By the time I was a High School senior with aspirations for college, I had already changed my career path several times. Being into military things and watching way too many movies like Iron Eagle and Top Gun , I originally wanted to be an officer and a fighter pilot; this was squelched when someone convinced me that my height would be an issue for flying jets. Prior to High School I wanted to pursue a medical path, and then there was my Architect phase. Looking back at all of these changes, much of my influence came from talking to the wrong people about my career path and it made me enter into a University system unsure of what it was that I wanted to be when I grew up.
Like many of you younger people reading I assumed that a career was something you took on because you were good at a skill and wanted to make it your life’s work. This thinking led me to try the Computer Science route when I got to the University – since I had been programming games since age 13. It only made sense right?
When I saw the movie Boomerang and Halle Berry‘s character (a graphic artist) made a perfume logo for her company I thought that it was amazing. A career as a Graphic Designer would be the perfect marriage of my natural artistic ability with the computer – how naive was I? Nowhere in all of this decision-making did I consider salary, demand, or relevance. Not looking at the forest for the trees is one of the worst things you can do when deciding a career and I was running out of time going into my Junior year.
A good wake-up call for me came when I took on a part-time job at a retail store in the mall and met many adults who were using the job to buffer their personal finances. One guy was a business-owner (which struck me as odd at the time) who sold ties there 20 hours a week in order to pay off a bill, another woman was only there to get out of her chaotic house. The person who made an impact on me however was the woman who talked about getting her degree in Zoology and being unable to find work due to no openings. She was one of many people who I met in mundane, low-paying jobs that couldn’t get their career started due to no availability.
“…influence came from talking to the wrong people…”
How many of you older folks reading are working in the field that you set out to be in as a young adult? I would wager that only a few of you answered positively. I personally finished school with a 4-year degree in a field that I found out later was over-saturated, highly underpaid, and extremely under appreciated. It forced me to pick up a book, learn finances and become an entrepreneur but that is because I am a fighter. How many burnt out people are sitting in offices, rotting away in careers that let them down? Plenty. Though I found a new path which challenges and gets me paid, it still feels as if ten years of my life could have been better utilized had I made the correct decision in choosing my career.
If you are considering starting or changing your career path anytime soon I would advise you to do a number of things before you burn your money and time on classes, crappy jobs, and frustration:
- Find a successful person who has dominated that job path.
- Ask said successful person how he/she got there.
- Ask if it is possible for you to go the same route or if they are an exception to the norm.
- Look at the demand for such a job to see if people are hiring, and most importantly what you can add to your resume to give you an edge.
You have to do your research and you have to make sure that what you set out to do is what you will be comfortable doing throughout your life. Don’t make a rash judgment and don’t let misinformed, idealistic people in your life convince you that a certain path is for you. Make up your own mind, talk to the experts and you will have saved yourself a lot of time, regret, and money for the future.