As your career options begin to unfold, you may be examining alternate paths to achieving a life that offers the financial security and fulfillment you desire. Your dream may be to become an entrepreneur or to making a living pursuing your creative passions. While you aren’t restricted to either/or career choices anymore, it is wise to first pursue a professional core career for the practical business experience and financial foundations it will give you.
While it offers no guarantees, a traditional core career is still the most secure route to any sense of economic security and success as it is traditionally defined. There is no real job security in any traditional career paths anymore but some professions, some industries are much better bets than others.
Should you “follow your bliss”?
Lots of career management advice to date tells you not to be practical but to find your passion, find your bliss, find something you love, and stick with it until you achieve success. This message gets lots of play because it tells people what they want to hear, but it is rarely practical, because coming out of school and crossing this last bridge into adulthood, your idea of bliss might not be that practical a way to make a living. If you dream of being the bass player in a band, go ahead give it a shot, but at least do it in conjunction with a core career. If you are not prepared to compromise, whatever you do, don’t stay too long at the party; entering the professional work force at the entry-level is tough enough up until twenty- five, but leave it two or three more years and employers begin to get really leery. Leave it too long and getting a foothold in a professional career can be very difficult.
The experts tell us to expect three or more careers over a work-life, which averages out to around fifteen years per career. Even if you become successful in one and technology doesn’t eradicate it in the way that technology continually destroys professions as it creates new ones, change still happens and unforeseen circumstances may dictate you have to make a career change anyway.
Your needs/desires—the things you find worthwhile in life—will evolve as you age, and you will probably experience significant changes in these areas every 7–10 years. Because the metrics say that no job is secure and psychological research say that whatever rings bells for you today might not have the same relevance a few years down the road, career choice shouldn’t necessarily be about finding your passion, although it’s preferable if you can make a living doing things you enjoy.
A more practical approach that responds to the realities of the new world of work is possible: the work you do dictates the money you earn every week, and this dictates the quality of life you experience and the things you are able to do when you are not working; and this has an impact on every day of your life, for the rest of your life. Your core career choice should take into account personal preferences, but it should not be made in the belief that the career you choose will lead to lifelong security or that it will satisfy all your needs for today and always. Nothing is certain in this life except change, and your need to master how to manage the inevitable twists and turns of the long career ahead; because how you learn to navigate your career will dictate the degree of your long-term success and fulfillment.
What Comes First, the Career Choice or the Degree?
Paying for college is expensive, so you want to make the smartest choices that also offer the greatest flexibility for changing jobs and careers later in your professional life.
Learn about the growth industries, the high–growth jobs within them, the academic credentials required for entry, and the credentials suggested for an accelerated start.
Cross-reference the academic requirements for the job(s) and career path(s) under consideration with the other jobs and careers people with these same degrees have pursued successfully. Because of these considerations, core career choice should be based on pragmatism and a more intelligent approach to career management that embraces other options. Smart core career choice should take into account skills, aptitudes, and preferences.
Having come up with a short list of appropriate career choices you should also consider:
- The projected health of the industry sectors you are considering
- The projected growth of the target job(s) you are considering
- The relative flexibility offered by that degree/job/industry combination in allowing you to change jobs and professions in the future.
- An industry sector/profession with healthy growth projections will deliver more job opportunities and better professional growth in good times and bad.
- Within the profession/industry sector(s) under evaluation, you should consider the projected health of target jobs. Jobs with high projected growth potential—20-plus percent growth over the next decade is considered pretty healthy—are better than jobs with little or no projected growth.
- The absolute number of people holding that job title today and on which the growth projections are based is also important: a projected 20 percent growth rate on a job that already has 3 million people holding that job title suggests greater security than a job with a projected 20 percent growth rate based on 35,000 people.
Career Choice and the Bigger Picture
If you want to increase the likelihood of professional success, personal fulfillment, and financial independence, your core career is just that: central to your success, though not the only path to its achievement. For insights into how you can integrate creative and entrepreneurial endeavor into a core career path, you should check out Knock Em Dead – Secrets & Strategies For First-Time Job Seekers.
Martin Yate, CPC, is one of the world’s foremost experts in the business of job search and career management. The author of Knock ‘Em Dead 2013: The Ultimate Job Search Guide and fourteen other career books, Yate is published in countless languages around the world and has helped millions change the trajectory of their lives. Learn more at www.knockemdead.com.
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