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019. Chutes And Ladders - Rebuilding Your Career Path After Changing Majors

Kim Kelley:          Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining the pepelwerk podcast. Today we are joined by Amanda, who is the boss of operations for pepelwerk, but we're interested in having a conversation with her about how she actually got here, and as a group, we've kind of came up with the term the chutes and ladders of a career. So first, Amanda, because this is your first time talking to our audience, let everyone know who you are. Obviously, we already told them what you do, but then maybe start immediately into how your career actually transitioned after high school.
Amanda:              Sure, sounds good. Hello, everyone. As Kim said, I'm the boss of operations, so everything pepelwerk from beginning of your experience to the end I usually have a part of. So-
Kim Kelley:          [inaudible 00:01:19] to say, now you're going to get all kinds of Facebook messages.
Amanda:              That's okay. That's what I'm here for. So high school, my high school experience, as far as academics goes, I was always stronger in the sciences. English and anything non-science. So I was strong in math, biology, chemistry. So knowing that I was strong in sciences in my academics, going into college, that was my mindset, was science. And as far as what I wanted to do, I'm the type that knew what I wanted to possibly have as a career, which was a dentist. So going into college I had the mindset first of my goal, which is becoming a dentist, and then throughout college it was, okay, so what am I going to major in to get there?
So, with college, I kind of went an interesting way in the sciences. Instead of the usual biology or chemistry any pre-dental student would usually take, I selected forensic science, so you know, CSI, things like that, which was going to be a fun way to kind of get my pre-dental requirements taken care of in addition to being able to take those cool classes.
Kim Kelley:          Okay, so wait a minute. I want to pause here because I just want to make sure that you felt like you had a natural aptitude for science.
Amanda:              Yes.
Kim Kelley:          And you actually, like your test would show that. You actually get the sciences.
Amanda:              Yeah. So I was in all honors classes for everything science related, and then all regular classes for everything else.
Kim Kelley:          Okay. So you're kind of exploring things. The dental thing came up as a, "Hey, I think this is a way for me to ..." I guess I'm missing the connection between sciences and teeth.
Amanda:              Biology. Biology, anatomy.
Kim Kelley:          It was specifically the biology. It's like, do you like organic chemistry?
Amanda:              Okay. So I didn't take organic chemistry until college, and now I know this about myself, that it is the worst class I've ever taken in my life. Not only did I do organic chem 1, I did organic chem 2 and then biochem. So it was, I did the whole thing. I got through it.
Kim Kelley:          Wow. You were really going CSI style. You really needed to know the fundamentals of life.
Amanda:              Yes. I was full force pre-dental truck.
Kim Kelley:          Wow.
Amanda:              Yes. So going through college with these science classes, I realized, "Wow, I am not the smartest person in the class at the collegiate level." You know, I felt very confident in high school with those classes, and then coming into college it was a lot more challenging for me academically. So that made me think, "Okay, well, Amanda, you know you have to have more school after college to become a dentist in dental school." So that was another thing I had to think of as far as ... as I progressed through college and started to realize, "Okay, this is getting real. I'm about to graduate, and I need to get a job. I need to find out what I want to do."
So as I became a little bit more challenged academically in school, I thought, "Well, I need the grades to get into dental school as well." So I actually continued my path with the sciences, and ended up graduating with a major in forensic science and a minor in chemistry. So with that I said, "Well, I have this degree." At this point I have decided not to apply to dental schools and pursue the dental path, because I knew, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to take any more school, no matter what it was.
It helped actually for me to have an older sister who was already in a pre-dental path and became a dentist before I even graduated college, so she was really great mentor for me to realize what it takes to become a dentist. So observing myself through college and the challenges I faced academically, finding out my interests as well has changed, which I'll get back to in a second, I decided dentistry is not for me, even though I finished college with a pre-dental path. I could've very well applied to dental schools, but I knew now I don't want to do school.
So with that, my next step was-
Kim Kelley:          You made a decision, "I don't like teeth, and forensic science is [inaudible 00:06:40]."
Amanda:              Yes.
Kim Kelley:          Okay, got it.
