From an early age, I grew up watching the popular 90’s American comedy Frasier almost every morning before school as my mum would usually have it on in the background. Immediately I was fascinated by the profession of the main character Frasier Crane, a radio talk show psychologist. Even though it is probably not the best source of Psychology facts or information, I was instantly hooked, and I knew I too wanted to study Psychology. I bought second-hand textbooks from Car boot sales (or Flea markets for any Americans reading this) and immersed myself in the fascinating topic. At the age of 15 I chose to study it at college (Late high school for you Americans again, 16-18 years) where I obtained top marks and later took it at University and graduated with the highest possible grade.
After all of this, you would assume that my career path lacked any ambiguity regarding “What do I want to do in life?”. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I undeniably love the subject but currently have no real ambitions of pursuing it as a career for a number of reasons. Mainly because this career path requires an overwhelming plethora of qualifications, which will take a lot of time while simultaneously accumulating a lot of student debt. Moreover, it hinders my ability to do the one thing I love more than anything, travel! As a result, at 24 my idea about what career path I want to take changes daily, constantly zigzagging between ideas.
The pressure of choosing a career
There can be an incredible amount of pressure for teenagers and young adults when it comes to making decisions like what to study and whether pursuing further education is the right choice. Parents, friends, and teachers can be a source of help or added pressure, and these influences are only the tip of the iceberg. It can be hard processing all the factors, what do I enjoy doing, is there a demand for this, how much money will I earn and what if I want to do something else in the future? According to BJ Fogg, a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University, “doing something you don’t enjoy and subsequently failing to make it habitual is actually more detrimental to a mission for change than doing nothing at all.”
Many years ago, the necessity to make these decisions weren’t as common because social mobility hardly existed. If you were born into a working-class family, it’s likely that you were going to stay there. If your father was a miner, there is a good chance you will be, too. Therefore, due to all of these new options in our modern world, young people take career decisions too early, it can be a stressful time for young people.
Making the right choice
Arriving at the right decision may be a long and stressful process, but it can also be very rewarding if you discover something you love or successful choose to pursue your passion. Even though I have no intention of pursuing a career in Psychology at this current time, I thoroughly enjoyed the subject and I honestly believe I can attribute most of my success to the fact that I am passionate about it. Here are some tips on how to make the right choices when faced with this mammoth task.
Talents, Abilities, and Skills
When making these decisions it’s advantageous to consider what you are naturally good at. If you happen to have a natural talent for maths it may be worth considering some careers which require this type of methodical thinking such as Maths, Computing or Science. The same can be said for all other subjects. Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman suggested that “EQ (or emotional intelligence quotient) might actually be more important than IQ.”
In addition, psychologist Howard Gardner, for example, has suggested that “intelligence is not simply a single general ability… Instead, there are actually multiple intelligences and that people may have strengths in a number of these areas.” If you are naturally good at something, it may give you an advantage when applying for universities or when competing in the modern workplace. The same can be said for any previous work or subject experience you have. With that being said, what you’re naturally good at may not be something you enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy your work I can almost guarantee it will affect your productivity and job fulfillment. In other words, don’t consider this the only factor.
Social and economic factors
This has less to do with who you are and more to do with the environment you will be entering. Today’s modern technology is forever moving forward with rapid pace and so is its ability to replace humans with machines. For example, it is highly likely that we will see many jobs like lorry drivers phased out with the use of self-driving vehicles. So when it comes to making your choice of what to study it is important to consider the demand for workers in this field in the foreseeable future.
It’s never too late to change career paths
Even though all these choices may seem stressful, it is important to understand that this freedom to choose last for a lot more than just your teens. When I graduated from University, I accepted a job working in Sales for an IT technology company. I know nothing about IT, and even after working there for a year and a half I still know nothing about IT. What I did learn is that IT really doesn’t interest me (despite my efforts to change this) and now I know. I may not know what I want to do in life, however, because of this experience I have now narrowed down my options and ruled out IT.
Relax! This is supposed to be enjoyable.
Being told to relaxed when faced with daunting decisions may seem difficult but the truth is you are on a mission to find something that every day makes you want to get out of bed and go do what you love. Even though it might seem like a difficult mission at times, you have the opportunity to explore so many options and try so many things. This is a path to discovering your passions, your skills and essentially a route to discovering more about yourself and what makes you tick.
One of the most influential moments during my degree was when I was introduced to Alan Watts. If you are not familiar with the work of Alan Watts, I would highly recommend checking him out. More importantly, my lecturer showed us this video shortly before we were all due to graduate and it really did have a lasting influence. If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it is to have no fear. Try new things, study new topics, find jobs you like, quit jobs you don’t and always, always pursue your passion because that will keep you going through the best of times and the worst of times. I may not know what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I have found a great passion for writing and working as a freelance writer. Tomorrow I may want to be a chief, or perhaps a tightrope walker in a traveling circus. But whatever, you decide to do pursue your dream and make sure you are happy.
“If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing the thing you don’t like doing, which is stupid.” – Alan Watts