This is going to be a bit of a confession. Probably resume-damaging. But whatever. The job-seeking process seems inherently dishonest and my gut feeling tells me it’s wrong.
Yesterday I read a National Geographic article about a famous engineer and tornado scientist/chaser Tim Samaras. He was one of the most careful chasers out there, which is why his death by tornado was such a surprise to everyone. His colleague Carl Young and son Paul Samaras were also killed. ( http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/biggest-storm/draper-text )
But what I found most interesting, was what he spent his adolescence on. Pay attention to the parts in bold:
“When the elder Samaras saw how much his son enjoyed tinkering, he took out a want ad for used television sets, then piled them all in front of Tim—who promptly took them apart, repaired and reassembled them. Meanwhile his mother had given up making him play Little League baseball after she noticed that he would spend game time in the outfield gazing not at the ball but instead at whatever in the sky interested him.
Samaras became a ham radio operator by the time he was 13 or 14, a radio repair technician at 16, a service-shop foreman at 17. He did not bother to enroll in college. Instead, in 1977 the high school graduate walked into the office of Larry Brown of the University of Denver Research Institute without a résumé. Brown saw something in the teenager and hired him. “Within weeks,” Brown says, “it was obvious he could fix things that my most senior technicians couldn’t.” By 20 Samaras had Pentagon security clearance and was helping to test, build, and explode weapons systems. “I get paid to blow shit up,” he would exult.”
At the age when he was picking radios apart and rebuilding them, I was making violent comics, paperdolls and other art. I even had my own little comic that was printed in the Saturday issue of a newspaper. Yet at a certain point in high school, kids were supposed to pick a direction of their higher education. And being an artist is really not lucrative or profitable. I went to this high school counselor with others kids, and she was supposed to help us pick a career based on our talents. I was quite good at high school physics, math and chemistry, so they suggested I study science. My parents also saw that I was good at those subjects in school, and also agreed I could study science. And so I did. I picked a program named “Materials, energy and nanotechnology”- it seemed to combine all the subjects I got an A in. It also sounded future-oriented, with its focus on renewable energy. Since it’s so future-oriented, I thought I’d obviously be useful with such an education. I thought maybe I could become a scientist and earn good money.
Already in the first few years at the University I could feel my education was educating, but not adding many concrete, practical skills. People in profession schools were already becoming plumbers, electricians and whatever else. I could do derivation and integration for you.
I had to give up the majority of my art activities to study, and at times it was really annoying. However, I still used my free time on art or something similar. To me, fun was fun – movies and art. And studying was work. I was doing it so I could earn more money later. Not because I naturally want to build stuff, or had a passion for renewable energy.
A friend’s father told me “You can’t learn much by studying like that”. At the time, I was hoping he was wrong. But after getting a Master’s degree and still not getting a job in the field, I think he was right. The education involved a lot of reading and solving problems from the book. Sure, we had some practical education too, but it wasn’t as much as would produce great skills. And if you want to become a real scientist, you better have top grades (mine are good, but not top). Right now, the only thing I feel truly confident in, is my ability to teach things I learned to other people. I could become a teacher. Except I hate interacting with kids or teens I don’t know very well, so it’s not an option. Any other useful skills I would have to work on, by .. working. Or training them at home in my free time.
And this is the pitfall for a “good student” girl who goes to study STEM because everyone thinks she’d be good at it. Being good at studying is not being actually useful in a subject. A good student girl wants to be paid for doing things a boy like young Tim Samaras will do for free. For fun. Who will actually be truly useful and good at age 25?
I’m almost useless for the STEM field. Compared to Tim Samaras anyway. I’m not even feeling bad about it – it’s just true.