Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I hope high school seniors will consider these thoughts as you choose a career path and that it will help you in your decision making process as you start considering colleges, trade schools and work. Careers support you in your life path. They are not all you are or will be but they do support all aspects of your life. They can be woven into your chosen lifestyle if you choose well, but there will always be tradeoffs. If you want to live at the beach, a job as a chef may help you achieve that goal. You may not be as rich as a dentist but most dentists don’t have the ocean as the view from their office. The career choices you make at this time deserve a clear assessment of your abilities, work ethic and commitment. It may seem like you can delay but it is best to get started early.
What are your priorities? Choosing where you want to live, your lifestyle and your commitment to the non-career aspects of your life requires some serious introspection. If you want to stay in your home town then training for Wall Street may not be a good choice. Training to manage a local business may be a poor choice if you desire world travel. Not everyone has the desire to climb the corporate ladder and make the sacrifices necessary to be successful in that environment. For others the sacrifice is well worth it because they like the game.
What are you naturally good at? We are all wired differently. If you are mechanically inclined, maybe you should be an engineer or a mechanic. Never pick a career that forces you to excel at your weaknesses. If math is a struggle for you then nuclear physics is probably a poor choice. Work on your strengths and be good instead of working on your weaknesses and being mediocre.
What is in demand? Working in your passion may not be supported by the marketplace. If you are an accomplished musician the marketplace may not pay you a living wage. That doesn’t mean you should not continue to play music and even play for money, but you may need to work at something else to be able to pursue your passion. The world does not guarantee that you will be able to do exactly what you want. The world has needs that must be filled and the marketplace is the mechanism to do that. Always develop a skill that is needed.
Who will you serve? Over your lifetime you will serve your family, your community, your employer, others and yourself. The trick is that the only way you can serve yourself is by making a positive contribution in these other areas. You may not necessarily serve all the aforementioned categories. For example, you may choose not to have a family. Still, you will serve an employer or be self-employed. If you are self-employed you will serve your customers. You will be disappointed if you believe the marketplace is there to serve you. The marketplace gives opportunity, rewards excellence and punishes failure. It does not reward trying hard. A mechanic that can’t fix cars will not be a mechanic for long regardless of the sincerity of their effort. You will need to develop expertise and keep up with the changes in your field. The world changes more quickly than it ever has and you will need to commit to keeping up if you are to continue to serve with excellence.
Always remember that you add value by working. A mechanic may charge $500 to fix a car but the customer gets the use of their $20,000 car back. You must understand that you will only get a percentage of the value you add. Get comfortable with it. It is how the world works.
Consider these questions as you pursue your career goals. Don’t be sold into a career path by what you perceive other people will find impressive. It is your life and it will be your commitment to your priorities that makes you successful. Try to define your idea of success as early as possible. Get some advice from people who care about you. Choose well. You have about six months to make a plan.
Dec. 8, 2011