CAREER CONTENT: PLAN B.
It is a specific feature of our small academic town that one hundred per cent of those who finish school continue their education at a university or college. Many of them go on to work at various research institutes. However, quite a number of young people prefer a job with the private sector. Pay is better, one can buy a house, a car, get married, have a nice vacation much faster than when one devotes oneself to science and research. Economists become entrepreneurs, and the IT crowd of course can find a good job anywhere. When my former students come to visit, I am always interested to hear what they achieved or hope to achieve, and to listen to various view points. Young people do not like to wait; they want all the good things NOW. And yet obviously for some of those who grew up in the academic atmosphere something is lacking. They cannot drop whatever it is they are doing and go back into science, but they do want their children to have more and better choices. Thus it came about that a very nice couple asked me if I could give some private lessons to their child, 6. Just teach her or him to read, write, explain the values of knowledge, give them some idea of the world and the many languages spoken in it; and teach them some good manners. I confess this last one slightly perplexed me. I, as a teacher of good manners? I asked why they did not try to teach their kid themselves and got this amazing answer: “We don’t know how!” It became clear that they had neither the time nor the patience needed, yet they wanted their child to have all the advantages. They explained to me that they had enough money and asked me to name the price. I inquired what the going rate was for a “governess” or “bonne” as I saw it. Well, it turned out that the going rate exceeded a young researcher’s or a teacher’s salary. And it was not like they were asking for a live-in nanny; the offer was for two-three hours twice a week.
I politely declined but filed away the information for a “just in case”. This encounter gave me food for thought. I have been working full-time teaching English at all levels for many years; I also write a lot, conduct teacher refresher courses, and do various translations. In short, I have been earning good money all my life using my very good education. When you have a set of skills, it is important not only to apply them but also to constantly develop them, and to be open to new directions. Case in point, when I started working, not only the idea of using internet in education but the internet itself did not exist. Try telling that to today’s teenagers, and they react with, “But what did you DO?!”
Children of any age never bother me, I can cope, and I like socializing with them. In all seriousness I believe that if the need arises becoming a private tutor for the very young may be an option. Recently I got a new idea. My usual manicurist was out sick, so I went to a different one. She looked at me attentively and then said, “Wait a minute, it’s you! Yes, I recognize you, aren’t you the woman who wears a very pretty purple cap and scarf in winter?” I cautiously said “Maybe”. She asked where I bought the set. When I replied that I knit stuff, she became very excited. “But why don’t you advertise?! You can ask someone to help you create a web page, take photos of your products, post them and then knit per order, earn some extra money! Would you take an order?” I politely declined which rather surprised her. She asked me what my profession was. “But you people do not earn much! So I need to have a page translated, we could do barter, you know, your hour must cost about the same as mine, $5”. At which point I remembered the old principle: if you want to politely decline name a very high price. I told her that my hour cost $50, and the subject was immediately closed. But she repeated that I should do something about my rare skill, the knitting. I filed away this Plan B, or C too. Who knows, I may need it.
The moral of the story is, it is good to make an inventory of your own skills occasionally. If you are a teacher or a researcher, it is clear you have a good head on your shoulders. But what else can you do, what are the practical mundane operations you can perform? I am an excellent cook, I can knit, and I am good with children. Those are all good conversation pieces. Discuss the new methodologies at a teacher workshop, the internet anywhere, the advantages of research at a scientific conference, and the everyday little things among those people who do not work at all or who have totally different occupations.