For some, the field of study you pursue in college determines your career path. But for others, like Mark Oppenneer, major definitely does not equal career! Mark currently works in IT, but has a degree in English education, a master’s in mythology and oral tradition, and a master’s in communication and rhetoric.
Mark found the field of IT almost by accident, as he realized he enjoyed creating web pages, and taught himself how to install content management systems. This personal interest is what landed him at Excelsior, where he still works today!
Mark has some essential career advice to anyone in the job searching process is to go deeper than the basic job functions. Mark says, “Concentrate on your ‘value adds’—assume every applicant will have the basic skills to get the job you want. Assume they went to a great school and got great grades. Now ignore all that and think about your magic sauce. What makes you different from these people – and how can you best communicate that difference to a potential employer.” What a great reminder that employers are looking for much more than a candidate who checks all the boxes on the job description.
Mark has many interests, both personal and professional, and those varied interests inform the work he does in information technology. “Being able to use elements from a background in mythology and storytelling to understand how marketing can better communicate with students, or using my knowledge as a former band manager to organize an effective user group, or relying on past experience working with indigenous communities to guide my approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion in my work.” No matter what career area you’re pursuing, be sure to follow Mark’s example and use all of your interests and past experiences to enhance your work!
No matter what field you pursue, focusing on the broader purpose behind what you do can help you stay motivated and do your best work. I’ll let Mark leave you with his words of advice:
“I also have learned that a service-minded approach is critical to my happiness. How can I take my skills, knowledge, and experience, and help other people with it? Can I make an advisor’s job easier, a student’s access to resources simpler, a staff process more lean or elegant? Being in a technology leadership role in an institution of higher learning gives me plenty of opportunity to do this and keeps my job interesting and fulfilling.
Lastly, I would say that having a varied past allows me to connect with people from many different backgrounds. Being an Army veteran, being a former teacher, having lived in South Korea and Germany, etc.— these experiences help me build bridges to other people and help me understand how to embrace other peoples’ differences.”
Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom and inspiration, Mark!