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How to Pick the Right Career Path

Douglas has a job he likes and likes to help others achieve the same thing.

Our jobs take up a large amount of our time. Because of this, it is important to consider our career choice carefully. Unfortunately, however, at the stage in our lives in which we are confronted with this choice, we are not always as equipped to make it.

Indeed, with life experience comes a better understanding of ourselves as a person, but your career choice is not something you can easily postpone until you have enough ‘life experience’. Moreover, as we all live within societies that have different cultural frameworks and values, we are too often influenced by what others want for us.

Below is a step by step plan to mediate these influences, so we can make as conscious a choice as we can. Hopefully, by asking yourself the questions encapsulated in these steps, you’ll have a better understanding of yourself and what you’d like and a better idea of where to grab the reins of life in order to lead it in the direction that you want.

STEP 1: Think about what you’d like

This advice seems so simple and obvious that you might be tempted to roll your eyes. Of course, what you want to do should be based on what you like, but what we like is not profitable or is not even work. We like sitting on the couch and watching shows, but that isn’t going to keep our bank accounts filled. All this, however, doesn’t negate the fact that any good career is a career that the person working enjoys.

Furthermore, we often actually forget to properly answer this question, to sit with it and let it germinate in our minds. It’s even the case that we often restrict ourselves when answering this question by keeping in mind what the question is eventually meant to achieve. We eliminate eating cake, partying or reading romance novels, because we know they aren’t relevant to the career question—or so we say—, or we like cleaning, but we eliminate this from our field of inquiry, because we know our parents would be disappointed if we became a cleaner and that’s the only end our interest in cleaning will lead to—or so we think.

In order to really consider this question, we have to really sit with it for sometime and look at it from different angles. Here are some questions that can help to tease out hidden interests that you might not really be aware of yet:

  • What kind of characters in movies and stories often peak my interest? Lawyers, princes and princesses, policemen, superheroes, witches and wizards, mermaids, unicorns, cocktail creators, deep sea divers, fashion designers… ?
  • What do I revert to doing when I have nothing better to do? Reading books, walking, scrolling on social media, daydreaming, doodling dresses or dream house layouts, watching documentaries, knitting, working out, meditating, colouring in picture books, ...?
  • What do I like to do on holiday? Visit musea, collect shells, hike in the mountains, dive, learn about local legends and history, shop, search out the not as touristy areas, eat the local food, show of my ‘beach body’, ...? If shopping, shopping for what? Clothes, antiques, art, books, sardine cans? If searching out history, which history?
  • What would I do if I had all the money in the world and all important stuff was taken care off for me? Would I lay on the couch and watch tv, travel, build a town and invite people to come live in it, invest in making myself a transhumanist superman, search for treasure in remote locations, bake cupcakes, go to the zoo and themeparks with my partner and kids, start my own beer brewing company, … ?
  • If I were an orphan and didn’t have anyone who cared about what I did, what would I do? Would I go to underground raves, have multiple sexual partners, read or game until way past bedtime, quit school or change majors, become a garbage collector, try to find someone rich to marry and become a trophy wife or husband, volunteer for certain causes, go and live in another country, set out to life among the trees and animals, foster a bunch of children, ...?
  • What do I find impressive or cool about certain other people? Is it their bravery, their stoicism, creativity, originality, or for instance, ability to influence others or their ability to earn lots of money? Are there careers that are specifically suited to these characteristics that you admire, like for instance marketeer, influencer, soldier, specialist, artist, teacher, stock broker, … ?
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Now do we see a pattern in our answers? Is there an area of interest that stands out? Or are there even some specific career paths that we cannot stop ourselves from thinking about? Hold on to these for a moment.

STEP 2: Include reality

Now, of course, we have to account for reality in our career future as well. We might have parents we don’t want to upset. Or, maybe what we’d like to be is physically impossible. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to live off what we want to do, or we don’t fit the requirements. Let’s take our primary career idea from step 1 and ask ourselves the following question:

  • What is stopping me from pursuing this? Is it the limits of nature, monetary worries, social pressure, legal impossibilities, only my own belief of how the world works, ...?

Now, let’s ask ourselves the next questions as well:

  • What interests me in this career specifically and are there other careers that are more feasible that are also an option? Would I like to be superman to get the recognition that comes with saving people? Would becoming a fireman or -woman do the same as well? Or is it the fact that superman is stronger than anyone else that intrigues me? Or is it his ability to fly? What about aviation? Or becoming a sky-diving instructor? A jet pack demonstrator? A stuntman?
  • What would also appeal to me that would give me enough salary and spare time to devote myself to my first interest as a hobby?
  • Are there really no opportunities? Maybe we’d like to be a witch and you think that’s not a viable option, but maybe there are PhD-programs in the history of occultism and magick or courses we can take to become a practising medium or Wiccan herbalist?

STEP 3: Let’s cut ourselves some slack

Finally, it is important to remember that, while our career choice is an important choice to make, it isn’t the be all and end all of our life trajectory. As mentioned already in step 2, it’s possible to work a job that isn’t perfectly aligned with our dream career, if it gives us time and money to pursue our dream as a hobby. If our colleaugues are nice as well, this might make for a life that many others would envy.

Work-life balance, income, location and similar considerations cannot be underestimated. Even a dream career can become something we hate, when we have a two hour commute, we have to work for poverty wages or we have no time to see friends and family anymore. We should ask around or read online about the realities of what we’d like to pursue. If what we learn already stressed us out before we have even started, we should maybe cut ourselves some slack and consider other options. Let’s not get ourselves caught in the idea of sunken cost, may it be in education or in emotional energy.

Conversely, however, we should also cut ourselves some slack when it comes to our fears. Usually, people understand that others new in a certain career need some time to get the hang of the path they have chosen. And often, when we start working, we even find out that the work isn’t as difficult as people often made seem. Many older colleaugues will still struggle with computers or social media, for example, and formatting a word document or writing a Facebook post can be a mammot task to them while we can do this without thinking much about it. A decent education that taught us how to navigate the current world in general, will also have prepared us, at least in part, for the working world.

A career once chosen, is also not set in stone forever. In fact, it it highly likely that even if you have found a way to have the career you always wanted that after some time, you will want to do something else. Our lives change, our perspectives shift and what once seemed boring may become our new obsession. Someone who is twenty is not the same person as when he or she was a newborn. If we add another twenty years to this persons life, they are still only forty. If they are healthy, they could reach many other twenty-milestones. Imagine the changes and growth that are still to be experienced in this twenty year-old’s life. Not everything has to be perfect immediately. Life is often like a game, and we shouldn’t always take it too seriously.

© 2022 Douglas Redant

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