For the longest time I’d go back-and-forth with my friend over how I was going about my career.
He was a staff writer at a local newspaper and would tell me time and time again: to be “hireable,” I had to have a degree. I always argued that it shouldn’t matter; if I could show I had the skills through years of work in the field, I could get the job.
In most careers, it’s extremely difficult to progress without a college degree. I thought I could get to where I wanted to without one.
A decade-plus journey has proven that I was wrong.
Working job after job after job at increasingly higher levels, I hoped the yearly growing pile of accumulated experience would be enough for an employer to accept. Yet when applying for professional, salaried positions, I never made it to that final level.
Since middle school I wanted to work as a sports play-by-play broadcaster, so I got involved with extracurricular activities in high school that allowed me to start broadcasting at the age of 14.
That early four-year taste of my dream job made the adjustment to college difficult.
Grinding prerequisite classes without having an opportunity to call sporting events ate away at me. My life felt like constantly eating dinners of baked tofu, boiled potatoes and steamed vegetables with none of the seasonings that make the meal pop.
So, after two years of schooling, when the opportunity once again arose to start working in broadcasting, I jumped on it.
That job was hosting a nightly, local sports radio talk show and calling play-by-play for high school and community college sports.
It was invigorating, and felt like I had caught a lightning bolt of energy that I could ride all the way up the professional ranks.
After that I did everything from communications director for a USL League 2 soccer team to setting up an online platform for an American Collegiate Hockey Association program and, eventually, public address announcing and broadcasting for UCSB.
All the while I freelanced: covering high school and college sporting events and working as a managing editor at an SB Nation site, all the while developing a podcast from scratch.
As the experience kept accumulating, I thought that my work would speak for itself and it would be enough to put me ahead of college graduates.
Then the pandemic hit, and everything stopped. I realized very clearly how much I had been continuously crashing against a locked door, all because I didn’t have the key to open it — the degree.
I spent years chasing a dream, trying to accomplish my goals by grinding a nontraditional path. Doing so created many great memories, and taught many lessons along the way.
Yet every time I tried to open the door to that professional-tier position, the answer was “no.” Every time I got that answer, I heard my friend’s words about “hireability” grow louder in my head.
I should’ve wised up and listened to him sooner. When a professional in your career path says you need something, you need it.
So I’m here at City College to finish the path that I was on so long ago. I’m ready to eat my tofu and veggies, only this time with all the proper seasonings and spices I deserve.