Career interests begin early in life. You see your mom on the computer, eyes glued to the screen. Your dad entertains you in the kitchen as he prepares spaghetti with tomato sauce for lunch. You jump with excitement when the firetruck and ambulance speed by, sirens screaming and lights flashing. You hold a wrench for your grandfather as he takes apart his car's engine. Interests, abilities and careers capture your attention. You don't know it at that young age, but you are learning about job opportunities before you have even mastered language.
Then, as you continue marching through life, influence becomes a factor in those choices. The sirens and flashing lights of emergency vehicles may no longer entice you. You become impressed hearing your parents talk about a doctor who lives down the block or about an attorney whose case was announced on the evening news. Your interests and abilities are taking hold, and influences start to direct you. But consider what happens when some of those influences are not positive.
John (not his real name) was a rising improv star at Second City in Chicago. Some would say he was destined for stardom. He was close to his achieving his dreams but hadn't yet become famous, which was his goal. Perhaps he became lax or too confident about fame coming to fruition. When he was 26, he married a girl who had goals of her own. Unfortunately, her goals didn't align with his. They had little to no discussions on the subject. No one had warned him of the potential complications that may arise when two lives join together. Neither had achieved their individual goals. But being the stronger and more stubborn one, John's wife directed their path as she wished. It's not easy to choose: go with the flow and change your dreams, or get divorced. Life changes are challenging at any age, and commitments are not easy to break. Opportunities are presented to everyone, but it's each individual's responsibility to seize them. When someone else makes decisions for you, the outcome may not be what you want.
Mary (not her real name) floated into jobs after graduating high school. Her natural intelligence, charm and strong work ethic became her career signature, even though she chose not to go to college. Regardless, she knew she had to work, and she wanted to succeed in whatever she did. Without outside influences, she analyzed every job change, every career transfer and every opportunity according to her likes and dislikes. Based on her evaluations of every situation, she proceeded to move into various fields, advancing in each one to achieve dreams she never thought possible.
Both John and Mary had goals, each leaning toward various fields they saw as their potential futures. John was in a new relationship that directed his path; Mary was unencumbered.
Everyone is unique in background, interests, goals, education, training and life experiences. Career trends seem to rule some people's decisions: one job-changer wanted to work in technology for the potentially high salary, even though she had no interest, education or skills in the tech field.
Career and salary trends offer important information to job seekers, but major career choices are best made after people have read industry studies, been introduced to numerous fields and opportunities in those areas and have knowledge about themselves. Then they can make career choices with solid potential, under no influence from others who may be invested in their futures.
Family, friends and romantic relationships are some of the most wonderful and meaningful parts of life, but personal career priorities are best established on one's own. Finding a satisfying career direction can be a laborious, confusing and time-consuming process. There will always be those who know in high school that they want to become doctors or lawyers or police officers. But for 20-somethings in committed relationships, agreeing on financial goals in the same direction and location is nearly impossible.
A July 2017 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that workers experienced an average of 11.7 job changes between the ages of 18 and 48. But job changes are not equal to career transfers. A professional journalist wanting to become an editor requires little to no further education, while a salesperson wanting to become an attorney will require changes in education, time commitment, lifestyle and possibly location.
It is often said that people can change careers at any age, but people in solid relationships are forced to make sacrifices to obtain new careers. Transferring fields often requires additional education or training, while some career transfers will require relocation. Career changes at any age can cause upheaval in coupled people's personal lives, which then requires open communication and possible re-evaluation of the relationship. Taking the time to choose which field to enter first is most easily done on one's own.
Email career and life coach [email protected] with your workplace issues and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.