3 things I wish I’d known when choosing my career (aged 18)

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Caleb Jones

I remember reaching 18 - the end of my secondary/high school years - and having an overwhelming sense of fear.

Terror, really.

I had no idea what to do.

What direction to go in.

No clue on where to start, or what job to do.

To be honest, I was terrified.

It’s a tough decision!

And it seems like everyone I met was telling me:

You need to figure this out now!

You need to be sensible - this decision will affect you for the rest of your life!

Argh!

Cue panic moment.

But guess what?

In my older and wiser (okay, sometimes wiser) years, I've learnt some useful things along the way.

I’ve gained knowledge I wish someone had told me when I started out on my adult life.

And I’d like to share that with any young people who are going through the same thing.

My take on it...

See, I disagree that the job you choose at 18 or 19 will affect you for the rest of your life.

I don’t think you need to have it all figured out then.

The things people tell you when you’re starting out in your career are, quite frankly, bullsh*t sometimes!

Yep.

Pure, utter bullsh*t :)

So, in no particular order, here are three things I wish someone had told me at age 18 in terms of choosing a career...

1. Don’t panic… your perfect job may not have been invented yet

A lot of people don't want you to know this, as it sounds scary.

They like stability and security.

They're afraid of change.

But here’s the thing:

The world is moving at a fast pace.

A very fast pace.

But this isn't a bad thing!

It's exciting.

Especially for young people.

Think what changes you'll see in your lifetime!

Technologies still to be invented... products we can't imagine right now!

For example…

Recently I saw for the first time a video shot on a 360° camera.

I’m not going to lie; it kind of blew my mind :)

And here’s the thing:

There are people being born right now who will only know that kind of filming (or whatever comes after it)!

Who won't be able to believe we had one-directional videos in the past :)

Basically, things are moving fast.

How quickly did we move through records, tapes, CDs, MP3s, and on to online music, in terms of decades?

Not that long!

Exciting times…

As humans, we're pushing ourselves and creating amazing things every day.

So who knows what you'll be working on in 10, 20, or 30 years' time.

It could be anything!

What I’m saying is: don’t sweat it.

Perhaps the job of your dreams hasn’t been invented yet.

An example from my own life...

I'm a trained life coach.

I love it.

It 100% suits my personality and skill-set.

But I hadn't even heard of life coaching when I was 18.

I’m not even sure if it was a “thing” at that point.

So do yourself a favour:

Give yourself a break :)

Perhaps you'll be an engineer for a new moon transit system!

Or perhaps you'll create or sell a product that no one has even heard of yet.

Relax!

Keep it simple:

  1. Pick something that interests you or that you enjoy.
  2. Try it out.
  3. Give it some time.
  4. If you really don't like it, try something else.

That’s it!

That’s all you need to do!

If you’re worried about “wasting time”, or not gaining experience… well, the thing I’ve discovered is that:

  • all experience is good experience, and
  • all those "test" paths have a funny way of leading to a job that is absolutely amazing and right for you.

Hooray! :)

And now for point #2…

2. You don't need to decide right now what you’ll do for the rest of your life

This one is super easy to understand:

You. Can. Change. Jobs.

Easy!

Let me repeat that:

You can change jobs! :)

This a toughie for a lot of people to get their head around.

In my parents’ generation, a job was "for life".

You took a job in a bank or as a secretary (for example), and you did that job for the next forty years until you retired.

People didn't just change jobs.

It wasn't an option for most people.

But that era has ended.

Now, people might work for one, two or three (or more) companies in their lifetime.

They might change careers three or four times.

Maybe more!

And why the hell not?!

If we're living longer, we have time to try a few things out!

So I don't see this as a bad thing.

At all.

And it's a really good thing if you're 18.

Why?

Because it means you can afford to play around a bit.

(Play around in different industries. Not muck around at work. That’s a different thing ;) )

You can afford to make mistakes along the way.

You can work in one industry for a few years... and if you don't like it, try something else!

You're not tied to one crappy, miserable job for the rest of your life.

You can be an investment banker in your twenties...

A chef in your thirties...

And an artist in your forties.

Anything is possible.

Just plan ahead, be smart... and know that you can enjoy a few different careers!

You don't have to have it all figured out now.

And the people who tell you you do are usually the ones who’ve worked in one company for forty years and are scared sh*tless by the possibility of doing anything else ;)

Life is for living.

Not for surviving :)

Which leads me nicely to point #3...

3. The people who have it all "figured out" won't necessarily be happy in that job for the rest of their lives

Okay.

Hear me out.

This doesn’t mean: “cross your fingers and hope that the people with a plan end up miserable”.

No sirree :)

What I do mean is that I've seen people set off down the path of doctor, lawyer, or investment banker... determined and headstrong.

They have a plan… a path to follow!

A five year plan, all mapped out!

(Maybe even longer!)

Sounds good, hey?

And mature, and sensible?

They know exactly what they're doing and where they're going.

Well, yay for them :)

Eek.

I used to feel so pathetic and aimless around these people.

I barely knew what I was doing in the next week… let alone six months or five years down the line.

But here’s the thing:

I've seen those people further down the road...

Tired, miserable, and overworked.

And even worse, feeling like they can't leave their job, ‘cause they spent so many bloody years training for it.

Tricky!

This isn't true in all cases, of course.

But remember is that comparison is pointless.

Yes - these people might know what they want to do in life right now.

And yes, they might have more of a plan than you at this time.

But that doesn't mean they won't have to change their plan at some point.

So my advice?

Don't be put off by these people!

They're on their path.

And you're on yours.

And that’s okay :)

At some point down the road, you might even find your paths cross:

The doctor who realizes his job consists of paperwork and bureaucracy rather than helping and healing, and decides to sail around the world with Medicins Sans Frontieres.

The lawyer who burns out and decides to set up her own company helping to get at-risk youths off the street, using the legal knowledge she has.

So my advice to you is:

Don't be jealous of the people who “seem” to have it all figured out.

They actually have more to lose than you do.

Training to be a lawyer or a doctor and then changing course can be difficult!

Instead I suggest you:

  • Set off on your own journey
  • Change course if you need to
  • And use every job or volunteer role you have as a learning experience.

That’s pretty much it!

Now good luck.

Head off into the world.

Have fun :)

Enjoy the experience.

And let me know what you think in the comments below.

What are you struggling with, as you set off on your career path?