Education isn’t just about getting a job. But it can lead you to the right job, and help you to do it well.

How does education prepare for particular vocations? Jessica Bates, physical therapist at Saco Bay PT in Bethel, has kindly agreed to kick off what will be a series of columns on finding and preparing for a vocation.

Some kids just know what they want to be. More of us find our callings over time. Jessica entered high school totally uncertain about her future. Then: “I took Human Anatomy and Physiology and was hooked. I loved learning about the body and thinking about how it applied to my everyday functioning.” An injury, physical therapy, and eyes opened to the medical field, led to undergraduate Health Sciences but not directly to a specific profession.

The summer before her senior year in college, she “shadowed” medical people. “I spent time with a physical therapist, and when she was explaining detailed anatomy to a patient I remember thinking, ‘I want to know everything she knows’.”

Jessica “watched many college classmates select their major based on the level of difficulty or prestige, rather than what would set them up for success.” Far better, she says, to follow your “academic (and non-academic) interests, looking at each experience as an opportunity to learn new skills…” and select college courses based on interest and possible application after graduation. Rather than a BSc, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences (“a bit like an oxymoron”) that better prepared her for graduate school.

Important skillsets may not come from obvious subjects. (NB The surgeon on the cover of New Hampshire Magazine’s “Top Docs” issue, March/April, 2021, earned her BA in English language and literature.) Jessica emphasises communication: “This is something you can learn about in school, but it is hard to…successfully apply it without practice. I learned just as much working at my summer job at a rock wall as I did working as an anatomy TA in college.

Firstly and finally, a vocation is something you really want, perhaps need, to do. “… ultimately we spend a vast majority of our lives working… you want to find yourself doing something you’re passionate about.”

David R. Jones still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up.

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