Recently, I was in a discussion about career directions with a couple who are both professionals. He is a school principal and she is a surgery nurse. The conversation was of deep interest to them because they have one child in college and another soon-to-be high school senior. Career choices and schools are tightly combined for young people as they are about to launch their life and become self supporting adults. Parents are also eager to see their children be successful AND happy with those choices.
An observation they both made was that they had seen a fair share of people enter their professions who were soon surprised and disillusioned. The point they were making was that many people look at their professions and observe only a superficial aspect to it, yet think they understand the entire job. As a nurse, she said that many people think that nursing is primarily giving care and comfort to patients. The reality of the situation she described is that in nursing there is a great deal of paperwork and documentation that goes with the job. In fact, for some nurses the paperwork is almost equal to the amount of time actually spent giving care to a patient.
His story as a school principal, and also having been in the ranks of the teachers, was that there is a great deal of class planning, curriculum development and calibration with local and national teaching standards. None of those tasks were at all putting them in direct contact with the students, which is what many of the new teachers thought they would be doing to a much greater degree.
Neither of these two people thought less of their profession because of the things they were pointing out – they viewed these things as simply part of the job. The point to this conversation is that when making a career decision, you can’t simply rely on what you observe during casual contact with a profession. You have to look deeper into the content of the job to see how the job is performed on a daily/weekly or even monthly basis. You need to spend time researching and talking to people who do those jobs so you can truly understand the nature of the job – ahead of time.
All professions have some tasks which may not be that desirable for you to do. That’s the nature of work. You have to do all the functions in order to be successful. When you make a career decision, you need to understand how big of a portion those “other” tasks are in relationship to the thing you care about the most. If the portion is too big, the choice will not be a good one. It will leave you like the new hires described above. You will be surprised and disillusioned.
It is also critical to find these things out before investing your time and money in a degree program. It is not impossible to retool yourself or go back to school, but it will be much more difficult. It’s highly likely that at the point where you have this kind of clarity you will find yourself in debt, married and obligated to earn a living regardless of your desire to change careers.
When you make a Career Choice, spend time looking deeper and beyond just the parts that you are familiar with. If you speak to those in the profession, speak to the satisfied as well as the dissatisfied people who do those jobs. It’s important to make a fully informed decision so when the time comes for your first big job, you’ll go into it knowing exactly what to expect. You’ll be much happier if you do.
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