Richard Grayson has a column in the Orlando Sentinel today (December 6, 1997) on getting career advice from soap operas:
I was a kid when I first noticed that characters in daytime dramas could go from being construction workers to brain surgeons as rapidly as the plots dictated.
Bruce Sterling, a character on the old CBS soap Love of Life, metamorphosed in the space of a decade from high-school principal to paper-company executive to college dean to newspaper editor to the mayor of his city.
If Russ Mathews on Another World could leave town one day as a drugstore clerk and return a few months later as a fully qualified physician, I figured I could pull off career changes just as easily.
I got into my first career as a college English instructor somewhat by accident. I had been working in a library when I was asked to take over the night class of a professor who had died suddenly. I was terrified the first time I faced my students, yet the dread I felt before each class soon turned into sweet anticipation as I became more comfortable as a teacher.
But after a decade as a college English instructor, I began to burn out. At my Florida community college, each year I taught 12 courses and graded about 150 student essays every week.
I didn't want to be doing this for the rest of my working life, but teaching was the only real profession I knew. Could I switch occupations as easily as the folks on As the World Turns did?
Well, not quite. I learned that it was helpful to pick a new career that was somewhat related to the old one. When computers were introduced at our college, I took to them right away. Soon I knew six computer languages and numerous software programs and got a job training public-school teachers to use the new technology.
Training people how to use computers wasn't all that different from teaching students how to write essays, after all. But after several years as a computer trainer, I wanted to try something completely different.
When I watched Trevor on All My Children transform himself from a cop to a lawyer so painlessly, I figured I could do it, too - although I knew that it would take me three years of law school, not the three months in which Trevor went from arresting crooks to defending them in court.
At law school, I met other older students who were downsized by corporations or who left careers in the military or journalism, and we encouraged and supported each other in our transitions.
Since graduation, I've worked as a lawyer involved in education and computer-technology issues. I've been a lawyer for three years now, and, as much as I enjoy legal work, I'm again beginning to get restless - even if I'm no longer so young. Ever since Marty on One Life to Live exchanged her life as a pianist for a new one as a surgeon, I've found myself surfing Web sites of medical schools to learn about their admissions policies.