Thursday, June 7, 2007

Choosing a Career

When I was a kid, I don’t remember anyone asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

A career was just not something I contemplated at an early age. When I played Barbies with my best friend in first grade, my Barbie was always named “Beth” and she either worked as a florist or in a Woolworth’s. This was the extent of my career knowledge – my grandfather owned a nursery and my mother and grandmother took me to Woolworth’s every Saturday.

As I got older, I used to talk about being a teacher. I have no earthly idea why – I didn’t even like to baby sit, so being around children all day obviously held no appeal. I guess since the women in my family were either secretaries or teachers, I decided on teaching since I hated typing.

But I remember the day I took my first journalism class in high school. It was like the planets aligned, the future seemed clear and nothing ever felt more right. After more than two decades in journalism, I’ve never once regretted my decision and have loved (almost) every day in my chosen profession.

After being a workplace columnist, however, I know this isn’t typical for most people. Many times, people go to technical school or college or even get advanced degrees in what they plan on doing for a living. Then, either before they finish their schooling or sometime later in their careers, they discover they don’t really want to be a stock broker or a teacher or a doctor for a living. They would really rather do what they always dreamed of as a kid: run a bait and tackle store in Key West. Or, maybe they dreamed of designing kites for a living, but their parents vetoed that idea and so they became a computer technician.

My point is that we often try and find careers based on our skills – not our passions. In elementary school today, they are testing children to see what their natural career paths will be based on the child’s test scores and interests. Maybe this works for some people. All I know is that while “Beth” was happy working in Woolworth’s or arranging flowers all day, I would hate to think I missed journalism because I tried to make a decision without finding my passion first.

Career counselor Marty Nemko makes the point that finding the “right chemistry” with a career means doing something for a living that involves both your head and your heart. I think one of the best ways to do that is to explore what’s out there and really look honestly at what you like to do – and what you don’t. (Sometimes just eliminating things can put things in perspective.)

Here are some good resources to help you to begin your research:

• The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career guides and outlook for hundreds of jobs and industries.
• This site helps you navigate through hundreds of federal sites when searching for a job or career.
• If you don’t have a clue what you’d like to do, start here with this guide that helps guide you through the choices.
• This site provides thousands of links to a wide variety of career resources on the Internet. You can also take a free career test to find out what job is right for you.
• With more than 90 streaming video interviews with celebrities, business leaders, athletes, musicians and career professionals in different industries, this site is cool for kids and adults.

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