Pursue your passion.
I had just received my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and celebrated my 22nd birthday. The economy in my new home of Tulsa, Oklahoma was bad, and I was having trouble finding a job. I opened the employment ads one morning and saw a description of my dream job. Tulsa Junior College needed a full-time Computer Science instructor. The ad said, “Master’s Degree or equivalent experience required.” My work history consisted of working at a swimming pool, building airplane instrument panels, being a residence hall assistant, and helping on the farm I grew up on. I really, really wanted that job, but I wasn’t qualified. I turned the page and tried to move on, but I kept going back to that ad. Through a personal connection, I got my resume into the hands of the Division Chair. I got an interview, was able to sell myself, and was hired.
Hire for motivation and transferable skills.
So, how was I able to sell myself in that interview? Because the Division Chair was a masterful interviewer and a great judge of potential. I asked him a few years later, once I had grown a lot and proven myself in the role, why he took such a big chance on me. He said, “Do you remember during your interview when you drew a center pivot irrigation system and explained to me how it works?” I did remember once he reminded me. “I knew you would be a great teacher.” He looked past my lack of experience teaching in a classroom and engaged me in an opportunity to teach during my interview.
Persevere through setbacks.
My first interaction with a room full of students was certainly a memorable one. And could have been the end of my teaching career. After covering the syllabus and giving the class their first assignment, I fainted. Yep, I passed out. I stood back up to see 30 wide-eyed students silently staring at me in disbelief. I apologized, assured them I didn’t expect it to ever happen again, encouraged them to complete their assignment, and dismissed them. Amazingly, not one of them dropped the class!
After a brief stay in the nurse’s office assuring her that my only injury was humiliation, I was off to my next class. This one had 90 students, most of them older than me, in a theater style room. That class went just fine. And so did my 17-year career at that school.
In the same conversation in which I asked my boss why he hired me, I also asked him about that first day. “You must have been thinking, ‘Wow, this didn’t work out after all.’” He told me that he was concerned, of course, about what happened in the first class. But, “I knew when you went to that next class you were going to be just fine.”