Blind Leading the Blind: Getting a Career You Love
Many of us feel pressured at a young age to decide on a small pool of college majors, a generous handful of which have little value in the real world. We then are stuck in debt with a degree and no idea if we actually want to do the thing (is there even a thing?) the degree has equipped us for. Or for those of us who did not end up choosing college, being stuck in a fast cash, potentially exhausting job and feeling like the only way out is a standard college degree. We all want to feel appreciated for what we are good at, work on ideas we are excited about, and with people who think similarly. So how do we escape this cycle and make satisfactory change?
This is more of an open discussion than a how-to guide. Finding something I feel like I’m “meant to” do or feel passionate about enough to do ‘for life’ has been something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve gone back and forth between wondering if I should do something for money or because it makes me happy, even if at a monetary sacrifice.
Between working at Starbucks, as a stagehand for musicians, and at another cafe, I paid for myself to go to college. I majored in History and Political Science, and, in feeling a sense of “what now?”, decided I should go to law school. I took the LSAT and made a last minute decision to work in a law firm before taking the plunge. After nearly 2 years, I realized that it did not bring me happiness, and I’m so glad I did. I saved over $100,000 in tuition and years of disappointment by not enrolling in grad school. Since then, I’ve modeled, gone through financial ups and downs, and enrolled in a small school program for a personal project unrelated to anything I’ve done before. This thing actually, finally makes me feel whole, satisfied, and in line with me exercising my most instinctual abilities. I’ll tell you more about it later. Anyway! Here is what I have learned through my personal rollercoaster ride of school and careers:
You are never too old or too deep into a career to make a big change. I’ve heard that the average American changes careers four times in their life. My mom, a lifelong waitress, got her college degree when she was 56. My sister found her calling making handmade vegan soap in her 30s. I’ve had god knows how many odd jobs. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind at any time. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up, it means you’ve gotten real with yourself. We are always learning more about what we like and don’t like. How could we possibly ignore our personal evolution and stifle our desires?!
Consider what you value more - your time or your money. Being a doctor, lawyer, financial trader, etc. may mean a six figure salary or more, but many of these people spend their lives at the office and even take calls and emails throughout their free time. What is the point of having a lot of money if you are leading a life you can’t wait to get a vacation from? Would you perhaps consider making less money if it means more time for yourself/loved ones and doing something you actually enjoy? Follow your intuition and be frank with yourself about what your true values are.
You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. In my personal experience, I chose my two biggest jobs so far based on how I thought it would make other people feel about me. First, I wanted people to take me seriously and then I wanted people to think I was cool. I also wanted to feel financially stable. Two out of three of these are terrible reasons to choose a career! I wasn’t doing something because the act of it brought me joy, but because I thought the reward of other people looking up to me would bring me joy. That’s not how it works. First of all, people are attracted to passionate people, and if you are not passionate about something, everyone can tell. Especially you.
There are options outside of a standard four year college degree and grad school. Unless you are very excited about the idea of what you are getting into, think very hard before diving into an undergraduate or graduate program. Not only are you sacrificing tens of thousands of dollars, but it may get harder for you to make any changes later because you can feel guilty for the valuable time and money you’ve invested in this. Consider seriously what you love to do. Is there a 4 month certificate program that gets you where you want to be? Great! An associate’s degree? Amazing! I know SO. MANY. FANTASTIC. PEOPLE. who never went to a regular college and achieved the jobs people only dream about via small programs, workshops, and even just mastering a skill on their own time. A bachelor’s degree simply for the sake of a bachelor’s degree is overrated.
Take it slow. Be easy on yourself. When you force yourself to make a decision, it’s easy to make the wrong one. Realizing what makes you happy should be exactly that: a realization. You can’t force yourself to suddenly choose. You need to be in tune with yourself so you can follow your intuition. I highly recommend meditation and journaling about little things that make you happy each day. What are you grateful for? What would you love to have more of in each day? Did you love giving advice to your friends about nutrition the other day? Maybe consider a certificate in health coaching. If you turn your focus towards gratefulness, more of that which you are thankful for will gravitate towards you in due time. That’s just the law of attraction. Trust that things will fall together when they are meant to.
Try something new. Even something small. Dedicate 10 or 15 minutes a day, outside of your 40 hour/week job, to a project that makes you happy. It could be painting, writing, blogging, an acting class. Anything that gets your mind of of a work vs. play mindset. Why can’t they be one and the same? Allow your brain to associate the two and soon you won’t accept anything less than fun work. This is a great way to kick your butt out of slumping into work unhappily day in and day out, thinking there is nothing else the world can offer. It can be a light at the end of the tunnel that makes you say “Hey, I want to do more of this and less of that. How can I get this started?” Change can’t help but occur when you know exactly what you like and want.
Getting the career you love can be a long process. Just remember that it is out there waiting for you. Everyone is a master of something. I once met a guy whose entire job was to just focus the camera for photographers for crying out loud. Take a deep breath, appreciate what you have, reflect inward, and you will then know what to look for. Careers you didn’t even know existed can reveal themselves to you. Don’t worry about “wasted time” or have any regrets for choices you have made. No one’s path to joy is perfectly straight!