A lot can go into choosing a career. If you’re in high school, there’s a lot of pressure and  worry about choosing a field. Everyone expects you go to go to college. What if college isn’t the right choice for you? You hear advice from everyone. Not all of the things you hear fit you.There are some guidelines you can follow to avoid an anxiety attack at work.

You have heard the various mantras about choosing a career:

“Follow your passion”

“Go to college and get a good education”

“Find a well-paying field”

“Be your own boss”

None of these “rules” covers all of it. We’re going to discuss each one and suggest better strategies.

“Follow your passion” doesn’t prevent an anxiety attack at work

We hear that if you “follow your passion”, the “money will follow”. There are cases when someone’s passion lands one a high-paying gig. Or you hear about a social entrepreneur that makes a lot of money, like TOMS shoes or Whole Foods Market.

But there are a few problems with this advice. First, many people share common passions like playing sports, playing online games, reading fiction, or volunteering in a crisis. If many people have the skills to do something, the rate of pay might be low or even zero. Second, you may have a passion, but may lack skill or opportunity. Many people love music, but only the elite land well-paying gigs. While you can grow a skill, it takes 10-20 years of hours of daily practice to develop a professional level. Next, you may love one aspect of a job, like closing a sale, but you may hate the other job requirements, like paperwork. Finally, it turns out that humans are bad at predicting what they will be happy doing in the future.

Better yet, you should consider the common ground. Find what you are good at. Then circle those interest people may pay you to do. It’s hard to get paid for certain fields like psychology without advanced education. Next, put a star by what fits your personality and preferences. For example, you prefer working outdoors or working with people. Finally underline opportunities you have to do it. As in, you have access to the training or people who can help get you started. In the end, you want to focus on what has all three.

Picture of college student with autism working on student success

“Go to college and get a good education”

A college education comes with opportunities for connection. Overall, people with bachelor’s degrees earn more than those with less education. Seems like everyone should go to college. More popular degrees like psychology and liberal arts do not guarantee a job. They also have lower pay than non-degreed skilled jobs.

Think about a skilled trade like auto mechanic, plumbing, electrical, or heating/air conditioning (HVAC). Skilled trades are in high demand as of this article’s date of writing. These fields have been for most of the preceding decade. Students can attend vocational programs to receive training or complete a trade apprenticeship. While certification varies state to state, tradespeople who complete their certification in their trade do earn more.

Pursuing a particular field because it’s acclaimed may cause you grief down the road. Only a few college grads in computer programming become game designers. Many starting programmers do software maintenance that repeats. Skill trades offer regular hours, great coworkers, and room for growth to supervisor and management without a degree.

“Find a well-paying field” doesn’t help choosing a career

Trying to complete the education requirements for a “well-paying” field can be a recipe for upper middle class misery! First of all, not everyone can get a law or medical degree. Second, lawyers and medical degrees have high price tags. You may have a lot of debt and a job you hate. Third, doctors and lawyers are leaving their field in droves. The long hours, insurance hassles, and administrative pressures are driving away those who love medicine. Some fields, once considered wide open like IT and engineering, are approaching saturation after decades of graduates.

If you are in a field that does not historically pay well, consider tuning your career to seek similar opportunities that pay better. Try almost free technology training from udemy or lynda. Are you more people-focused? Perhaps move to a client oriented or sales position. Are you more analytical? Specialize in data reporting for your field. Become more aware of industry direction. Spend time researching and see what small changes might yield the best return dollar-wise.

Picture of employees working on computers. Getting business coaching can avoid an anxiety attack at work.

“Be your own boss” can create an anxiety attack at work

As attractive as it can be to own your own business, almost 90% of businesses fail in the first 10 years. Does that mean you should not try?

No, but do your research first. Work for a firm similar to the one you want to create.  Take jobs in a variety of roles. Save your money. Start out part-time and don’t quit your day job. Get some coaching for the first couple of years. Yes, years! As you invest in your own business, understand that you will work while you are bootstrapping your business.

Avoid an anxiety attack at work

We all want to choose the perfect career, the field that best fits us. Like many life choices, there are many suitable field for any person. Everyone has many talents.

The truth is that several factors go into a career choice. Some field require long hours. Other careers require extensive education at great expense. Sports and music require extensive practice to get a regular paying gig. Those with 30 plus years of experience may have more than one career. We can do more than one thing.

If possible, it helps to consider what you want your life to look like when choosing your field. Do you prefer flexible hours? Are you prepared for the education requirements and cost? Would you prefer to earn money right away? Are you competitive? Do you prefer stability? All of these factors can affect your choice of career. Remember, you can tune your current work toward a career that suits you.

Steps to choosing a career

You may consider the following steps when you’re deciding on your next job:

  1. Research some fields that interest you, but also get some info on some that you would consider. If you have a close contact in a field you’re considering, reach out to them to follow them one day.
  2. Choose a number of top choices, perhaps 5, and determine the skills and education needed.
  3. Consider your personality. Do you want to work with people or do more analytical tasks? Do you prefer to work in an office or outside? Can you deal with stress and conflict? Do you prefer steady work? Are you willing to hustle to start a business? Knowing yourself can be a big help to narrowing down career choices or tuning a career to suit you.
  4. Consider the the quality of life you want. Are you a people person or more analytical? Think about the hours you want to work. What types of jobs may work for you? Do you want to travel? Are you against working long hours? Are you willing to acquire the debt needed to cover your education? Many people avoid the less glamorous jobs but might be more satisfied with steady work.
  5. Consider whether to change your career or just tune it. If you have dreamt about a different field but you already have a career, consider making some smaller changes in industry worked or type of job. You have already gathered experience and valuable expertise. Starting a new career can be exciting, but even with transferable skills, you may take a big pay cut. You may also rack up debt for a different education.

Choosing a career is not a grand mystery that requires finding the perfect fit. But, for some people, it can be overwhelming and become a roadblock.

Call us at 832.777.7464 to navigate around your roadblocks and put yourself back on track to your goals.

Photo Credit: Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash


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