I still remember the day I almost wasn’t a communications major. I was enrolling for classes at a community college after high school. My plan was to take general education courses with a few introductory classes for my major mixed in, and then transfer everything to a larger university.
My parents wanted me to study business. I loved to write and wanted to go into journalism, but that field was competitive and the pay wasn’t great. They believed I would earn more money if I studied something else. I signed up for a semester’s worth of gen. ed. and business courses at a local community college.
I held my schedule in my hands after it printed out. Microeconomics and macroeconomics were two classes where I would be a future student — and it made me burst into tears.
“I can’t do it!,” I cried to my mom on our drive home together. “I can’t take these classes. We have to go back tomorrow and change everything.”
The next day, I went back to the community college and switched all of the business courses with communications classes. I held my schedule in my hands after it was printed out. This time, I was going to be a future student in persuasion and oral communications 101. Everything about this felt right. This felt like me.
The difference between the two schedules was that I saw a future where I failed in the first one and a future where I succeeded in the second one. There’s no real way of knowing if I would have failed those business classes, of course. But what I knew, even then, was being a business major would have been an endless uphill battle. I would have to work extra hard because it did not come naturally to me. I would have to smile extra hard to fake for everyone, including myself, that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Communications would be just as competitive and difficult. However, the difference was that the work would be cemented in passion.
Over the last decade, I have worked hard and had incredible experiences as a writer. I never had to fake my enthusiasm for where I was because I naturally loved the field. My parents later admitted I made the right choice, and I haven’t looked back since the day my business schedule was tossed into the shredder.
I have always been curious about women that have gone into career fields because it was what their parents wanted. Did it turn out to actually be the best fit, one where mom and dad knew best? Or did they change their minds and pivot into another industry instead? We asked three women what happened when they took the job their parents considered safe. This is what they said:
LaKeshia Orr describes herself as a person possessing “a nomadic spirit.”
“I live for a healthy dose of randomness!,” Orr says. “I am not afraid of the unknown and gravitate towards where every day is different.”
Many of the jobs Orr has held throughout her career were sales positions. Some were based on commission, which her parents were less than fond of. They advised Orr to find a “real job” with a 40-hour work week, 401(k) plan and healthcare benefits. Eventually, to the delight of her parents, she became an administrative assistant at Mercy Hospital.
However, Orr quickly found the change in careers to be too cushy. The desk job was good for stable checks, getting weekends off and eventually fulfilling retirement purposes. But she missed the randomness of her old sales gigs more, along with their ability to combat all sorts of the monotony that life threw her way.
“What I learned from the experience is a bit more about myself. I know that what makes me happy goes beyond a dollar amount.”
Lauren McManus worked hard in college to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. McManus then went on to receive an MBA and CPA license. She was steadily on the path towards a traditionally successful career — in the eyes of her parents.
However, months after she received her CPA license, McManus quit her lucrative accounting job. She announced to her parents that she wanted to try being a full-time blogger.
How did they take the news? McManus knew that her parents wanted her to have a secure job, and accounting provided that kind of security. But they also wanted her to be happy with her career.
“I feel very lucky that they ended up being incredibly supportive of me getting into a completely insecure line of work,” McManus says.
McManus, now a professional blogger at Create and Go, has since found her passion and is working to teach others how they can do the same thing. She even attributes her accounting background as a big help in starting her business.
“I’m grateful to do what I’m passionate about while traveling the world with a location-independent profession.”
Trudy Kortes didn’t plan to become a NASA engineer. She pursued an engineering career because of her dad’s encouragement.
“It wasn’t what I would have chosen for myself,” Kortes admits, saying that her good friends were also confused by the decision.
But taking her father’s advice changed her life. Kortes worked her way through project management, eventually becoming a program executive at NASA Headquarters. Now, she runs a division for human exploration and space operations as a Senior Manager at NASA. She’s also a speaker and consultant for women in leadership in technical and STEM fields.
“I have made the most of my degree and taken opportunities that would otherwise not have been open to me,” Kortes says. “It allowed me to parlay my career into such an exciting field. I guess father knows best after all!”
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