Choosing a career is like being in love: you go crazy trying to figure out which one is right for you until you find it — then you just know.
Everywhere I turn I see people struggling with the same age-old question: What am I supposed to do with my life? If you’re in your teens or getting ready for college, this question can haunt the bejesus out of you. Schools push you to choose earlier every year, even if you aren’t ready for that choice. You want to have fun. You want to go out with friends. You have no bills, so you can’t imagine a life where you have to pay them.
First things first: if you don’t know who you are, how can you expect to know what you want to do with the rest of your life? The biggest mistake people make is that they go into what they think they might like to do (or will make them the most money) without ever truly examining themselves. When was the last time you took an introspective look at yourself? If it hasn’t been soon, you should take another look.
So, how do you go about selecting a career? It might help if we first figured out what a career means to you. Is a career the backbone of your life? Do you see yourself working long hours and sleepless nights? Or are you the kind of person who wants to go in, do your job, and then leave it all behind?
There are two things you need to carefully consider when choosing a career. First, you need to decide if the career you are considering is something you like to do. You need to see if it’s something you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life. If it’s not, then you need to keep looking. Although people’s preferences change greatly over the course of their life, careful examination of this one point is crucial. Without it, everything else around it will fail.
The second thing you need to consider is whether the career will support your ideal lifestyle. Not necessarily the life you lead now, but your IDEAL lifestyle. The one you always imagine yourself living. It’s one thing be able to put food on the table. It’s another to be able to do what you want, when you want.
The biggest mistake is to choose a career just for the money (even if it’s something you don’t like) or just because you enjoy it (even if it won’t support you). You don’t go to college just get a degree in something you love. You go to get a degree in something that will support you. If it won’t support you, you might as well stop wasting your time.
You need to find a healthy balance between doing something you love to do and doing something that will support your lifestyle. For example, if I wanted to be an artist, it would be foolish of me to go to college just to get an art degree. Why? Because you don’t need an art degree to be a successful artist. You can best develop your talent on your own or through workshops. The same thing applies to writing and music. Those aren’t skills you learn in college, so going to college to get a degree in those things is just a waste of your time and hard earned money.
However, it’s nice to know that we aren’t limited in our lives by only one true love. The truth is, we can have a lot of different interests. For example, here is a list of the things I love to do: write, read, play softball/baseball, run/walk, hunt, fish, play with kids, and psychology. Did you see any career choices in there? I see a whole bunch, but three things really stood out: writing, playing with kids, and psychology.
My first love is writing. I’ve been writing ever since I could pick up a pencil, and my biggest dream is to one day be published. However, it would be silly for me to go to college to get a degree in writing. There’s nothing wrong with me taking some college courses in writing, don’t get me wrong, but hinging my entire career on a writing degree isn’t leaving me with a whole lot of options. So, I can choose to develop that talent on my own and keep working toward that goal.
Meanwhile, there are two other career choices that also fit my interests, but would make for more solid degrees: Education and Psychology. I could choose either one, or I could combine the two and become a Child Psychologist. A bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology is going to open far more doors for me than a degree in writing. And I could be extremely happy with a career in Child Psychology, even though it’s not my number one passion.
See what I mean? Your goal is to effectively leave as many options open as you can, while still maintaining and developing your passions. If you can do this much, and figure this much out, then the decision will be much easier for you.
Now is the time to pick a direction. Do it wisely and you’ll be fine.
By James L