Getting a university education is not for everyone. For many, it is considered that college is
the best way to ensure highest earning potential. For others, they believe there are better
ways to accomplish same.
University taught me so many things. These lessons have provided a foundation for a
great career. However, it was not in the planned path.
The lessons learned in school included but not limited to
both an academic and self-development foundation.
On the academic side, I gained skills around the following:
- Understanding evaluation criteria.
- Communication skills, both verbal and written.
- Presentation skills.
- Lesson planning.
- The world of movement science.
- The world of teaching methodology.
- Social sciences like philosophy and psychology.
- The role of formal education in our society.
- Research methods.
- Statistical analysis.
On the self-development side:
- Time management.
- Prioritization of tasks.
- Self confidence.
- Getting out of my comfort zone.
- Critical thinking.
- Living independently.
- Being functional with sleep deprivation!
There is so much more.
But there is 1 thing that university did not teach me,
something I needed the most.
How to make a living with the education that has
University prepares us for many things, but for many,
earning an income is not one of them.
Can a university degree make it easier to get a job?
A teaching degree in Physical Education should always be in
Students will always be in need of daily movement, yes?
Much to my surprise, the people in power determining
curriculum did not agree.
For 8 years, post university, I taught in various school
boards around Montreal. I started as a
supply teacher part time as I finished my thesis. That got me my first full time job in an K-6
school. 3 schools actually, dividing my time teaching PE in 3 small
I loved being a gym teacher.
After 2 years, I ran into my first roadblock. Gym time
cutbacks meant less gym teachers.
I found an opening back in Montreal at Dawson College and
joined the PE department there in 1993.
The experience at the collegiate level was very different
than teaching younger ages, but equally powerful. Young adults (17 and over)
were preparing for university and/or a trade. They had to take a gym class
every semester as part of their core course load. They got to choose from
classes like stress management, team sports, individual sports, martial arts,
outdoor ed like hiking and mountain biking.
1 of the classes I taught was outdoor education for students
with disabilities. We had students up in
the Laurentian mountains, north of Montreal, camping, canoeing, hiking and
sleeping under the stars. For young adults, some of them had never been out of
It was life changing for all involved.
Cutbacks put an end to that. Very quickly students had less
gym class requirements. No longer
compulsory. The staff was cut by 50%
from 34 to 17.
In my 8 years of teaching, I always had year to year
contract. I would be unemployed in the spring and sometimes renewed in the
fall, and often had to find a new position.
My wife and I just moved into our first house, I felt at a crossroads. How long do I keep bouncing around?
It was the spring of 1995 and I made the leap to 100%
commission sales position, selling exercise equipment to gyms and fitness
centers. I have never looked back.
It opened a ton of doors for me, and I have been blessed with
25 years of unique experiences and satisfying work.
A lot of financial and professional ups and downs and
lessons along the way.
When leaving university, it never occurred to me I would
struggle to find an appropriate income. The
art of making a living while making a life is a skill that can be learned and
I wish that in addition to the academic and self-development
lessons I learned, there were also financial ones. How to maximize earning potential and how to
promote your skill set in the wake of what the market needs and where revenue
Now that I think of it, should that not be standard in
any academic or technical education stream?
I certainly learned the skills of perseverance and
preparation in university, and those served me well adjusting my professional course
after 8 years in the field, and 5 years of training.
However, those adjustments might have been a little less
painful with a career management course or 2. Starting from scratch at 30 years old, was a
risky move and many thought I was nuts.
Certainly, I feel very qualified to build that curriculum
out now for those in a discipline where the traditional demand does not always
Students still need to move daily in order to be at their
best. However, in 2020 they are still not getting daily gym class. Far from it.
Sitting and screen time is taking over
more and more.
Broadcasters are being created everyday with the growth of
podcasts, have the learning institutions offering broadcasting adjusted? I hope so.
All disciplines need to have keyboard skills, have the
learning institutions adjusted? I hope so.
Tons of personal trainers and fitness professionals are
struggling to make a living. Have the
accreditation groups adjusted to include career management in their
curriculums? I hope so.
Devil’s advocates could say that the skill developed in
school is what led me to have the confidence to adjust careers as I evolved in my
There might be a better way we can pass on to the next ones.
I think some more formal guidance in this area could have saved a ton of time on the roller coaster of making a living!