One Friday when the band director said learn and memorize as many scales as possible and be able to play them on command by Monday morning, for some reason, I decided I was on a mission. The directive just didn’t seem difficult to me. I thought, “well, all I have to do is simply practice over and over until I got them.” I knew I only had to commit one weekend so I thought, “why not - let’s go for it.”
That Monday morning when I started playing all manner of exotic scales in perfect consistent tempo at 2 and 3 octaves from my practically bloody lips, I won first chair. I had never before won anything. I was not going to give up that high. I think one of my best friends beat me a couple of times on those weekly chair tests, but for the most part I remained 1st chair until I graduated high school. I played in concert band, orchestra and jazz groups and won many of the standard competitions for which many other middle and high school students competed.
It was fun and it was what I could do. So when college time came along, what else was I to do but study music. Everyone I knew assumed that this was what I would do. When schools around my state started offering me scholarships, I assumed that this was what I should do.
College Years: Not Quite as Rosy
I came into college with similar musical experience and ability as my peers. Suddenly the nerves set in. During these years, every time I auditioned for a college ensemble, I choked. Though I would practice tons in preparation for these auditions such that I could practically always perform each excerpt requested from memory, the tone that was generated from the tightening of my throat sounded wobbly and shaky. Naturally, this also made everything else about my performance suffer. Why couldn’t I just go with the flow like I did in practice and just enjoy playing the music? I guess I will never know the answer to that one. I have deliberated for years, but can never figure it out. Perhaps it was because while I experienced often weekly chair tests in high school and multiple other competitions (if I blew it I always knew there would soon be another one), placements for positions in the best ensembles in college were usually made only annually. Needless to say this performance hindrance killed my then dream of a career in music.
A New Career Path
The parting of the private lesson instructor with whom I had studied for 4 years as an undergraduate impacted me greatly. When he gathered all of his students in his studio to inform us that he had accepted a faculty position at another university it set off a flare inside me. It was then that I started realizing just what all I had learned from that man. Both from direct instruction and simply from the modeling of his ever-professional behavior, I learned how to manage my time, communicate with others professionally and respectfully, balance the many pressures of practice, rehearsals, free time, rest, etc. When I realized just how much I had learned from him, I realized not only why his parting impacted me so strongly, but also what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The answer soon became entirely clear.
I happened upon a man at the same university who managed a master’s program in higher education administration and I thought it sounded fascinating. To study how colleges work in preparation for a job wherein you assist college students (e.g., admissions, residence life, student activities, advising/counseling) sounded like preparation to assist others as my private lesson instructor had. This sounded ideal. I studied with many retired college presidents and learned how things worked in various types of colleges and universities.
When I later accepted my first job out of my master’s degree as a university career counselor, I was not thrilled about having to take a career assessment myself and the idea of using these assessments with students to help them decide about a college major and career choice. When I completed the assessments and discovered how much insight they revealed about me, I was blown away. The results indicated that I and others like me (who were a very small percentage of the U.S.) were natural counselors. The results included a long list of helping professions like clergy, psychologist, professor, etc.
At that time I looked back at my many years struggling to figure out what I should do with my life. I thought that had I known this information before, I might not have chosen music. I realized, however, that most of the helping professions listed required a graduate degree and that the undergraduate degree area mattered not. So my bachelor’s degree major could have been in anything. While I realized that I had not spent time or resources on a degree that would not lead me to my next goals, I was very pleased to learn of the results.
As I realized I was preparing for a life working in a college, I thought it logical to study a bit about how we learn, so I completed my doctorate in Education. As I studied the history of formal education throughout the world, and all sorts of ways to measure learning, I focused on career assessment. I studied theories about how we develop throughout our lives in terms of career, differences in men’s and women’s career issues, and how to assist clients in making sense of career assessment results.
After career counseling for a few years, I spent many years teaching psychology, as a department chair, dean, and then campus director. While I greatly enjoyed academic administration, the issue that bothered me most was about career guidance. As I would attend professional meetings of senior college administrators, the issue always arose of how to let the citizenry know of the opportunities available to them via their colleges and universities. Also, everyone wanted to know how to retain students through graduation and ensure that they secured gainful employment for a satisfying career afterward. Increasingly, it occurred to me that budget constraints and the sheer volume of individuals needing career guidance were likely to continue to impede colleges and universities from offering the level of support that anyone entering college or considering a career change needed. This is why EPIC Career was born. I thought it only made sense to use my background in higher education administration and expertise about career assessment directly to individuals who seek it.
Have you likewise experienced confusion about your career path? Have you wondered if there is a career that would be a better fit than the one that you are currently focused on? If so, seek career guidance. At EPIC Career, we are here to help.