Thinking Ahead

Thinking Ahead

This year has been a busy one for me, which has led to sporadic and largely uninteresting blog posts. For the last few months, I haven’t been doing much more than feeding my horses and moving them from paddock to pasture. Instead, I’ve been doing something way less exciting: taking classes at Tulsa Community College.

At some point last summer, I realized that my long-term job prospects aren’t great. Johnny had an interview with an out-of-state company, which prompted me to look for potential jobs in the area. I didn’t find many that looked appealing; I didn’t seem qualified for those that did look interesting. My bachelor’s degree is in natural resources management with a concentration in soil science and minor in biology. When I graduated in 2008 during the recession, no one was hiring soil scientists. I had a small student loan, so I took a customer service job right away in order to start paying it. I did that for a year, worked as a therapeutic riding instructor for three years, and have been at The Horse of Course for nearly five. Aside from a summer internship, I’ve never worked in natural resources management.

My official title at The Horse of Course is Web/Marketing Manager, but I wear a lot of hats. I manage the store’s e-commerce site, pick and ship most web orders, coordinate marketing campaigns, negotiate vendor and sponsor contracts with organizations and venues, oversee the store’s budget, assist with buying inventory, travel with the mobile unit, and often help the customer service team on the sales floor. By most metrics, I am reasonably good at my job. However, I feel like I’ve been making it up as I go along, and my weird, unrelated degree doesn’t help my job prospects.

Last summer, I scheduled an appointment to talk with an advisor at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa about getting a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Many of my classes from the University of Tennessee-Martin transfer, but there’s not a lot of overlap between natural resources management and marketing. There are a lot of classes I need to earn a marketing degree. The advisor recommended a list of classes I could take at Tulsa Community College that would transfer to OSU Tulsa.

Last semester, I took microeconomics and financial accounting. This spring, I took entrepreneurship, statistics, and managerial accounting. It’s been time-consuming and difficult. Fall is a busy time at work; I traveled for nearly a quarter of the semester. Work is slower in the winter and spring, but the courses I took had a staggering volume of homework. I spent most of my free time on weekends and evenings grinding through accounting problems and writing a business plan. The work has paid off: I earned an A in every class I took. More importantly, some of these classes are helping me do a better job at my current job!

A rare trail ride!

You might wonder if all this means I plan to leave The Horse of Course. I don’t- I love working there. The schedule flexibility is great and selling horse stuff to horse people is fun! But the store’s owner is considering retirement, which means the business will eventually be sold or closed. If it’s sold and the new owners aren’t in Oklahoma, it’s likely this location will close. Either way, I’ll need to find work. It can’t hurt to get additional education to back up my experience.

At any rate, the semester is over and I am relieved! I’m looking forward to reclaiming my free time and spending the summer riding. And I’ve learned my lesson about school/work/life balance- I’m only taking ONE class this fall!

7 thoughts on “Thinking Ahead”

  • Good for you! It takes a TON of dedication to take classes later on in life, especially while working and riding and… all of the other adulting things you have to take care of. I have a lot of respect for people who can do it — I don’t think I could!!

    • It was definitely tough to balance adulting, riding, working, and going to school, especially this semester! I felt like all I did was lock myself in my home office and stare into my computer screen. Johnny was incredibly helpful and did more than his share of household chores, managed dinner most nights, and fed the horses and dogs so I didn’t have to interrupt my marathon homework sessions.

      It might take a while to earn the degree, but I figure the time will pass anyway, so I might as well do something useful with it!

  • I’m excited for you, I always enjoy learning new things. Since I work in natural resources, I will say that we NEED marketing. One of my career-long soapboxes is that we have GOT to make resources sexy & sell it to people in language they understand. I work with a ton of phenomenal people, but many of them don’t understand how to communicate that what we do really IS what everyone should care about because they can’t live without it (especially because I work in aquatic resources). My agency had a marketing person for a while, but sadly they were terrible, I don’t even know if we have one anymore. I’m sure there’s not a ton of those jobs out there, but boy should there be. And a creative person who ran with that could do so much good. NCSU has a darn good extension department, but navigating their webpages can cause me some minor aneurysms — if I can learn web design on Google (I run our state chapter fisheries professional website), surely they can do better! Don’t even get me started on our agency site & my head-smashing run ins with IT, where I am trying to explain to them why their lazy code with gaping security holes is a problem…and doesn’t work properly.

    Ok, rant over, haha. The beauty of marketing is that you can apply it to anything & smart you, you can do it anywhere! Those all sounds like very useful skills (and things that I am bad at, i.e. accounting)!

    • It’s been really fun to learn new things like accounting! I’ve been doing lots of this type of work at my job anyway, so it’s kind of a relief to get some kind of formal training in it instead of just Googling and setting up spreadsheets that I THINK make sense.

      I hope that this degree will make me more appealing as a job candidate (or better prepared to run my own tack shop some day 😉 ).

  • So impressed with you taking that initiative! It’s always great to have fall back options if things need to change. But also, I’m glad you’re not taking summer classes so you can get back to playing with your ponies!

  • Working and doing school is hard work! So major kudos for you for doing that juggling and getting good grades! The recession really threw me for a loop too – so I feel you on that and I think it’s great you are looking on expanding your professional knowledge.

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