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2: Choosing a Career Path

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    There’s an old saying, “If you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.”

    If you clearly define your career goals and your strategy for reaching them, you can plan your education effectively and create a seamless transition from school to the workplace.

    When people learn study skills and life skills, they usually start with finding out things they don’t know. That means discovering new strategies for taking notes, reading, writing, managing time, and the other subjects covered in the textbook.

    Career planning is different. You can begin your career planning education by realizing how much you know right now. You’ve already made many decisions about your career. This is true for young people who say, “I don’t have any idea what I want to be when I grow up.” It’s also true for midlife career changers.

    Consider the student who can’t decide whether she wants to be a cost accountant or a tax accountant and then jumps to the conclusion that she is totally lost when it comes to career planning. It’s the same with the student who doesn’t know whether he wants to be a veterinary assistant or a nurse.

    These people forget that they already know a lot about their career choices. The person who couldn’t decide between veterinary assistance and nursing had already ruled out becoming a lawyer, computer programmer, or teacher. He just didn’t know yet whether he had the right bedside manner for horses or for people. The person who was debating tax accounting versus cost accounting already knew she didn’t want to be a doctor, playwright, or taxicab driver. She did know she liked working with numbers and balancing books.

    In each case, these people have already narrowed their list of career choices to a number of jobs in the same field—jobs that draw on the same core skills. In general, they already know what they want to be when they grow up.

    Many people approach career planning as if they were panning for gold. They keep sifting through the dirt, clearing the dust, and throwing out the rocks. They are hoping to strike it rich and discover the perfect career.

    Other people believe that they’ll wake up one morning, see the heavens part, and suddenly know what they’re supposed to do. Many of them are still waiting for that magical day to dawn.

    You can approach career planning in a different way. Instead of seeing a career as something you discover, you can see it as something you choose. You don’t find the right career. You create it.

    There’s a big difference between these two approaches. Thinking that there’s only one “correct” choice for your career can lead to a lot of anxiety: “Did I choose the right one?” “What if I made a mistake?”

    Viewing your career as your creation helps you relax. Instead of anguishing over finding the right career, you can stay open to possibilities. You can choose one career today, knowing that you can choose again later.


    2: Choosing a Career Path is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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