How to select a career?

Over the past few years I have been asked many times how I managed to pick a career that has provided for my family financially and managed to allow me to enjoy what I do. I’d like to say that there is a formula, but every person is different and some people’s interests change with time. My own children have had to make their decisions recently, as have many of their friends.

In Ontario the school system used to have an extra year for university bound students. That year in concert with a potential gap year, made career choices a bit easier. Grade 12 grads today have more choices and less experience on which to base a decision.

As parents we have to be careful not to influence our children’s decisions because this may result in them going with the flow rather than spending the time to decide on their own. The second reason why we need to remain at arm’s length is because if they fail, they can blame us for steering them wrong.

That does not mean that we cannot provide a list of questions. These questions could apply to students making that first career choice, to people looking for a career change or to people looking for that retirement job.

  • List all the things you enjoy.
  • List all the things you have trained for.
  • List all the things you have experience with.
  • List all the things you have done that you don’t enjoy.
  • Determine the average salaries for each of the jobs in the lists above.
  • List your expectations for expenses (Family, House, Car, etc).
  • Create a set where expectation, salary and things you enjoy intersect.
  • Pick a job/career from the intersecting set with a salary that meets or exceeds your expected expenses.
  • Determine what training or experience you need to be hired to do the job you selected.
  • Go for it.

Some things that I observed with my own career selection and with my children, is that there is no shortage of people with advice. In high school there are people whose job is to help students make career choices. Unfortunately these people tend to make suggestions based on what they perceive are your strengths at that time. This tends to short circuit the list above and does not account for abilities and likes that you have yet to discover.

What ever you decide to do, you can do if you put your mind to it. I was recently talking with a doctor at Queen’s university about medical schools. She told me that there are two types of people who get into medical school. People with amazing marks and people who don’t give up.

Just make sure that your expectations match the career you have selected. Doing the thing you really love, but not being able to buy groceries, probably won’t end well…


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