Don't ignore your hobbies when making career choice

Ashley Pieper will graduate from Nicolet College this month with a degree in Graphic Design. The road to her career achievement was long and winding with some wrong turns. Sometimes when you think you know what your dream job is, you’re wrong.

“I don’t think I spent enough time talking to my high school counselor or exploring other career options,” she admits.

Ashley Pieper working at a computer. Ashley Pieper discovered her true career passion at Nicolet College.

Since she was a child, Ashley wanted to be a teacher. Young students often want to imitate people who have a lot of influence over them. When you spend six hours a day with someone, and admire him or her, you want to be like that person. In high school, Ashley assisted a second grade teacher and enjoyed the experience. After completing general education requirements at University of Wisconsin – Washington County, she planned to attend the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh for an Elementary Education degree. However, plans changed when she moved.

“I took Early Childhood Education classes at Nicolet, but after a year I decided that wasn’t the age group I was interested in working with,” Ashley explains. She transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Superior for an online Elementary Education program.

It wasn’t until she was student teaching in a local school that Ashley realized she just wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. “I felt like I would dread going to work everyday,” she says.

“I’ve always been crafty, creative and artsy, but thought of it as more of a hobby, not something that I could make a career out of. I got a job at a local newspaper doing computer graphics and took graphic design classes at Nicolet part-time because I was able to.”

After a layoff, Ashley took classes full-time and is finally getting a degree in something she “would love to do everyday for the rest of my life.”

“Nicolet’s Graphic Design program has given me the opportunity to explore so many different of avenues of graphic design, from drawing and painting to digital video and compositing/visual effects. I was able to discover what I truly feel passionate about—photography--and also learned a variety of different skills,” she adds.

Ashley is currently employed as a technology specialist at the Crandon Public Library. She creates all of their marketing and advertising pieces. After graduation, she will focus most of her attention on starting her own photography business.

The moral of Ashley’s story: explore all your options and know your interests before making a choice in higher education.

Her advice to teens:

  • Spend more time job shadowing in high school.
  • If you have set your sights on a career, explore it deeply.
  • Ask your counselor and your parents for help.