When I Grow Up
Many young people will be gearing up to flee the safety of the nest to embark on a period of extended learning at university. This time of year often prompts reflection on career choices and a ignites desire for a different vocation or life path.
Can any of us honestly say that our decision making at 18 marries up with choices we make today? Our values change with the benefit of experience. I will hold my hand up and admit to considering career options in adolescence based on whimsical ideas linked to something seen on film or television. Other than a yearning to be “Rich & Famous” I had no clear notion of who I was and where I was going.
A fortunate few are single minded from an early age about a career that appeals and that is of interest but many of us drift into careers with no real consideration of the long term. We can become locked into financial cages from which it is difficult to escape.
The term “successful career” often denotes financial wealth but success is individual to each of us. While money is a necessary evil there are many motivators which factor in our career of choice. Service and caring professions are generally attractive to people whose values are rooted in effecting positive change. Work forms part of our identity, who we are. A sense of belonging is achieved from working with like minded people with shared values and aims.
There is risk that we can invest too much of ourselves in our work under the guise of commitment. Working long hours and going over and above can be meeting some unmet need within ourselves. If a sense of value can only be attained through a job role, there will at some point be a negative impact on emotional and physical wellbeing.
A great many friendships are formed in the workplace, some stand the test of time, others are unsustainable beyond the job.
During workshops and therapy sessions I often encourage people to reflect on their ambitions and aspirations from childhood and adolescence to examine common threads. It is not unusual for people to have veered completely off track and become rudderless due to the weight of expectation. This can lead to feelings of resentment about unfulfilled potential.
Leaning towards creative or artistic pursuits can often be diminished as “not a real job.” They can be minimised as hobbies, this particularly applies to performing arts.
“A job for life” was a phrase applied to many occupations and viewed as the ‘Holy grail.’ I was placed in such job, orchestrated by well meaning family and friends. I worked in a bank but rebelled against the ‘safety’ and managed to jump ship early on. “A job for life” no longer exists, it is extinct. Who could have predicted the impact of the world wide web and all things technological on the workplace.
If my parents and grandparents were alive I daresay they would be completely perplexed about my choice of career as a therapeutic practitioner, I strongly suspect such a vocation would have been viewed as pointless.
The phrase “an honest day’s work” is suggestive of physical labour which then indicates that a job reliant on cognitive strength or ability is somehow dishonest.
I am passionate about books and writing. I briefly toyed with the notion of opening a book shop. I recognised that I was attracted to the romantic ideal of comfy chairs, books wrapped in brown paper, literary conversations, even the smell of a new book. A supermarket delivery availed me of this potential pursuit. As a therapeutic practitioner it’s a curiosity and interest in people and how they tick that drives. As trained practitioners we unwittingly elicit information and are unconsciously practiced at putting people at ease. Therefore, disclosures from people in everyday life is commonplace. Hence the afore mentioned supermarket delivery resulting in the driver divulging his recent “nervous breakdown.” It was at that point I realised that if I worked in a sandwich shop I would continue to be a therapist, even if it wasn’t my official job.
It is never too late to change career. Life is too short to be miserable at work. Work occupies the lion’s share of time and there is no worse feeling than the ‘Songs of Praise’ Sunday feeling of dread.
Changing career or retraining is a process. Switching jobs or careers reactively generally means carrying negative experiences and mindset to the new role. I find it horrifying when people state they have lied or exaggerated when applying for jobs. The recruitment process is to identify suitability for a role. A belief that somebody can “wing it” can lead to untold levels of unnecessary stress and pressure. It is vital to carefully consider options. It is often known what we don’t want, therefore a process of elimination can begin, the desired outcome can then become visible. Often It is lack of confidence or self belief that can be a barrier to positive change.
Regrets are often a result of missed opportunities or risks not taken rather than something not working out.