How Did You Choose Your Career?

To be honest, I just fell into my career unexpectedly.  After my husband was seriously injured, I applied for a secretarial position at a local bank branch to bring in some much needed money.  This “temporary” job lasted for over 25 years when I finally retired as a financial advisor.

I always envied those people who knew what profession they wanted to be in from an early age.  I understand wanting to be a firefighter, teacher or pilot, but does anyone actually aspire to become a crime scene cleaner, tour guide or even a civil servant?

Related: Does your job define you?

Parents don’t always know best

Unfortunately, there are a lot of unhappy people that follow their parents’ wishes to become doctors, lawyers and family business managers.  Some would much rather work at something else but dutifully follow in their parents’ footsteps.

My father wanted me to become a nurse.  He didn’t take into account my extreme squeamishness with any type of illness, injuries or discomfort. I’m also somewhat unsympathetic.  “You’ll be fine!” I’d tell my kids, then send them off to school.  Absolutely not a good fit.

I thought one of my kids would be a good sportscaster.  He knew every stat and piece of trivia in every sport.  If only he would have put that kind of attention to his schoolwork.  My other child would have made a good politician.  He was always big on promises but sadly lacking in follow-up action.

One child is now a super salesperson and marketing expert.  I never would have guessed this as a career choice for him when I was buying cases of chocolate covered almonds because he hated selling door-to-door.

These are examples of parents not really knowing their kids’ talents.

Career counselling and job fairs

When I was in the seventh grade, the guidance counselor gave us all career aptitude tests.  My test results showed I’d make a good mechanic.  In hindsight, given my aptitude for putting pieces together, problem solving and being detail oriented, this was probably not a bad choice for me.  But a female mechanic?  Unheard of at that time!  Needless to say that went nowhere.

I don’t know if schools still do this testing.  Do they have career days where someone, sometimes a parent, comes to the classroom and explains the details of their profession?  Bring your child to work days are good in a way, but how many kids are really that interested in what their parents do all day?

Various job descriptions should be available to students early on so they know which courses to take to prepare them.  It’s somewhat a waste of time and money to prepare for a career only to find there’s no aptitude or interest.

Second time’s the charm

I guess that’s why there are so many abrupt career changes later on.  The proliferation of career and life coaches and career books such as What Color is My Parachute? proves that we don’t always get it right the first time.  University enrollment by older adults is at an all-time high.

Related: My 20 favourite books on business

Dedicated training or golden opportunity?

Did you specifically train for your particular career?  Did it turn out as you expected, or hoped?  Did you unexpectedly happen upon a great opportunity?  Did you take any old job that was offered to you just to get some money?  Or, like me, did you become interested in the career path after you were employed?

Is your occupation interesting or boring?  Are you excited to work on your projects or do you dread going into the office Monday mornings?  Do you want to keep doing the same work even after the prescribed retirement age?  Or are you just sticking it out because you earn a high salary and have good benefits, or to make sure you get your entire pension?

When you spend forty or so years in the workforce you should at least be getting some type of satisfaction from it.

How did you choose your career?

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  1. Marianne on April 3, 2012 at 6:21 am

    I absolutely fell into my career. My husband was offered a job that we moved 3 hours away to take. I had a hard time finding a job in our new city and since I had done a bit of work for his company in the past started doing some casual work for them just to get by while looking for another job. I ended up working myself into a management position and it’s a good fit. I’ve always been good at retail (area that I’m in now) but everyone expected me to be a lawyer/ doctor/ teacher because I was always the top of my class. That really stressed me out.

  2. Dave @ DebtBlackHole on April 3, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Growing up I was really shy, had a bit of an accent, suffered from a lisp & even stuttered when I talked. But when I was eight- I decided I wanted to be on the Radio.

    The only person who encouraged me was my Great-Grandmother. She bought me a portable recorder with a little microphone that I carried everywhere. I interviewed chairs, lamps, record players, plates, tables, silverware and anything else that was around.

    I spent years listening to Radio shows & TV announcers and tried to imitate them. I’d record myself, listen to it & record myself again to fix any mistakes. It took me years to improve my voice.

    I got my first part-time radio job when I was 14- working the board at a local country station on Sunday mornings. This year marks my 20th year in Radio!

    No one in my family would have ever thought I’d actually become a Radio DJ…

  3. Daisy @ Add Vodka on April 3, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Mine just sort of fell into my lap. I remember being in the business diploma program at school, trying to chose my focus, and going to to look up how many jobs are in the different fields. HR had the most, so I chose it. I’m glad I did, I love my career choice. My mom always tried to push me to go into marketing, becuase she thought it matched my personality, but I’m not into it.

  4. krantcents on April 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I chose seven (7) careers. The first 6 were all business related, the 7th is teaching. I think I always knew that I wanted to be in business, eventually my own business. I enjoyed every one of my careers including this current one. I will retire again in just 5 years.

  5. mycanuckbuck on April 3, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Co-op program! I went to a school with a co-op program (I highly recommend them – helps pay for school and gives you real life experience). I did my last few terms in a line of work I ended up in for 12 years!

  6. Melissa on April 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Sometimes I think it’s kind of unfair that these days, kids are forced to choose a career for themselves at 17 or 18. It’s a big commitment, and there’s so much pressure to choose correctly, it’s no wonder it doesn’t work out!

    When I was in high school, I knew for sure I wanted to be a teacher. Then once I was accepted to university…I realized I wasn’t so sure any more. I dropped out after a few weeks and decided to go into the program that was the exact opposite of what I’d left, which turned out to be journalism. I’ve LOVED my career in journalism. It’s such a blast. But after doing it for a couple of years, I’m gearing up for a career change…and I’m going into teaching! I don’t regret leaving school the first time, or the time I spent pursuing journalism at all. I just think it’s funny how things work out.

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