Many students who graduate from BYU-Idaho end up in a career that is not related to their major.
In fact, only 25 percent of college graduates land a job that relates to their degree, according to the BYU-Idaho Academic Advising Center.
George and Silene Walters both ended up in careers irrelevant to their original plans.
George, a Ricks College alumnus, graduated with a degree in political science, and later obtained a bachelor’s in political science from BYU and a master’s in public administration. Today, Walters owns and operates Security Lock, Inc. in Rochelle, Illinois.
George’s wife, Silene, studied international relations at Northern Illinois University and BYU. She is now the owner of Walters Accounting, Inc.
“Very few students come out of college and do exactly what they thought they would do for the rest of their life,” George said.
Both George and Silene have adapted their career plans based on available opportunities, their location and somewhat on their personal preferences. Although George and Silene still work in different fields, they both said it was important to adapt to circumstances and develop interpersonal skills.
“I’d planned on going to law school,” George said. “After a mission in Brazil, I decided that law was not for me as a career.”
After deciding law was not for him, he held a college administration internship at Salt Lake Community College. After completing his internship, he decided to move back to Illinois to seek other job opportunities.
“I worked in a hospital, for the Red Cross, I worked at a Catholic Hospital in HR, and then after four or five years, I took over the family business,” George said. “My father ran the business for 50 years. I’ve always been involved; I started cutting keys when I was eight years old.”
George said he had an easy transition after struggling with his work in corporate America, which he felt usually entailed constant competition with coworkers to see who would be more well-liked and receive promotions.
“I have an associate’s and a bachelor’s in politics,” George said, “and what I learned about politics was that I didn’t really like them.”
Silene’s career path took a similar shape. After moving back to Illinois, Silene obtained a master’s in accounting services from NIU. Silene said her change in career was based on location.
“Even farmers need accountants,” Silene said. “You need to be realistic about what you can do where you live.”
George and Silene both said the most important factors in their current success were interpersonal skills and contacts.
“It’s easier to break into a small business like this,” George said, “And you don’t have to take it over from your father like I did. My wife, for example, took it over from a friend of mine. He was a personal contact.”
George said the most important part of keeping his business successful has been responsiveness to customers.
“My dad was old-school,” George said, “Technology’s become a big part of our business. When I took over, we weren’t doing anything with cameras, and we jumped into that when people said they needed it.”
Silene said if she were going to give any advice to current accounting students, it would be to develop interpersonal skills.
Silene said she keeps in contact with people she knows in the accounting department of NIU to find interns. She said the interns from BYU-I were found through personal contacts. Silene has had two interns from BYU-I and several more from local universities in Illinois.
“I’ve seen with my interns that those soft skills are lacking,” Silene said. “Learning how to read people, learning how to ask questions, and simple things like learning how to answer a phone or write a professional e-mail.”
Regardless of the field, the Walters family agrees they owe their current success due to networking and adapting to life’s curve balls.