Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You Can Find the Courage to Change Careers!

As my loyal Apostrophe Catastrophes readers have surely noticed, I haven’t been updating my blog as often as I once did. For the first three or four years of my blog’s existence, I updated it nearly every day. These days, I find myself too busy to post examples of grammar atrocities. But it’s not just that I’m too busy; I’m too happy! And it’s all thanks to my new career in education.

It may seem odd for a blogger to say this, but the less time I spend online, the better I feel. In my previous career as an editor, in which I felt trapped, I was using blogging as a means of escape. This cubicle, where I spent eight hours a day for three and a half years, felt like a prison.

No matter how many pictures of sheep or Lady Gaga I put up on the gray walls, there was nothing I could do to make the office atmosphere feel more pleasant nor my mindless administrative tasks feel more meaningful. Every day that ticked by, I felt my brain beginning to atrophy. I had majored in psychology as an undergraduate and yearned to make a difference in the world. But somehow, instead, I had found myself spending my days feeling like a soulless drone. I realized that I had hit rock bottom one morning when I sat in my car for fifteen minutes in tears, unable to bring myself to enter the prison of cubicles. The absolute worst moment was when I realized that I despised my job so much that it was even ruining my weekends! On Friday afternoons, when a normal person would feel a sense of relief (“TGIF!”), I was still overwhelmed by dread because all I could think was, “Ugh. Only 48 hours until I have to come back here.”

Not to toot my own horn, but I was an excellent editor; it simply didn’t suit my gregarious personality. To quote Herman Melville, “It is a very dull, wearisome, and lethargic affair. I can readily imagine that to some sanguine temperaments it would be altogether intolerable.” During one particularly low period, I spent three straight weeks cutting and pasting text into a Word document. I wasn’t even editing for content. It was truly abysmal and utterly pointless.

I half-heartedly applied for other editorial jobs, but I realized that I didn’t just need a new job; I needed a new career. For years, I had thought about going back to school to become a guidance counselor, but being trapped in a cubicle for years had worn down my confidence. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle a full-time job along with classes at night and homework. Most of all, I worried about how I would pay for school. I have a mortgage, and thinking about my finances sometimes literally kept me up at night. But if you truly want something in life, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I scrimped and saved and got three or four part-time jobs and somehow made it work. I tutored for the SAT (which I still do, post-graduation and is where I recently found the aforementioned quote from “Bartleby the Scrivener”), babysat, participated in psychological experiments at Harvard, and even got paid to test out hair products! Besides, school doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think it might be. There are tons of financial aid opportunities available, and you get a tax refund for a decent portion of your tuition. I was terrified about going into debt, but now that I have graduated and have started paying back my student loans, it really isn’t that bad. My monthly loan payment is about the same as my cable bill! (Speaking of which, threaten to quit your cable company and they will lower your bill. Or better yet, actually cancel your cable. And if you live in the city, you can split your wi-fi bill with your neighbors.)

You might think you don’t have the money to pay for grad school to allow you to change careers, but try keeping track of all of your purchases for a couple of months and I guarantee you will find some superfluous expenses. That thing I said before about how the less time you spend online the happier you are? The same thing goes for malls. You won’t regret the money you invest in your educational future, but you will regret buying that designer handbag. The nicest piece of jewelry that I own was paid for with Skee-Ball tickets (R.I.P., Good Times in Somerville!), and one my few wedding-guest-worthy dresses cost $10 at Building 19 (R.I.P. again!).

As far as choosing the right school, I recommend making your decision based on the monetary value of the degree. I live in Boston where there are dozens of prestigious colleges and universities, but I chose my grad school after talking to several people who work in my chosen career. Everyone said that, in the field of education, the most important quality that employers look for is the quality of your internship/student teaching, not the name of the college on your diploma. And while I had some wonderful professors, I learned far more from shadowing school counselors and from counseling actual high school students at my internship than I did in my college classrooms. Access to hands-on experience is a key attribute to look for in a college. I loved that my college required shadowing a professional counselor right away to see what the job really entailed. What if you shelled out thousands of dollars for a graduate degree only to find you didn’t like that profession either?

The first day I set foot in a high school to begin my pre-practicum, I was terrified. What if I didn’t like it? But since I had only taken a couple of classes at that point, it wasn’t that big of a risk. And after a few minutes of observing guidance counselors in action, I felt reassured that, yes, this is what I want to do with my life. You can find the courage (and the money) to go back to school and feel the same sense of accomplishment that I now do.

So, sorry, Internet, you might have to wait for school vacation to see more Apostrophe Catastrophes. I need to help some kids plan how to study for their next science test.

As an accredited university built on more than 75 years of experience,† Kaplan University offers a wide range of career-focused programs designed to develop the skills and knowledge leading employers seek. Our focus: to offer you the most direct educational path to achieve your goals.

Are you ready for a change? Learn more at

* Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.

† Kaplan University is regionally accredited. Please visit for additional information about institutional and programmatic accreditation.

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