I’ve been serving on a search committee, and as I read the applicants’ application materials, I realized that they had put a lot of thought into their career trajectories. They had made moves that inched them closer to their final career goal. I admire that, although I have not followed their example. My career has been more about trying something new than following any sort of carefully plotted out plan. Still, it has worked out for me.
To me, the only way to fail is to not change at all. When I was in college, I took a physics course. The only thing I remember about the course is that the professor gave us handouts that had been made at least twenty years earlier. Each time his book went into a new edition, he took out the handout originals and marked out old page numbers and added the new ones. By the time I took his class, some of his handouts had ten or so marked-out page numbers. That would not have been so bad if it had not soon become obvious that he simply taught the same semester over and over. It doesn’t have to be this way.
I have friends who have taught composition for years, yet they have never taught the same class twice. They watch students’ reactions to see what doesn’t work and change instructional strategies for the next semester. Sometimes, they change instructional strategies between one period and the next.
We don’t need to be ambitious, but we all need to be preparing for our next act: whether it’s applying for a new job or being better than we are today at our job.
However, as I get closer to retirement, I have been thinking about my second act: I want to be a cat lawyer. It seems a perfect job. One, cats are complete jerks, so they are always in trouble. Two, they are so completely cute, they’ll never be found guilty. Think about it.