One of the scariest things is not knowing whether you’re on the right career path. After years and years of studying for a career, you suddenly discover that you don’t even like the profession and you’re only a year away from graduation.
Many people go into careers because it’s expected of them. Everyone in the family is a doctor or a lawyer, so junior must be one, too. It doesn’t even matter whether he loves the field; the expectation is there that he follows in his parent’s footsteps.
There are so many students who don’t know what they want to do with their lives that they change their major almost as often as they change their underwear. They keep pushing the graduation date further and further away so that they don’t have to make such a momentous decision.
When I was going to college, I wanted to become a philosopher. The trouble was that there were no job listings in the Classified Ads section of the newspaper for a philosopher. And I didn’t know what else I could be. I certainly didn’t have the job skills to be anything else.
I wish I knew at seventeen what I know now about picking a career. It would have saved me years and years of trying to figure out what I might be good at and what would hold my interest.
With age and experience come a lot of wisdom. Nowadays, I tell my clients to make a list of all the things they feel passionate about. Then, I tell them to take summer jobs in those fields, without pay, and see if they love the work. Not just like the work, but love the work.
I had a client who was in her mid-thirties when she came to me with a career decision. She wanted to get out of the field she was in but she didn’t know what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. I knew she was good at science and math but she wasn’t the type of person who could be described as the milk of human kindness. She also didn’t like to get dirty.
There was one branch of medicine that I thought would be perfect for her. When I suggested it to her, she blanched and told me she couldn’t stand blood. She had been my client for a couple of decades and I had a feeling that as long as it wasn’t her blood, she could stand to see someone else’s.
At three o’clock in the morning, I took her to one of the hospitals and introduced myself to the floor nurse and told her that my client was considering going into medicine but she didn’t know if she could stand the sight of blood, and asked her if she could visit the surgical floor.
The nurse was very kind. She cleared the way for us, introduced us to the nurses on the surgical floor, and gave us clearance to visit all the rooms.
We looked at the IVs that were attached to arms, listened to people crying, screaming, or moaning, watched the nurses attending the patients, changing dressings, and all the other things that my client didn’t think she could endure.
As long as it wasn’t her blood, or her pain, she not only endured it, she was fascinated. The next week she signed up for a branch of med school that didn’t involve her getting dirty or drawing blood, and to this day, she enjoys her work. She also has staff to do the dirty work and to keep the exam rooms clean.
For students who have no idea what they feel passionate about and who want a career direction but don’t want to take unpaid summer jobs to see if they would like working in the field, I often send them to take an Interest and Aptitude test.
Many people have an interest in something but they don’t have the aptitude for it and there are just as many people who have the aptitude for something but they have no interest in it. The Interest and Aptitude test scores it so that you see if you can match your interests with your aptitudes. Then, you have a conference with a counsellor to help you select a career based on your interests and aptitudes.
I don’t think these tests were available in my day but even though they are available today, I don’t think many students are aware of their existence. Moreover, I don’t even know if they have counsellors who have the expertise to put these scores together in a meaningful way for students who are grappling with career choices for their future.
But I do know, now that I am so very much older, if I were starting out today, I would find a way to get tested for my interests and aptitudes and I would find a way of doing an internship without pay, to make sure that I really wanted to go into that field.
Instead of rushing through school so that I could graduate from college at twenty, I would have taken the time to apply for different summer internships to see what I wanted to do with my life.
The only thing I knew about myself at seventeen, is that I was always fascinated by the way people think, how they behave, and how one little word could change the way a person’s thinking and behavior could be changed. And, most of all, I loved fixing everyone’s problems and finding workable solutions for everyone’s problems. It took me half a lifetime to find a career that lets me do the things I feel passionate about.
Now, I feel passionate about helping people find their own passion and directing them into careers that will bring them joy. Almost all careers depend on the economy but if you love what you’re doing, even the toughest economy will be easier to endure than a good economy where you dread getting up in the morning to go to work.
Find your passion. Make a career out of it, and you will never feel as though you are working a day in your life.
by Connie H. Deutsch