Amanda:              Yes. So that's another thing about college. You know, coming from high school, I felt very confident in what I was going to be when I grew up, what I was going to take in college, and then when I actually experienced college, it was, okay, now I know I don't really like school. Now I know I'm not really that interested in becoming a dentist fully enough to actually pursue applications to dental school. So it was interesting to me that I was changing throughout my experiences, so that's one thing I would really give advice to people coming up in the working world is really try to experience everything in college and expose yourself to different types of studies, because you could change in the drop of the hat and then kind of feel lost, like I was. So-
Kim Kelley:          You know what? I got to interrupt you there, because that's exactly what happened to Aubrey. She thought she had a very specific path, and that's what she wanted to be, and then ... But she couldn't change course, so she just kind of ended up with saying, "Well, I can't start from square one, so I'm going to just go with this degree and then figure out what I do for a job after that."
Amanda:              Oh, that is a good point. So, people in our position, Aubrey and myself, it seems like we're in the same boat where we didn't want to start from the beginning. You could start from the beginning. There's several people who major that have multiple majors, but I'm not that type of person. I just want to keep moving forward, no matter what that is. I know I'll find happiness somewhere in any direction that I choose, as long as I'm moving forward. So I think my happiness was knowing that I'm still advancing, and I would feel unhappy if I felt like I was going backwards and starting over. So-
Kim Kelley:          I'm just going to pause there because that's something for ... I mean, I think relevant to everybody at every stage of your career. Sometimes you just go through the motions and you really feel like yucky, or numb, even, and then you just kind of feel like, okay, like that's it, but what I hear you saying is you consciously made an effort to say, "I don't want to just go through the motions, and I'm going to figure out what does make me feel not like bleh throughout the day."
Amanda:              Yeah. Exactly. So, and I know this from my experience in college that I would have felt like I was forcing dental school at that point once I came to the conclusion that maybe this is not a good fit for me. So without going back to school and doing something else, I took the major and I thought, "Okay, what else can I do with this major?" And I had some interests in pharmaceutical research. I could definitely use my studies there.
So I pursued pharmaceutical research through a friend I had. Her uncle worked for a research company. So that would've been my in into the industry as a entry level researcher. Right? But my fault, I didn't start networking in this manner until I felt like it was too late, meaning I didn't have anything lined up after graduation and there was a waiting period, really, for me to feel comfortable waiting on a position like that and also paying my bills. So while I was working on networking in that industry, I needed to find a job, and this is like the F word to you, Kim, but I went to a staffing agency right after college, and-
Kim Kelley:          A lot of default jobs for staffing agencies. That's actually another phone call that Aubrey got from people. She was just so sick of applying for jobs that she finally started responding to staffing agencies just to be part of their bucket of people.
Amanda:              Exactly, exactly. So still at this time I was motivated to break into the pharmaceutical research industry, but I needed to pay the bills, so at that time I went to a staffing agency. They interviewed me and they said, "You know what? You seem like a great fit to be a recruiter for us." So they weren't going to place me. They were actually going to hire me on as one of them.
So that's really my first step into the direction I was going in, which is HR, recruiting in HR. So that was the beginning, and my experience through recruiting and working with people, and really organizing people as what human resources is, is managing them in their workplace and entry and exit of the workplace, and I felt like I was really good at that. You know, I was working with a client and they ended up hiring me, so it's kind of like I was getting a lot of affirmation that I was doing a good job in this area. So that's really when I decided, okay, this is my path, not pharmaceutical research. That connection wasn't happening, so I'm also the type that feels like things kind of happen for a reason. You know, I did all I could to make pharmaceutical research happened, but it didn't happen. So taking what I was given in my experiences and going with that led me to human resources and then affirming that yes, this is what I'm good at, which progressed through different subsections of human resources, so generalist and then into HR systems, which lands me here with pepelwerk.
So did a lot of brainstorming and help in the creation of pepelwerk with Kim using my HR and systems experience, and the experience of processes that I'm intrigued with, making sure that everything is step-by-step followed first towards success is really what I've come to realize that I'm good at. So from strong science background, doing the chemistry thing, trying to become a dentist, to software development, human resources, it's crazy. So I would say it's polar opposites from what I studied and what I'm doing now, and I think that happens all the time. You know, there are some exceptions of course, like STEM type studies, which will lead to becoming a doctor, even JDs, so lawyers. Anything grad school related, yes, you do have to take those specific postgraduate type education in order to get certain positions, but I'm talking about the undergraduate kids that are just, they have a major, they declared a major, and then they end up not doing what they majored in. It happens all the time.
