As we make resolutions for 2020, I just thought it would be helpful if I write something about career choice as most people make mistakes in this area. As research has pointed out, 70% of your active adult life is spent at work. You, therefore, need to be wise in your career decision and choose something that you love doing. Otherwise, you will be stuck with a career that you don’t love. You will feel miserable for the greater part of your life. Most of the time we make these career choices when we do not have enough knowledge. However, It’s not always that people choose the wrong careers unconsciously, sometimes they do it consciously due for different reasons.
Some reasons why people make the wrong career choices or career compromise
Sometimes circumstances force people to end up working just for the sake of earning money. Especially in our African society where we are shouldered by the responsibilities of looking after our younger siblings, nephews, nieces, and older parents. Sometimes we give up on what we love for what we can earn so that we make ends meet. But just because you had to do it to earn something, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever. Because if you do that then it means you have sacrificed your own life to help others which in the end, will not benefit you or them much.
Background and upbringing
I have seen teachers or headmasters or principals’ kids becoming nothing short of their parents. There is a greater temptation to fall into the same bracket as your parents or siblings but please do resist the edge. Don’t be haunted by your parent’s or siblings’ successes. Your parents may be your role models, they are to most of us. However, that doesn’t mean you will be good at what they were good at or you will enjoy their choices. Of course, they managed to put a roof over your head, put food on the table and send you to school because of their choices. But those choices may not work out the same for you or give you happiness.
In some cases, it’s just the lack of drive and therefore someone just ends up falling into familiar territory, please resist the edge! This is where children don’t choose their career path but just find themselves on a path that their parents have trodden instead of finding their own path. They concentrate on making sure they succeed on the path that their parents have trodden. If this happens, your career choice would have been predefined for you.
Sometimes people get stuck in career choices that they don’t want because of their academic achievements. Most of the time this is shaped when kids move from high school to college. You are normally allowed to enroll for certain courses depending on your pass rates in those courses and this is very limiting. In the end, most people find themselves stuck in careers that they don’t like because that’s what their high school pass rates would allow. Don’t fall into that trap, either take a gap year and rewrite the subject that you need or explore your options further with other different institutions. You can also do a certain degree and gain knowledge but still choose a different career path that you personally enjoy.
Most people accept jobs that they don’t like because those are the opportunities that they can find available. But this will only make you miserable if you decide to do it for the rest of your life. You need to have a passion for what you do not to just do it for the sake of an available opportunity for you to pay bills. That’s when we end up with nurses who can’t stand sick patients or accountants who don’t have a clue about numbers!
In several cases, society gives us pressure, our peers, our spouses, our parents, etc. But never ever make the mistake of letting someone choose your career path for you. In the end, you are the one who will have to live with that career for the rest of your life. It has to be your decision, not anyone’s, not even your partner’s or parents’. Sometimes your parents have their own pre-set standards of what you should do in order for them to consider you successful but don’t fall into their trap.
Lack of knowledge
Most of the time people choose a career path because they lack knowledge. Firstly about themselves and secondly about the career paths that they need to pursue. You need to do a lot of self-introspection about yourself and proper research about the career path you want to choose. Don’t be too excited about getting your A-level or Matric results. Then you just apply to college because you are excited about college. Be sure you know what you are applying for, you love it and it’s in tandem with your aspirations in life. Also, find an opportunity to consult those who are already on that career path and tap into their knowledge.
How to know when you have made a bad career choice
- Feeling bored about what you do. When you feel the boredom sensation creeping up every time you think of your career then you are definitely on the wrong path.
- Feeling distressed and discomfort. It is normal to feel discomfort about something here and there, maybe the working environment or colleagues around you. But when the discomfort is associated with your specific job e.g. working long hours for accountants or traveling for auditors then probably you are on the wrong career path.
- No matter how hard you try, your motivational juices are just low.
- Choosing a career based on the money or status associated with it. Sometimes you can have a lot of money but not even have a second to enjoy it. Find a balance between money and what fulfills you. Money without fulfillment will not give you much joy.
Steps that can guide you in making the right career choice
- Know yourself. Write down your values, likes and dislikes, and preferences. Time and introspection will help you figure this out. The more you know about yourself the better it will help you know what you need to do with your life. Be intimate with yourself and understand what really drives you, and what would make you happy. Focus on your primary interests and passions. What is important to you?
- Align your career with your aspirations. What do you love and enjoy doing naturally? You are likely to be more successful in a career that you are passionate about.
- Have the right motive. Choose a career that you love not the one that earns the most money or gives the greatest security because in the end job satisfaction will give you more happy days than what money and security can offer.
- Choose a career that stirs and excites your imagination. Pay attention to times that you are really enjoying and try to understand why you really enjoy those times; that may give you a clue as to what really excites you.
