- I got to know Susan at a women’s discussion forum and was impressed when she informed us that after working for around 15 years in an office job, she is heading back to college – she’s in her 40s and a grandma, that’s what makes it different!Hello Susan, please tell us about yourself and your present career status?
I’m in my late 40s and I have three wonderful daughters. Also, I have two beautiful granddaughters. We all live in St. Peters, Missouri. I’ve worked for a construction company for fifteen years; it’s been an office job all along. I do the Payroll, Accounts Payable and Receivable, all General Ledger updates and changes, reconcile all the bank accounts, update and maintain and backup computers all on a regular basis. There is another woman that works part time with me so I do most everything myself. I really like my job but it’s a small family owned business. There’s really nothing else for me to do other than what I do.You informed us that you are going for a bachelor’s degree in IT in late forties– it is such a commendable step! I wish you the very best.
How did you make up your mind on going back to college and what helped you in arriving at the decision?
I’ve had a fascination with computers for years but I never really thought much about it. A year ago this summer I signed up with St. Charles Community College for an Accounting class. I did this for my own information. I wasn’t sure how good my accounting skills really were since I fell into my current position with no formal training. I received an ‘A’ in that class and the Business class I took last fall.
It’s been a few years since I was in school so I didn’t remember a lot of stuff like geometry, algebra or verbs. I found that I really enjoy learning. Some of the classes I took were online or distance learning classes. For some reason I always thought taking online classes would be easier. It’s not at all; as a matter of fact it’s quite the opposite. You have to use a lot of self discipline because the classes require quite a bit of reading. It was nice to be able to take an exam at midnight if necessary though. At my house, sometimes that’s the only quiet time you get. The class that I just completed was Data Processing. Most of it I knew already but the last three weeks of class we worked on programming in Visual Basic. I thought it was great. Programming was something I had no experience with. It opened a new door.
I’ve been going back and forth between Business Administration and IT. I finally decided fifteen years of business experience was enough. I want to do what I want to do not what I should. I don’t know if I can even find a job in IT when I get finished with school but it’s not really about the job, it’s more about what I like and enjoy and mostly what I’m good at. I have a natural ability, I guess you would call it, to use and fix computers. I enjoy them and when they don’t work properly I can usually figure out why, with no formal training at all.
How are you feeling today as you plan on a new career?
I’m very excited and a little nervous. I’ve done very well at the Community College and I hope I can do just as well at the university I’ve chosen.
The program I’ve applied for is in an accelerated format for working adults. The classes are taken in clusters of three similar subjects for a total of 9 credit hours per cluster. The clusters are in quarters rather than semesters so you can take 4 clusters in a year to achieve 36 credit hours in a year. I just hope it’s not too accelerated and that I can keep up. I have no idea what I’ll do when I’m finished. I guess I’ll just wait to see what happens.
Is your family supportive of your decision? How do you feel it is important for a career woman to have a support group?
For the most part everyone is supportive.
My oldest daughter has made some bad choices in her life and is trying very hard to turn things around. I’m very proud of the choice she made, she is now working towards her degree in Child Development. I know she would not have made this choice if not for the fact that she saw me working so hard to get where I want to be. This past semester we took the same level math class. It was pretty exciting to be able to help each other when one of us had a problem understanding something.
My second daughter went to cosmetology school right out of high school. She has been very supportive and said she really admires me for what I’m doing. She is also looking into going back to school for a degree in teaching. She said I have inspired her to follow her dream of being a teacher.
The youngest supports me but it’s hard for her sometimes because it takes away from some of the time we get to spend together. I make sure we still have plenty of time together to do things we enjoy. She is doing great in school also, with straight A’s through third grade. Sometimes we even do our homework together.
Yes, it’s important for a career woman to have some kind of support. Whether it is a group or family you need something. It’s very hard to balance your life between work and family as it is, then when you throw school in there too. Well, it does get to be a bit much sometimes. There are good days and bad days just like with anything else. There has to be a way to vent the frustration and someone to tell you to hang in there, it will be alright. If you don’t have that it would be very easy to give up and just carry on with life the way it was and then always wonder what could have been. You have to have a strong will and determination, with a lot of support to succeed.
What advice would you give to women who are in mid-career crisis and thinking about re-joining college or other further studies?
My advice would be to go for it. If there is something you have wanted to do but think you are too old or could never afford, you couldn’t be more wrong. If you don’t like where you are, the only one that can change it is you. The first class I walked into at the Community College, I can’t begin to tell you how bad the butterflies were in my stomach but I did it. I thought for sure I would be the oldest one there but I wasn’t. You would be surprised how many older people are going back to school. I know I have been. I think when you get to a certain age you begin to wonder about what you are doing and if it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life. As for the financial end there are many grants and low interest loans that are easy to get even if you don’t have the greatest credit history. You are never too old to learn new things and can never learn too much.
Way to go Susan!
I loved it when you said:
You are never too old to learn new things and can never learn too much.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 2 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
~ Moshe Arens