So really, I think college is just a way to experience, period. It doesn't matter what you're majoring in, unless you have that driven goal of becoming that engineer or doctor. I really think-
Kim Kelley:          They've got to be very specific, you've got that very specific bite, yeah, that you're into. Clearly, if you're listening, if you've played the game Chutes and Ladders, you can see that Amanda took a few steps forward and then a few steps back in terms of her exploration around what she wanted to do, but she never took a personal development step back. Amanda, for you, what do you think could have helped you transition better from your high school life, or even during your high school life, into deciding what you wanted to do instead of the traditional high school, college, and then I'm going to experience college for an experience and then not have a job related to my degree?
Amanda:              I think it would have helped not really thinking of what you want to be when you grow up with that goal, that end goal. You really should think about first what interests you. So you know, what interested me? Yes, I was interested in the sciences as far as the CSI part of things, but that wasn't really related to becoming a dentist. Right? That was kind of like forensic science, period. But I was also involved with my dad, he and I play around in the stock market a little bit, so he introduced me to the stock market, and I thought that was a lot more fun than what I was studying, and I was interested in that, but that was a side thing. So that should have been a sign for me, is I separated academics from my interests and I should've put them together.
Kim Kelley:          Oh, very interesting.
Amanda:              I was good in the sciences, but I didn't on my free time do anything scientific. Right? I did a lot more research in, okay, how do I get rich? You know, it's like that's what was interesting to me, so I-
Kim Kelley:          If everybody did that, we'd end up with nobody but bankers.
Amanda:              So I was, now I know, I should've gone into business. So that's okay, because you're not going to remember your studies, you're going to retain probably 20%, which is just how to organize and try to be an adult is what you learn in college. So you can still do it, and yeah, hopefully that motivates people to really think outside of the box and think of your interests rather than what job do you want to do.
Kim Kelley:          I think all of that advice is going to resonate with any of our users, whether they're employers or parents or even going through the, "What the heck do I do for work?" Right? Sometimes, just like you said, sometimes you just have to survive, and through survival you kind of fall into something that's at least interesting or at least pays the bills. Right? It does exactly that minimum deal.
So before we end the podcast, I do have to say that I find it ... I love what is happening in my community and what I see starting to happen more and more in other small cities that are part of bigger metroplexes, is we, in my community, we allow freshman to start doing the whole dabbling thing. So we have different tracks of interest. So it could be STEM, it could be software, it could be medicine, it could be law, it could be skilled trades. They break it out so that there's like a rotation of classes.
Now for me, back in the day, I mean, I don't know what your junior high or high school years were like, but I had home economics, I had shop, I had English, and I had typing, and all of these things, so it's almost like going a little bit backwards so that kids are a little bit more aware of where their natural interest lies and how that works into the working world before they have to even decide to go to college, what college to go to, what type of next level education they need, and I'm really proud that lot of ... I mean, in the United States that's happening a lot, and some other countries are really ... I really don't know how far advanced they are in mixing that up, but I can imagine that if you got to experience that level of exploring in high school, you might not have chosen the same post high school experience.
Amanda:              I agree. I do agree with that. And for those that do have that experience of doing home ec shop and doing the hands-on type experience, seeing what's out there, that's awesome that you ... Those are awesome schools that allow that. You'd need to take it to heart. You kind of just go through the motions of, "Oh, I'm doing home ec. I'm just hanging out with my friends," things like that. You kind of have to take these experiences, be more cognizant, and think about, "Does this interest me?" It's kind of hard to say that to someone that's younger, to understand that it's for their future, because they're living in the now, so how do you teach someone to think about the future that usually just wants to think in the now?
Kim Kelley:          Oh, I think you just came up with our next podcast. How do you think about the future when you're always living in the now? And actually, I think that is a good subject for our next podcast. Okay. So, Amanda, this has been awesome. I'm hoping that our audience got some fruitful takeaways for just how to think about what to do post high school; parents, how to think about your advice for your young adults; employers, when you think about your entry level and your specialist and your skilled jobs, how are you thinking about the education that's really needed to get there and the type of talent that you're trying to hire and try to put all of that together?
So thank you, Amanda, for being a part of the podcast today.
Amanda:              You're welcome.
Kim Kelley:          Are there any words of wisdom that you have?
Amanda:              I would say just keep an open mind. You know, you have something in your head at one point, it's likely to change, so just keep an open mind.
Kim Kelley:          [inaudible 00:22:07]. That's a great way to end. Thank you, everyone, for listening. Remember that we give you the tools. It's up to you how you use them.