As a fresh college graduate I cringed at the question, “A history degree? What are you going to do with that?”
Twenty years later, I can happily answer, “Not what I thought.” Back when I was graduating, I never could have imagined the path my career would take.
I give a fair amount of credit for my ability to evolve and grow professionally to the numerous continuing education opportunities made available to me over the years. Grant writing, database management, group mediation, customer service, budget analysis, event planning, graphic design, and media relations weren’t taught as part of my history major, but I can now say I have a strong command of each thanks to conferences, seminars, classes, and other continuing education sources.
Coming out of college my first job was as a curator at a local history museum. On paper, I was going to do exactly what I had studied in school—exhibit research and artifact cataloging. In reality, though, the staff was small, money was tight, and I quickly had to learn how to write grants, plan events, lead programs, and balance a budget. Thank goodness for conferences, seminars, and mentors willing to liberally share their knowledge!
Making the leap from museum curator to city cultural program coordinator meant I was again thrown into the deep end. My history degree hadn’t taught me to plan concerts and theatre shows and Fourth of July. I had a lot to learn. I took advantage of every continuing education opportunity I was given. I took customer service classes, more grant writing courses, Microsoft Office training, and mediation training. I would have given almost anything for a class on nonprofit management and board relations like the ones offered at UNLV! I enrolled in some basic graphic arts courses so that I could start designing my own posters for concerts and community events.
My skills grew enough that when a communications position opened up within the department, I was ready. I completed a graphic design training program similar to the one offered through UNLV. I went to a “revenue school” to acquire marketing, budgeting, and other financial management tools.
Continuing education allowed me to guide my career in unexpected directions. Now that I am in a position where I help market continuing education opportunities, I love having the personal experience of seeing how training can be transformative.
My advice to those in every phase of their career would be to take advantage of training opportunities whenever you can. Conferences, classes, and cross-training all give you skills you can use as you move up or move on. Continuing education lets you steer your career in new, exciting directions. You, too, will be amazed by the unexpected path your career can take.
Post by Amy Tartaglia Johns