SCHOOL’S IN: Success beyond high school

Okanagan College columnist Jane Muskens on how some find success after Grade 12

You go to your high school reunion and all those people you thought were going to be successful ended up being losers and all those who you thought were losers ended up being successful. Why does that happen?

It happens because success isn’t related to being popular in Grade 12, being involved in sports or having parents who have money.

Success beyond high school is much more than that.

It tends to come down to finding something that drives you to work hard – regardless of what it is or what it pays. You can be successful if your life is fulfilling no matter what the state of your bank account is.

This is why you see people who come from rich countries to work for next to nothing in South and Central America, South East Asia and Africa helping the less advantage. This is where you see doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers leave Canada to find more fulfilling work in very poor and often violent nations.

When you meet these people it doesn’t take you long to realize that your first-world problems don’t hold a candle to the things they encounter on a daily basis.

Maybe that’s why those who don’t seem nearly as concerned about the daily issues we face in Canada aren’t that interested in accumulating things such as real estate, vehicles and having money in the bank.

They probably don’t even have the time or effort to attend their high school reunion, you just hear about them through other friends.

So what does this have to do with education and getting a job?

It means when someone tells me “I don’t know what to do – I want to go back to school I just don’t know what to take,” I usually begin with a number of questions asking them what drives them, are there things they enjoy doing and what would be their dream job.

Most people have a hard time answering these questions, but given time to think about them they usually start to look at careers and work in a much different way.

A good example of this is someone who did well academically in high school, loved to draw and enjoyed wood working in shop class. A student like this would be  pushed away from the trades or even art school and told to go to university – and ultimately, in many cases, into a job which has them sitting in an office eight hours a day.

Chances are this would probably be the worst choice for this person who needs some kind of creative work and pushing paper and staring at a computer screen isn’t going to cut it.

This is why you meet so many people who don’t always enjoy their work and wish they did something else.

Long before you have kids and a mortgage is when you have the luxury to make the best career/work choices you can. If you make the right decision, chances are you won’t regret it 20 years later.


Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College. Comments can be forwarded to