I was once told your bachelor's degree is for what you think you would like to do, your master's degree is for what you know you want to do, and your doctoral degree is for what you would like to teach.
I began my higher education journey in the fall of 2002 at the University of Central Oklahoma. I originally went to school with the intention of doing theater. After discovering most of the students were more talented than I would ever be, I changed my major to Broadcast Communications and decided to chase a lifelong love with the media, news, and politics. During my senior year of college with 12 credit hours to go before graduating, I decided on a different route. Out of nowhere, I felt I was being called to do nonprofit work. Soon, I graduated and felt confused about what to do next. Luckily, I had made a small impact at UCO and was called upon to be the founding Coordinator of Commuter Student Services. During that time, I volunteered extensively and fell even more in love with the nonprofit sector. After three years, I moved on to become the Assistant Director of the Volunteer and Service Learning Center. By this point in my story, I was enamored with the nonprofit sector and knew this was the life for me.
From 2007-2011, I felt the pull of an advanced degree. Working in higher education meant that if you wanted more money, you needed more education. Due to my change of heart, I decided against a degree in adult education or pursuing student affairs. At the same time, I began to feel lost within my home state of Oklahoma. When I looked at our flag and its people, I no longer saw myself. After much thought and countless conversations, I decided to move to Seattle. This fresh start would give me an opportunity to chase my passion and finally achieve a master's degree.
In August of 2011, I began the Nonprofit Leadership Program at Seattle University. It was my sincere hope that in two short year's I would be equipped with all the tools I needed to be the executive director of a nonprofit someday in the future. Like most, if not all programs at a university, I was made to feel like all my wildest aspirations would be answered by getting a degree. I would earn more, be promoted more often, and that I shouldn't worry about student loan debt, because my earning potential would increase. When colleges deliver these messages, they are right. Statistics are on their side. People with degrees earn more than those without. So, after four years, I decided to jump back in the game. Two years flew by. I turned my tassel with pride. I hung my new degree on the wall and soaked up the compliments and praise. Then, the real fun began.
Since earning my degree in June of 2013, I have applied for some 200 jobs all across the country and only been interviewed twice. I've had my resume professionally reviewed. I have been coached on interview skills. I have attended more networking events than I count. I work my professional and social network every single time I apply for a job. I have volunteered with causes important to me. I have watched as other members of my cohort have moved onto to other jobs or advanced degrees. I have done all that I know to do to land a job, yet here I sit. As I reflect, I can't help, but wonder was the degree worth it? Were the stats Seattle U floated me and the expectations I created for myself nothing, but empty promises?
As a reader of this article, you may be asking yourself a very fundamental question... How does this apply to me? I am choosing to tell this story, because it is mine. I am fully aware that results may not be typical. When I catch up with members of my cohort, I know this to be true. My story is true to me and I also know I am not alone. I know of other graduates who are not having their expectations met. I know of other graduates who are finding the job market frustrating. I know of others who are questioning their degree. At this point, I do not blame Seattle University or any other school who makes such promises. My time within the hallowed halls of higher education was profound. I learned more than I will ever use. I am a better fundraiser, employee, and person, because of my time there. If anything, my point here is a public question I know lots of us are asking... When will my ship come in? It is this question I would like to close this post pondering.
The truth of the matter is this, your ship may never come. The work we are doing now may be as good as it gets. Ultimately, we are promised nothing. Universities can boast about their stats and use beautifully worded brochures highlighting success stories to convince you progress is just around the corner and they should. As they do, realize those results may not be yours. You may work really hard, dive deep into the sector, doing everything you should, and still fall short. In these moments, we are tested. Our patience is tested by people who tell us to be patient. Our resolve is tested by the sense of failure. Out confidence is tested by those who we see succeeding. This test is ours and I truly believe that it will make us better people and more well rounded employees. Our trials are not failures. If we maintain our strength, they are iron sharpening iron. They provide opportunities to make our current work more impactful. If are ship does decide to finally arrive, I am positive we will be the employees people want. We've been tested. We are hungry. We will burst with joy when someone takes a chance on us and we will make it a decision they won't regret.
Be good to each other,