The Best Part of My Job

There are lots of things to like about my job, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be watching my students transition from teenagers to professionals.

There are a variety of paths that students choose upon graduation and in the years that follow – some work overseas, some perform a year or two of service, some change careers, and some start families.

In a few cases, I have even taught the children of former students – yes, I am that old. I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity to teach the grandchildren of any former students, but if I did, then I would know it’s time to retire.

As I wrote in a previous post, I have found LinkedIn to be quite useful as a way to stay in touch with former students and their accomplishments.

I’ve used these contacts as a source for guest speakers, and today was one such example.

This student graduated in 2012 and her career is off to a wonderful start working in Human Resources at a major pharmaceutical firm. She has had the chance to do a good bit of travel over the years, even living in London for close to a year. As I watched her speaking to my class today, I couldn’t help but think back to when she was a freshman in my class over 10 years ago. I could not have been more impressed by the confident and successful professional she has become.

(As an aside, I have had her a guest speaker a few times because I consider HR to be one of the most important functions in a business, but it is often ignored in business schools, Villanova included. She does a great job of describing the strategic role that HR can play in an organization, and has gotten several students to think about a possible career in HR. Today, she shared the following video of Jack Welch talking about the value of HR:

As usual, accountants get picked on…)

I like having a variety of speakers so that students can get exposed to a variety of careers and career paths, and I always make a point to tell my students that these successful professionals were sitting exactly where they were not that long ago. The speakers are great role models for the students.

I’ll admit that I am a bit biased in trying to find guest speakers who have changed their careers dramatically. For example:

  • One former student had a very successful career in insurance but is now pursuing his passion for mindfulness and meditation and offering seminars on the benefits of such practices to executives.
  • Another student took a job with one of the Big 4 professional services firms, but then within a year decided to pursue a degree in higher education administration, and is now director of student involvement at a major University.
  • Another student, who graduated at the top of her class at Villanova, has decided to pursue a Masters degree in Nutrition.
  • I have had a few students become teachers – at all levels – from grade school to high school to college, and a couple of students have become medical professionals.
  • A few former students have gone into the Peace Corps and Teach for America type organizations right after graduation.

I think such stories are worth hearing to let my students know that you should never feel stuck in your career, that it is possible to make a successful career change.

Watching my former students navigate their way through life after graduation brings me great joy, and I wish them continued success.

Just please don’t send your grandchildren to Villanova if I am still there…

24 thoughts on “The Best Part of My Job

  1. I can relate to your post so much, Jim. Since I taught at a lower level than you, I used to say that my favorite part of teaching was watching my children grow into responsible adults. There was a definite pride factor. I also had the same experience you had in teaching second generation students several times. Imagine sitting down to have a parent conference with an adult who used to be one of my students. Now that will make a guy feel old. I wonder if you saw similar traits in second generation students. Besides the obvious physical similarities, I also saw certain aptitudes and even personality traits repeated. Several became teachers themselves. I even taught with one of my former fourth grade students.


    1. talk about the circle of life! that must be strange having a teacher-parent conference with a former student! I can’t seem to recall any similar traits between generations; it’s only happened a handful of times at this point, and you must have a better memory than me!


  2. I have you ever stopped to wonder just how many young lives you have touched in your long and successful career? There is probably some math that could get you close to an answer, but you know I suck at math…LOL! Great post!


  3. You know how having “guests” instead of “customers” helps Disney park employees have a different, better approach to their… guests? I wonder if instead of Human Resources how a different term might show (and foster) a different approach towards the employees of a company. As long as it’s human resources, will the focus be on growing and developing them or on… managing them in the most efficient way?

    Question for you: what do you consider to be your biggest successes with your students?


    1. It’s amazing how important words are – e.g., guests versus customers. As to HR, some firms have started to call it Talent Management, not sure if that is any better though.

      As far as my biggest successes as a teacher, I’d have to say is hopefully instilling in my students a love for lifelong learning.


      1. I read that Subway tried to use “guests” but that effort failed because it was a change of terminology not accompanied by a change in culture.

        As for the success as a teacher, applauding that is not enough, we need to clone it! Wow!


  4. You are obviously the best sort of teacher … one who encourages students to follow their dreams, not forcing them into a box of somebody else’s making. I tried teaching at the college level, but was discouraged by too many students who were only there for the grade, not the education. Thumbs up to you!


  5. I do encourage students to pursue their interests, and try not to impose any of my biases on them. I have found that students do care about their grades, which I am OK with, but I have also found that most, if not all, of them are also very active socially and very community-minded.


  6. Great discussion! Anyone involved in education at whatever level feels a deep sense of fulfillment when our students succeed.

    The short video of Jack Welch is precious. He tells it like he sees it. People are the engine behind any organization.


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