A career is not just about paying the bills and putting food on the table. Being stuck in an unenjoyable job has the same mental and emotional strain as being unemployed. A situation whereby you will be looking at your watch from the moment you get to work, counting down the hours so that you can call it a day.
Even though you may find meaning and compensatory satisfaction from other things besides your work such as your family and your hobbies, still the time you spend engaging with family and pursuing your hobbies is a miniature compared to the time you spend at work therefore mostly your life’s mood pace is normally set by your feelings about your career.
Sometimes no matter how cautious we are, we may just end up choosing the wrong career. But that is not the end of the road. Below I have written some tips which may help you survive a boring career.
How to survive a wrong/ boring career
1. Make friends at work.
Having friends to chat and joke with can help you relieve the stress of an unfulfilling job and improve your performance or simply get you through a hectic day.
2. Learn the most out of your current career.
Knowledge is the world’s universal currency, you can always use it anywhere. Make the most of your current career, and capitalize on it. It will be such a shame both to have to endure that unenjoyable career for so long and yet again come out of it with almost zero knowledge at all. You need to capitalize on the knowledge, skills, and even contacts. In every career, there is an opportunity to learn and grow. No matter which environment you find yourself in, no one can stop you from learning and building relationships. Because no matter how you think your current job sucks, the fact is, you will never be able to outplace the experience you gain from it.
3. Sometimes the only way to survive a bad career is by changing it.
Although this may seem easier said, it is however very difficult to change careers once you have invested a greater part of your life in getting an education and being qualified for a certain career. Most people are not bold enough to make that change. A lot will just remain in that unhappy career for the rest of their lives.
I, however, believe that a single choice should not determine your entire career life. Life has no guarantees, life is not predictable and therefore sometimes it is hard to have a linear career path. You may start off as an accountant and end up as a psychologist like me. There is really no need for you to stay on a career path that makes you feel miserable every day of your life. As long as you are alive, it’s never too late to implement change. Do not let fear rob you of your entire life. Don’t be crippled by the following fears;
Fear of change
Almost all human beings do not like change, so that is very natural. Because change brings unpredictability, change is scary!
Solution: Even though it’s very scary but growth is unattainable without change. For any real growth to take place in anything, change must happen. Take your time to properly plan for the change you require. You will find it more rewarding when done with proper analysis. Take your time to plan your next career choice or otherwise you will jump from an unsatisfying job to an even more frustrating one, from the frying pan into the fire. Changing a career should not be a rushed or hushed decision but a carefully contemplated plan of action. Sit down and properly map your way forward, career transition cannot be done overnight.
Fear of financial loss
Most people get stuck on the wrong career path because they are afraid of the repercussions of losing their current income.
Solution: You don’t need to jump out of your job the very next moment you feel you are unhappy. Patience is a virtue, you don’t need to drop the egg the very moment you feel it’s hot. You first devise ways to hold it so that you don’t get much burning whilst looking for some greener pastures in terms of a more fulfilling career. Use the few hours you have left in the day to build on your desired career without quitting your current job. Make ends meet through working and earning in your current career path. Your current career is your asset, it’s your stepping stone to the next career. Don’t throw it away before you step onto the next career. You don’t have to quit your current job until you are confident of your new career path.
Fear of making another career choice mistake
Solution: You really need to sit down and be honest with yourself. Why do you think you have made the wrong career choice, why you are unhappy in your current career? Do not let your reasons be anger or frustration or a bad day at the office. No matter which career you choose, even the right one for yourself, bad days at work will always be there every now and again. The only difference is that a bad day whilst on your right career path will not end up with feelings and emotions of wanting to quit.
Fear of the time factor
Solution: As long as you are alive, it’s never too late to implement change. As long as you are still breathing, there is always room and enough time for a change. You may feel that you have already invested too much time into your current career, but we all do. But trust me the time you have already invested is not time wasted because you have gained knowledge. Secondly, a lifetime is a very long time to compromise.
Fear of not making it in the new career
Sometimes you look at your desired career and feel that you do not have enough skills to pursue it. Firstly, you have more skills than your negative energy is bringing to light right now! Secondly, skills are acquired not born with, therefore you always have the chance to learn new skills or improve on your current existing ones. These days, you can acquire knowledge at your convenience. But most importantly, also remember that you are not starting from zero when changing careers. Your transferrable skills will also be handy in your new career path. Skills such as computer literacy, communication skills, management, leadership and team working skills, time management skills, innovation, and creative skills among others.
Formal education is not the only way to acquire knowledge, you can also volunteer, work as an intern or work part-time in your desired new career environment.
Fear of starting afresh
Whereas changing jobs is easy, changing careers isn’t easy at all. It involves starting afresh, maybe entering a new career path at entry levels and retraining.
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