Monday, January 18, 2010

Help! I've Lost My Career Path!

I am not sure why, but it seems like more and more people I know are unsure of what they want to do with their careers.

Doug, a young bartender at my local pub, has a story that is probably not too different from other people I know. He has his bachelor's degree in economics, with a minor in Spanish, and an associates degree in audio production. He's a bartender now, but that's because he couldn't find any work in his field and needed an income. But how did he end up here?

He was working in another state for a small start up. It was a company that focused on green building. Everything was going great, he loved the company, owner and the work. Then, the owner tells him that she doesn't know why, but they've run out of money and can't afford to keep him on. Later on, she found out that her accountant was embezzling and had stolen $200K from the company.

So, he took advantage of the opportunity to move to Colorado. He loves it here, but he couldn't find work in his field. He took a job bartending just to get by. Now, he realizes that he doesn't want to go into the economics field and heck...he sort of just doesn't know where he wants to go. He saw me doing an exercise designed to help one find their direction in life, and told me very seriously he'd like to know how that works out for me.

My grandparents never waxed on about how they didn't know what they wanted to be. They simply took good jobs, took care of their families and moved on. There wasn't a question about whether or not the loved their jobs. My grandpa worked for the city, managing the crews who paved the streets (hot and smelly). My grandma worked for the phone company as an operator. I think that we talked about how interesting their jobs were, but it never crossed my mind to ask if they liked their jobs.

So, why do we ponder this topic to death now? Why do we get degrees that we don't use, or get 3 degrees in completely different subjects? Is this the new "hippie" culture? Instead of experimenting with drugs and exploring deep philosophical questions, are we experimenting with careers and pondering job/life satisfaction?

I'm feeling my way towards a chosen profession, but even I'm not 100% sure yet. I'm working as a professional in the meantime and getting a real middle-of-the-road degree (business, legal emphasis) because, hey, it's never a bad idea to know about business. It always applies.

But why is it that we have such career ambivalence in so many of our Gen X and Gen Y employees? Is it indicative of a larger issue?

And more importantly, has anyone found an aptitude test that will actually tell me that I should eat great food, travel and have earth shattering sex for a living? Because, doesn't that seem like what we all want? To be told that you should 'do what you love' and 'find what makes you happy' and all that other bull that doesn't seem to exist in the real world (or, at the very least, let's admit that it can't exist for everyone...we can't all eat great food, travel and have sex for a living; after all, who would cook the food for us, fly the airplanes to exotic places and, um, I don't know, create flavored lubricants?).

I would love to see some online tools, tips and tests that have genuinely helped people figure out where they should be, career-wise, in their lives. Something that has real world value. If you've used something like this, let me know. And then I'll pass it on to Doug when I stop in for my next beer.


Anonymous said...

Good Post! Very informative, glad that you are going to continue writing things like this!


Anonymous said...

unfortunately, these are the difficulties we all have to grapple with in life. It's complicated so we have to take it one step at the time. There is no formula or test that can help you figure out.

Gaucy said...

Agree with you absolutely. We all do the jobs just for a living after all.