Monday, November 8, 2010

A road diverged in a yellow wood...

I'll admit it. I was at a loss for a topic this morning. So, I did what usually do, and headed over to Art of Manliness to scout for an idea. Lo and behold, that website came through once again, and I have a topic!

Recently, a letter was sent to the Art of Manliness from a reader who is having some second guesses about his career choice. He is just months away from earning a degree in library science, but recently came to the realization that he would rather be a farmer. In response to this fellow, Brett McKay, the editor of AoM, responded via a video that you can watch here. However, I wanted to tackle this question and relate a bit of my personal experience. I'm hoping that it might help those DeMolays out there who are bound for college and looking for a career path.

I didn't start out wanting to be a full time Masonic youth facilitator.  Heck, I didn't join until I was 18, and as we know, career choices start long before then! When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a psychiatrist. An older gentlemen, who was a friend of my family, worked in this field and I thought it would be a great life to have. However, I soon realized that 4 years of undergraduate work, 4 years of medical school, followed by 4 years of psychiatric instruction was more than I was willing to undertake. I lowered my goals to being a psychologist. That job would only take 6 to 8 years of school, which seemed like a better alternative.

After graduating high school I enrolled in the Psychology program at Edinboro State University. Edinboro is actually well known for their psychology department, which is one of the best amongst the state system of higher education. I spent my first three years doing all the things psych majors do. We talked about therapy, learning, and social norms. We wrote papers, ran experiments, and played with rats. During my junior year I had the good luck to enroll in a Counseling class taught by Dr. Gary Labine. Dr. Labine, and his wife Susan, both taught in the psychology program at Edinboro. Mrs. Labine was a clinical psychologist, whereas Mr. Labine didn't even have a degree in psychology at all - his background was in counseling itself. This class was a real eye opener to me, for two reasons. Firstly, I realized that I didn't need a true psychology degree to help people, and secondly, I didn't want to spend the rest of my life counseling folks. Quite honestly, the idea of dealing with emotional baggage and being lied to by clients all day didn't appeal to me.

I decided to consult Dr. Labine, as well as some other faculty, as to what I should do. I explained my hesitations and they agreed that being a counselor / psychologist wasn't going to be a good career move for me. One of the professors, Dr. Morrow, a social psychologist, suggested that perhaps Industrial / Organization Psychology would better suit. This field dealt more with productivity and the workplace. I was intrigued, but, sadly, Edinboro didn't offer a course in this field.

It just so happened that at about the same time as my career crisis was occurring, another crisis was brewing where I was working. I spent my college years working at Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park in Erie. I started as a shift supervisor in the food court, but after two years, that job was wearing thin. I spoke to our Director of Operations who described a need for someone to handle training and efficiency within the business. He gave me a chance at the job and I found I really liked it. The only problem was that the job was nebulous and not well defined. I spent about 6 months doing what I thought needed to be done, as well as working as a Guest Services Supervisor. We went through some management changes and my role was redefined as a Human Resources Coordinator. I hadn't really had a lot of experience in Human Resources, but I quickly learned that it was similar to industrial /organizational psychology, so I went with it.

I learned a lot during my first year in Human Resources. It was a great experience that led me to better define my career path. I graduated from Edinboro in 2006 with a BA in Psychology, specializing in learning and development. Realizing that I still needed more education, I applied to Capella University, a distance learning school, and was accepted into their Masters of Science in Organizational Management program, with a specialization in HR Management. As I was beginning my graduate course work, there were big changes happening in my community. A new casino was opening up and I applied for an HR job there. Miraculously, I  got an interview and was hired shortly thereafter.

I was the only Human Resources Generalist for the casino (which means I did anything and everything HR related.) We hired 800 employees in 6 months! Holy cats did I learn a lot! I spent time dealing with employee injuries, unemployment claims, reports, and the PA Gaming Control Board. I loved it! I really found my calling. I was earning my graduate degree and working a job I liked. This was the life!

Then, one day, I was reading through a website relating to a hobby I enjoyed when I stumbled across an advertisement they had posted for a Human Resources Generalist. On a whim, I applied. A week later I got a call and had a phone interview with a recruiter. I was stunned - I never thought I would get a call! Two days later, the recruiter called me back and arranged for me to fly to the company headquarters in Baltimore for a day of interviews. At the end of that day, I got an offer, including a moving allowance, to go to work for this company. It also helped that the salary was 50% more than what I was making at the casino. I jumped at the chance and quickly found myself moving to Maryland.

My new duties entailed coordinating benefits and other HR related functions for a national retail chain with roughly 60 stores. The best part was that I was working for a company in a hobby that I really enjoyed. It was a really fun job and the stories I have from my time there are some of the craziest work related tales I can muster. There is another part to this story, however.

I had been in Maryland for about a week. I was living in hotel and trying to acclimate myself to this new life. I was surfing the internet in my hotel room when "Dad" Labagh contacted me via instant message and discussed the possibility of me working at PMYF. Sadly, having just taken this new job, I was in no place to up and leave. I had to turn him down. This was a full year before I started working at PMYF. I had a new job and was enjoying it, and PMYF went to the back burner.

Ten months later I had grown unhappy at my new place of employment. There were some major management changes and my new supervisor and I didn't quite see eye to eye. I started floating my resume around to some other places to see if I could find something else. I hadn't even thought of trying PMYF again. Then, out of the blue, "Dad" Labagh calls me and asks if I'd be interested in the job at PMYF - he hadn't filled the position during the year I was working and wondered if I was in a situation to move on. I jumped at the opportunity. Shortly thereafter, in the fall of 2008, I left Maryland for Elizabethtown to work at PMYF. It was one of the best decisions I ever made!

But, as most of you know, I do very little in regards to Human Resources here at PMYF. Honestly, I mostly use skills I was taught in High School, like web page design. There is still a little bit of psychology and HR, though (I do have to deal with the Elected State Officers!) So, as you can see, it was a long strange road! From wanting to be a Psychiatrist to ending up at PMYF, it was a course I could have never predicted.

Now, what does my long, and probably boring, story have to do with you? It's a simple answer - it's okay to change your mind and follow your heart. Sometimes where we start is where we end, but I 'm willing to bet that most of the time it's not. You're going to change majors. You're going to have doubts. That's okay and perfectly normal! Remember, life is about enjoying the journey, not about the end result.

S.K. George A. Hulsinger, a Past Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Pennsylvania, had a great theme for his year in office. It was very simple - "Live Your Dash." By that he meant that every person eventually passes on from this plane of existence. A tombstone usually reads "Date of Birth - Date of Death." It's the dash between those two that is really important, for that is where you live your life and have an impact on others. Don't be afraid to change your mind from time to time. It's all a part of growing up and living your "dash."

Frat!~"Dad" Seth Anthony

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