It’s always good to have a plan, even if it’s nontraditional

As I finished high school, I knew I wanted to get a doctorate. I adopted my Uncle Joe, who had a doctorate in political science, as my role model. I entered Western Kentucky University with my first choice as a law degree. Unfortunately, the course, Logic I, scared me out of the field. My second semester I tried pre-med. Here Invertebrate Zoology convinced me medicine wasn’t my field either.

I placed a bookmark in my career goal and postponed my sophomore year of college for my first year in the coal mine to pay for college. True to my plan, I quit the mine in 1973 to begin school at Campbellsville College in Campbellsville, Kentucky. There I majored in philosophy.

I lasted a year at Campbellsville College and returned to southeast Ohio for eight more years in the coal mine. Soon, I developed a career path in the coal mine. After the required three years of underground experience, I took my certification test and sought a position as a supervisor with plans to seek the shift foreman and then mine foreman jobs.

During these years, I was torn between a career in the mine and my original plan for a doctorate. A couple of years passed and I began classes at Ohio University’s Belmont County Campus now called Eastern Campus. My initial major was sociology and then psychology with an eye toward eventual doctorates in each field. After I completed my undergraduate degree in 1980, the only master’s degree I could pursue while working midnight shift in the coal mine was a master’s in education in guidance and counseling and student personnel services, which I completed in 1982. I set my sights on a doctorate in interpersonal communication, which I finished in 1988.

Simultaneously with my doctoral work, I sought and won a position at BorgWarner Chemicals as the Woodmar site training manager. Within six months, I had a 10-year career plan. I wanted to follow my predecessor in my position at Woodmar to the International Center and eventually to the vice president of personnel. When General Electric purchased the plant in 1988, my career path moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which was too far from family in southeast Ohio.

Eventually in 1990, I found a job at Marietta College running the Institute of Education and Training for Business in the McDonough Center for Leadership and Business. Next, I had my focus on creating my own business, which I finally did in 2000.

My career path was probably not the most traditional for the day but is common today. Many of my decisions resulted in dramatic diversions from my original career plan. Through it all, I always had a plan. I recently read a book by Janine Moon called Career Ownership. It is a process I always adhered to and recommend to each of you regardless of your age. The best leaders know where they are going in their work and in their career.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.