As my daughter Hannah nears the halfway mark in her high school senior year, she often asks me for advice on what she should study in college. Her interests are in architecture, math, physics, and the sciences. She asks, “Where should I go to college?” and “How do I choose a career?” I tell her these are tough questions and the answers will have lifelong consequences. But I also tell her that whatever you choose to study, and wherever you go, chances are you will change paths in both college and your career at least once and maybe more. And that’s OK.
Of course, she knows my story. Like most of us nearing the midpoint of our careers, I have changed paths a couple of times.
In 1986 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. The economy was slow and tech jobs were few and far between. We had just moved to Denver, and I found my first real engineering position working for a small manufacturing company. I continued working in the Denver area as a design and manufacturing engineer for the next 11 years.
By then I was married and had two children who were quickly approaching school age. We were ready for a change from the fast pace of the city and after doing a little research decided that Grand Junction would offer us more of a small-town atmosphere and a perfect environment to raise the kids. Fortunately, the Denver housing market was beginning to change for the better, so we were able to quickly sell our home there.
We arrived in Grand Junction with a lot of enthusiasm, a little money and no jobs. I quickly went to work finding work. It didn’t take long before I was able to obtain a position with a mining manufacturing company where I worked for the next six and a half years. Along the way I learned way more than the average woman needs to know about steel, welding and welders! It was another fun adventure, but again I was ready for a change.
One day, while I was applying for another engineering position, I ran into Dale Beede, a well-known, long-time commercial real estate broker here in town. We chatted for a bit about opportunities in the field of commercial real estate. It wasn’t a career that I had ever considered but it seemed like it might be a good fit for my personality and skill set. To make a long story short, four months later I finished the real estate course and Dale hired me as a commercial real estate broker.
Six years later, I can say that I am happy and content working here in Grand Junction in the field of commercial real estate. From engineer to broker, my path has changed, but what I learned along the way, and what I always tell my daughter, is that change is to be embraced and not feared, at least when it comes to career choices.
I also tell my daughter to try to pursue a path you enjoy, work hard, and keep pushing forward. Opportunity is out there. The key to your choice is easier than you think — don’t become idle, and you will never stop learning.