When the speaker at my college graduation suggested that we should be grateful to find a job, even one in the fast food industry, I left the stadium. As a daughter of a university professor who grew up on campuses across the country, I knew the economic and cultural advantages of an education and I wanted a career, not a job.
For the past four years I had held a variety of part-time jobs and was looking forward to finding fulfilling employment, not more of the same. It was not until I started looking for a job that I realized a college education does not guarantee a great job, but it does make learning new skills easier and landing better jobs possible.
I was thrilled to start my first job as a production secretary at the ABC soap opera, One Life to Live. I had my foot in the door and was exposed to new technologies, smart colleagues, and new ideas. Over the next several years, I applied for a variety of positions and moved up in the company—opportunities that I believe would not have been available to me if I did not have a college degree or if I failed to absorb new and innovative information at every step along the way.
In 1996, I left ABC as the director of multimedia and went off to take advantage of the phenomenal opportunities at technology companies that existed at that time. My education once again paid off when the technology bubble burst and I needed to rely on all the knowledge I had accumulated over the years to start the next chapter in my career.
I am grateful for my college education because it exposed me to diverse groups of people and ideas. Whether they were found in a textbook, lectures, or through osmosis, the college experience provided me with invaluable business and personal skills that gave me the confidence and ability to pry open doors to better career opportunities, better benefits, and increased earning power.
As our economy evolves, and demand for professional people who can think critically, utilize and exploit technology, and work collaboratively continues to increase, students and professionals should remember that education never stops. While a college education is expensive, I would encourage young readers to think long term, because the cost of an education pales in comparison to the price you will pay for not having the skills and degree you need to compete and excel in an ever-changing world.