I was at a Memorial Day picnic with about 75 people this last weekend and happened to meet a man and his 19 yr old daughter. She had just finished her first year of college and our conversation moved to the subject of what she wanted to do 'when she grew up.' She wasn't sure...maybe marketing, because she liked a particular teacher and that particular class. She said that she needed to 'see what careers are getting the jobs and maybe get a degree in one of those.' I asked her why she thinks that people her age will end up having 5-6 careers over the course of her lifetime. Her response was pretty common. She was wondering if its because the marketplace and economy changes so often that people often change jobs just to keep up.
I suggested that her answer was partially right. I also suggested that part of the reason for so many job changes was due to students gearing their college degree to the jobs or industries they think are currently hiring, and after a couple of years on the job, realize its not for them. So they start the search for the career they really should have had to begin with. To add to her confusion, I asked her what she thought her passion was. She didn't know. I asked if she had a sense of mission or vision in her life. Again, she wasn't sure. By this time her father, who had been listening on the sidelines, slowly turned around and walked away. I don't think he could have answered the questions, either.
My recommendation to her was to, as Robert Bly has said, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive...and go do that, because what the world needs are more people who have come alive." She wasn't sure how one would even discover that information, and if one did...how does that fit into a career?
Good question for a 19 year old. Actually, its a good question for someone of any age. Here's my take on it...
1. Don't choose a career based on the appearance of job availability. About the time you do, it will change and you will have to start from square one.
2. Discover your natural giftedness. It's who you really are. Like John Travolta says, "I'm really a pilot. I do the acting stuff to make money so I can fly."
3. Realize that we dance on two legs. One is making an outlet for your natural gifts to flourish, and the other is to figure out how to make a living, regardless of the economy. If you can make a living through your passion, then by all means do it. Society, however, will not lay out the red carpet and make it easy for you.
4. Life, careers, the marketplace, and the economy will go through dramatic revisions in the next 10 years. Contrary to popular wishes, this country is not going to just bounce-back and have things 'the way they were.'
5. This is a great time to discover who you are and where your value and worth are truly located. Find your passion. Develop your mission. Cast a vision. Fulfill your destiny. All this stuff is within you, and not in the marketplace. Getting another degree may not be the answer.
Dance on both legs. Give the career leg a break and develop some balance. In biblical times, a guy named Paul (the apostle) sewed-up tents in order to make money to do what he was really called to do: Preach the good news, as he called it. Picture a conversation that may have taken place back then:
Observer: "So...You're a tent maker?"
Paul: "No...actually I'm a messenger for the good news of the kingdom of God."
Observer (somewhat confused): "But you're making and mending tents. I don't get it."
Paul: "Well...being an apostle doesn't pay that well..."
I think both John Travolta and Paul the apostle had the right idea. It's worth thinking about....