’s so difficult to communicate to those undergrads: there is great benefit in the non-vocational degrees. There is much purpose in pursuing education for its own sake. Because, strangely, opportunities arise regardless.
I got my big break in Sports Journalism (my previous life… well, my first career. That’s right, 25 and already on to career #2) when a guy spat on me at an Aussie Rules football game. He spat on me when yelling at the umpire, I turned around, we started talking. I became friends with the whole family. It turned out they knew a major Aussie Rules journalist. They introduced me to her. She introduced me to an editor who needed a part-time writer and within 6 months, I had what was then my dream job.
It’s hard to know sometimes where something will lead. That’s why it’s worth pursuing a degree for its own sake, rather than for where it’ll get you. Because chances are, it’ll do both.