From a young age, we are asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” On one hand this is a very reasonable question that emphasizes to young people the importance of choosing a career and the need to prepare for that career from an early age. Even if we change our minds several times before finally starting our careers, the process of planning and preparing for this important life event and remain dedicated to its outcome.
On the other hand it’s quite ridiculous for kids, even teenagers, and even high school kids, to know what career will be best for them. First we have to know our strengths and weaknesses, and I find that a small percentage of people are really in tune with these attributes about themselves. Second we need to know the various professions available, which most young people only know what they see on TV and what their parents do. Third we need to know what skills and characteristics are needed for each profession, when is that discussed with teenagers or young adults? Fourth, how the heck can anyone know what a job will really be like and if we will enjoy that profession over the long haul?
Life never works out as we plan, and planning our careers is a very tricky thing to do. People tend to think of a career as if we are destined to do a certain profession. There must be something perfect for me, something I don’t have to put much effort into… No wonder people these days have little work ethic.
Anyone who is REALLY good at their job did not achieve that expertise solely based on their characteristics. Read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and you will follow his research to discover what makes someone truly successful. Although skill and talent may play a role, the only common ingredient is dedication. People have to spend 10,000 hours practicing something to become a master. OK, yes, even if I spend 10,000 hours practicing I probably won’t become a master pianist, but I would probably get pretty good. And even people the The Beatles and Mozart practiced over 10,000 hours before they made it big.
So my point is actually that we go around looking for what we are destined to become in life. I think we should choose a profession and dedicate ourselves to that career to become successful in life. I think we need to take more personal responsibility for our success in that profession, or our failure at it. We can’t know all the possibilities out there, and we may change our mind along the way. But whatever we are deciding to do, we should dedicate ourselves to the career and recognize the outcome is within our control. Some people are great at making a plan, but it seems few of us are willing to dedicate ourselves to that plan. We are too easily dismayed and abandon the path to success.
Yesterday I read a good summary approach for people trying to determine the best career for themselves on The Career Closet blog.