Practically all of us go through a time in our lives when we are torn between what we know we want and need in a career, and what others say we should want and need.
Sometimes these internal wars are the result of near-constant media exposure. If, for example, you watch television for even half an hour, you will be pushed in all sorts of ways toward “the good life”: a bigger car, nicer house, better body.
At other times, the career “shoulds” develop much closer to home. Such as when your academic adviser says, “You’ll never get a decent job with a philosophy degree.”
You might feel pressured to cave in. That’s the easiest, fastest way to stop the unwanted advice and criticism. Then you beat yourself up for selling out on your wants and needs.
The only way to address the career “shoulds” is to identify your career-related values and look for a career that matches those values. You won’t be able to do that until you first turn off the voices of the influences around you.
If you go into accounting for your parents’ sake, who is going to be stuck doing your job every day? Your parents? Of course not; it will be you.
They may be telling you to chase all sorts of things via your career—money, power, status—and promising that happiness will follow. But remember: You will kick yourself when you figure out you’ve been running in the wrong direction for months … or even years.
You can ignore what is important to you in a career and get away with it for a while. Sooner or later though, the disconnect between what you are doing for a living and what you value in a career catches up with you.
Other people can tell you only what is important to them in a career. Only you know what is important to you.
June 15, 2009