1. Archive

Career alternatives are opportunities for success

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Earlier this month the Times carried two articles respectively titled"The consequences of misemployment" and "Most workers stumble into wrong career, survey finds." It was stated that only 41 percent of American workers have jobs that they had planned on as a career.

Along the way to semi-retirement, I found that even when original goals are not realistically attainable, the alternatives can turn out to be fully rewarding.

For example, in 1934 during my second year at the University of Tampa, I targeted plans to try to transfer to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to work toward a degree in aeronautical engineering.

Commercial aviation was beginning to come into its own as a place to be - a new, wide-open field of opportunity and adventure. However, I was working my way through college, had no source of substantial income and could not get a scholarship.

As an alternative, I continued to load up on mathematics and science courses, worked in the related laboratories and taught a class for students who were making up for a lack of high school basic mathematics.

Then in 1935, I had established a new career goal and applied to the U.S. Department of State to take examinations, upon graduation a year later, for a position in the Foreign Service. I envisioned serving my country, seeing some of the world and earning a good income. Toward that end I added more foreign languages to my college studies - fortunately, I'd had two years of Latin and two years of French in high school. To those I added German and Spanish for the balance of my school years. Also, I enjoyed courses in English

composition, writing about any subject in short essays and one 5,000-word paper each week. As it developed, the State Department's plans didn't include me.

Upon graduation in 1936, I worked for a Tampa wholesale business, was assigned to work with insurance and, in 1940 when the University of Tampa changed presidents and my wife's secretarial job was terminated, we moved to New York City and a new insurance job for me.

Toward the conclusion of World War II, I was in Europe assigned to an air transport unit that took me to England, France and Italy.

Returning to my insurance job, I was restless after seeing some of the world.

In talking with a job-placement man, he asked if I had ever thought about working in international insurance - providing programs for American companies operating outside the United States. My reply to him was: "I am now!"

In the years that followed, my mathematical background greatly helped with its analytical approach to problem solving and with the evaluation of difficult insurance risks involving coal and copper mines, oil-well drilling and similar operations worldwide.

Those English composition efforts served well in preparing concise yet fully informative reports of my observations and recommendations about construction sites and manufacturing plants in many countries.

And though not fully proficient in my use of foreign languages, the basics were there when needed and my hosts always greatly appreciated my efforts to fit into their country's culture.

Over the years I've never regretted not becoming a design engineer or a foreign service officer. In fact, the basic preparations for each of those professions enabled me to shift gears and adapt to a fully satisfying career. So I found that alternatives are not second-best when recognized and used; rather, they are opportunities toward achieving success.