It is perhaps the oldest cliché in the book. The bored student sitting and pondering why he or she is sitting in this dumb class anyhow. After all, they wont ever use what they have learned will they? At least that is the common protest used by most bored to death students. Well, I can testify that the student who thinks that may have it all wrong, unless of course they are following the wrong career path, then they could be absolutely right. Had I gotten the right degree when I first set out on my career path perhaps that diploma would have turned out as promising as the one I received from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. So how did I get the right diploma the second time around and how did I make it work for me after I graduated?
Let’s take a look at my second degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, a degree in Residential Design. When I started out on the path to this degree I had a specific plan, which is what you need to do in order to make your degree work for you in the end. My plan was to graduate, finish designing my own home to perfection and then run a non-profit home renovation company right from my newly designed home. Finishing my own home, soon after receiving my degree was the integral part of my plan as my home would be the testimony needed to gain a potential client’s trust. Another important part of my plan was to bust serious butt in class and stick with my plans no matter the curve balls thrown at me, of which there were many along the way. As a matter of fact, when students discovered how hard this degree was to get, half of my class dropped out. Another half dropped out half way through the courses. By the time we graduated there were only about 4or 5 of us receiving this particular degree. Before I go on with this article I would like to note here that if you cannot get your heart into the degree for which you chose then perhaps this isn’t the right career path for you after all. I would suggest trying something different in a case like this. I had my heart fully invested in my degree and this made the bumps and bruises I received along the way that much more tolerable.
Once you have your plan set solidly into place and you are in a degree that you have your heart devoted to, getting your degree should be fairly simple. Just remember that a good college is going to test you for all your worth. As a matter of fact, a college, like the Art Institute, with practically torture you to death on your journey to a degree. This in fact is not a bad thing. Making college life difficult is the best thing a college can do for you. It prepares you for the real world in your chosen career. Let’s face it, real world residential design is not all roses, pretty clothes and perfect makeup like you see on TV. Real world design is about being in the trenches, trying to make split second decisions and diverting disaster around each and every turn. Nothing is more difficult then the real world of design and nothing was more difficult then my classes at the Art Institute. For their military like toughness, I am forever grateful. Long story short, if a college is way too wimpy with their curriculum, find another college and fast.
Once you have the proper college, a degree selection that matches your heart’s desire and a good solid plan you will ultimately have a degree that you will actually be able to use in real life. However, life, as real as it is, will always throw you curve balls, so be prepared. When I graduated I held in my hand the most important piece of paper, aside from family birth certificates. However, that is the only part of my plan that went right. I graduated in March and became pregnant in October. I had to ultimately relinquish my home’s remodel to my very accomplished but very slow friend. As the 9 months dragged on very slowly, so too did my house repairs. I tried to be present as much as I could but the pregnancy impaired me way too much. The following August my son was finally born but it was a very difficult birth so I was unable to work for several more months. After a good year and a half I was once again ready to get back to my plan, however, I now had a baby underfoot. So on and on and on dragged my home. Just when I thought my plan was totally bust my husband lost his job and Welfare helped us get a daycare. Looked bad but in reality it was probably the best thing to happen to my shelved plan. Quickly I incorporated my very own renovation business, that was a for profit company offering low cost services to the poor and low middle class home owners. Sure, I had to change from non-profit and my house was nowhere near finished but that is another key to using your degree well……..be very very flexible with your plan.
You know the old saying, “If life hands you lemons……….” My lemonade became the sweetest thing I had ever tasted I can tell you. I found that my customers appreciated that I was poor too and they could see that in my half finished house. I also found that my wealthier customers appreciated the fact that they could see the quality construction that would normally be hidden by sheetrock and the such. By having my house half finished I was actually gaining customer trust and not loosing it! Soon I found myself dipping constantly into my pool of knowledge provided by the Art Institute. Drafting for one customer and space planning a tight apartment for another. Everything had at least one component to it that I had learned in college. What I didn’t learn at the Art Institute I learned, just like everyone else, from my own mistakes. Like the light switch I installed upside down and the desk I built backwards (Don’t ask!).
What I am getting at is that my degree is providing a good half of the knowledge that I use everyday on my jobsites but college cannot teach you everything. Some things have to come to you the old fashioned way, through hard work, huge mistakes and the help of friends. Good luck in achieving your own career goals and in making your own degree work hard for you.