Pick a career, damn it. Or ten.

I read an interesting piece on Penelope Trunk’s blog on choosing a career that you will like.

Trunk quotes economist Neil Howe, who says that only 5% of people pick the right job on the first try.

He calls those people “fast starters” and in general, they are less creative, less adventurous and less innovative, which makes a conventional, common path work well for them.

If you’re in a career that you despise and are dreaming of trying something new, take heart. Almost everyone makes the wrong choice at some point in their lives.

The tragedy is not changing careers when there is still time.

And there is always time.  

One of Trunk’s suggestions in choosing the right career is to pick a lifestyle, not a job.

I like this suggestion a lot.

My boss often refers to teaching as a lifestyle choice, and I agree. No one will ever become wealthy by choosing to become a teacher, but the benefits that teaching offers in terms of the kind of work we do and the time it allows us to spend with our families makes it an ideal career choice for people who want to make a difference in this world and still spend as much time as possible with their friends and families.

I chose teaching because I had wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a little boy. Perhaps this is because school was a safer and happier place for me than home. Perhaps it was because my arrogant, little boyhood self always assumed that I could do the job better than the teachers standing before me. Perhaps it was because I was the oldest of five children, so teaching came naturally to me. Regardless of the reason, I was blessed with a strong desire to teach at an early age.

In terms of career choices, teaching is actually a relatively safe and stable one. As a writer, I know that not all career choices are nearly as secure. As an example, Trunk writes:

Look at the successful writers you read. Most of them wrote for years in obscurity, risking long-term financial doom in order to keep writing. Do you really want that path for yourself? Rena Subotnik, author of Gifted Grownups finds that most people who are exceptionally creative have to give up almost everything else in order to pursue “creativity with a big C”. For most people, that path is not appealing.

When I was deciding on my career path, I was well aware of the financial dangers that a career in writing presented me. Though my desire to write for a living was just as strong as my desire to teach by the time I was able to attend college, I knew that teaching would afford me a more stable future. Thankfully, the two careers fit together nicely. Though I write every day without exception, I tend to do the bulk of my writing over the summer when the demands of teaching take a two month hiatus.

I’m astounded by the number of young adults who have recently told me that they are still not sure what kind of career they want, or even worse, who seem to have no strong career aspirations whatsoever.

I’m also surprised by the number of people who end up falling into a career that pays the bills but does not resemble anything that they envisioned for themselves when they were younger. These tend to be people who had dreams of pursuing careers in the arts but have abandoned these dreams in favor of more conventional, profitable endeavors.

While I understand the rationale behind these practical decisions, I cannot understand the decision to abandon your dreams entirely. Go to work in sales in order to support your family, but if your dream was to become a painter or actor or musician or animator, don’t just give up. Paint on the weekends. Join a community theater. Start a garage band. Take evening classes in computer animation at a local college.

Don’t just quit. 

Instead, I meet people who are rudderless and directionless, working in jobs for which they have no passion or looking for a job that they cannot identify. When I ask them what they want to do, they shrug their shoulders and sigh.


I have the opposite problem. Despite the many jobs that I have held in my past, I have too many career ambitions. When I retire from teaching someday, the unimaginable idea of never standing before a class of students again will be mitigated by the freedom to launch a new career.

I’m just not sure which career to choose next.

There are the jobs that I have mentioned before on this blog, including professional best man (I had my fourth inquiry about this position recently, but once again the client lived too far away to make the job feasible), life coach (I actually have two paying clients), double date companion and gravesite visitor.

Then there are the more serious careers that I have serious interest in. These include:

Bookstore owner
Behavioral economist
College professor
Efficiency expert
Camp director
Inspirational speaker
Professional poker player
Financial analyst

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.

There are so many careers in this world from which to choose that I cannot imagine finding myself in the position of not knowing what I want to do with my life.

Instead, I find myself wanting to demand that these directionless young adults donate their lives to me. In the unlikely event that I someday die, I won’t have time to do all that I want with my life. If you can’t decide what you want to do with your life, hand your precious time over to me.

I promise to use it productively. 

If a person cannot muster enough passion to choose at least one career path, that person has a serious problem.

As a life coach and a future therapist and inspirational speaker, perhaps I can help.