How I ended up teaching at college…

If you told me, back when I was in college, that I would one day be at the front of the classroom teaching, I would have laughed. I had no aspirations to be a professor. I have been a college professor now for almost 20 years; time flies. Looking back at the ‘circumstances’ that got me here, it kind of makes sense and I am really not that surprised anymore.

In my earlier days, I was pretty sure I would end up working in the music business. After all, I worked in record (yes, ‘record’) stores throughout high school and college, and that also included working for a rock concert promoter (that was cool). Upon graduating from college, I landed a job managing a record store, so I assumed that’s the direction I was heading. However, as I tell my students, you never know when an opportunity will present itself. A family friend told me about  a managerial position that was opening up at a large retail chain that might interest me, especially because it was heavily involved in retail merchandising (which I knew I had a ‘knack’ for doing well), so I applied for it and was called in for an interview. Thinking back, it was actually a great interview. Basically, the owner said to me, “Your interview won’t be the two of us sitting here. We’re going to tour the store and the warehouse, and you’re going to tell me everything that you see is wrong and needs to be fixed.” He grabbed a clipboard and off we went.

All the previous experience I had gained throughout the years working through high school and college paid off. I must have told him over 100 things wrong with the store; wasted space, poor merchandising, and missed sales opportunities. I didn’t mince words, since I figured he wanted to hire someone that would tell him the way it was.  By the end of the day, I got the call that I had the job. I found out afterward that my comment, “that space on the wall is empty; you’re not selling slat board!”, was the clincher. So, out went the Led Zeppelin t-shirt, jeans, and runners, and in came the dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes. From there, years of  ‘circumstances’, career shifts, and great people that I have met along the way, led me to teaching at the college.

Who knows, it could have been fate? Before I even stepped foot on the campus where I now teach, I was a General Manager for a small retail chain that was going through rough times. I was putting together an operations manual and needed some advice on the HR portion of it. I was put in contact with a management consultant who helped me out with writing job descriptions and HR policies, yea, exciting stuff like that. One day, he said, “you know, you could easily teach about business. Here’s a business card of a ‘Chair’ at the college that I know, give him a call sometime.” That card sat on my desk for weeks, until I saw it again when I was clearing off my desk. I decided to pick up the phone and make the call. Before I knew it, a meeting was arranged. I talked with the Chair, we looked at my portfolio, and finished the meeting. Before I left his office, he said to me, “it could be 6 days, 6 months, or 6 years before we call you, we never know around here.” That was fine, I was busy enough. That meeting was on the Thursday, I got a call on the Friday to “pick up the textbook”, and I started on the Monday. I remember it was just one class, and it was teaching a subject in which I had a lot of experience, so that made it doable. I quickly made arrangements where I was working, so it wouldn’t cause any problems, and just like that, I was an instructor at a college. After teaching that first class, I knew I had found my niche.

I still remember walking into that first class with my expensive dark blue suit and tie, shined dress shoes (and silver ‘Miami Vice’ briefcase). I wasn’t much older than many of the students, so I thought the suit would make me appear much older (and wiser?) than they thought I was. After a while, I realized that it may have been a bit ‘over the top’, so the suit, tie, and shiny shoes were replaced with more ‘casual wear’ (but I kept the briefcase, it was too cool). Today, the ‘dress code’ fluctuates between casual and formal, depending on the circumstances.

Let’s flash forward since that first class. I have taught literally thousands of business students that have passed through my classes. What a great profession. It keeps you thinking young and it constantly increases your neurons. As well, it’s great to see when your students succeed in their chosen fields and know that you were a part of it. At the same time, though, it’s actually kind of a weird profession when you think about it. Even though you are getting older, the students always stay the same age…it’s kind of got a weird ‘Twilight Zone’ vibe to it.

Oh yea, as far as the Led Zeppelin t-shirt I mentioned earlier, I still wear it when I bang on my John Bonham ‘Orange Vistalite’ drums (drummers will appreciate this)…come on, it’s Led Zeppelin, what do you expect?

The Professor on the drum kit. *Watch for my videos on Youtube!




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