Sunday, 29 May 2011

Searching for the career you'll love

I'm a lazy person. Ask my wife, and she'll immediately say yes, with colorful descriptions (and maybe a few expletives) on why she thinks I'm the most indolent person on this side of the universe. You'll often see her bustling about accomplishing household chores while she raises an eyebrow at me permanently glued to the couch. The dictionary defines lazy as "too inclined to avoid hard work". I guess I am at that. I've never had the proper disposition that encourages diligence or perseverance, especially with undertakings that I am not interested in. Not to say that I'm completely useless at home. There are several household chores that I like doing. I'm quite handy with a hammer or a screwdriver, and I'm known to have held the paintbrush roller several times. These I don't mind doing, in fact, I appreciate working with my hands on construction works. And I'm also the official family driver, pick-up / delivery man, and weight-lifter, errands that I like. I may be a worthless-piece-of-.. sloth.., but I'm very enthusiastic with duties that I enjoy, and my wife appreciates the quality of my workmanship.

Same thing with your career I guess. If you enter into a profession solely for monetary gains or because it's the popular thing to do, with no consideration to what you really like to do, expect a big surprise. Well, more like a shock. Expect a big shock. Imagine spending eight hours a day for five days a week doing tasks that you're not interested in.. For the rest your working life. And if those tasks are difficult ones requiring effort and perseverance, add to that a boss or client constantly nagging you to meet tight deadlines, well, welcome to your personal hell. Every morning you'll have to muster enough self-discipline to get out off bed and go to work. You'll always feel constrained by your assignments and would need to make it a routine to make it more manageable. You have nothing to look forward to except the 5pm bell or the next holiday or payday. Maybe you'll get used to it and start to like it later on, but I wouldn't bet my happiness on it. Sure it might be a glamorous or financially rewarding career, but only if you'll become proficient at it, and it's hard to excel at something that you have no interest in.

I might be cajoled into a few onerous tasks in exchange for monetary or material gains, but rest assured my heart won't be in it, and it will be a finish-it-as-quickly-as-possible-so-I-can-wash-my-hands-now attitude. And if the financial reward is sufficient enough to fund my early retirement, then in will now be finish-it-as-quickly-as-possible-so-I-can-spend-the-money-doing-the-things-I-want attitude. Either way it would not provide the real satisfaction for a job well done. But ask me to do something that I'm interested in, and I might even pay you for giving me that opportunity. (I take this back, I still want my money. =P )

Friday afternoon beer while finishing my design.
It's not an easy walk in the park though, trying to find that career path that you'll love. We should've at least narrowed down our choices to a few options before going to university, but that is too idealistic for most of us. Not when you're eighteen and constantly floating on parties and alcohol. With all the outside influences pulling us to do this or do that coupled with the hundreds of possible career options, it’s a struggle to really understand what we want and recognize where we're good at. But it needs to be done; we need to internalize and define who we are, analyze where our skills point us, and research diligently our career options, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each choice. If you need to be diligent just once in your life, this is the time.

Now the question: how do you find out which career you want? I don't know. And if anybody knows the full answer, I'd like to know. I think it's almost like asking "what is happiness?" or "how do I fall in love?". Difficult to explain verbally but you'll know it once you've experienced it. Maybe the first place to look at is your hobbies and interests, see which ones correspond to certain professions, then see if most of the requirements of that profession matches what you want. Find out where you're good at as well, see if you can match those skills into a profession that you think you'd like. Asking people close to you helps as well, for they sometimes recognize exceptional skills in you that you yourself don't see. Do a lot of research as well. There are heaps of materials online that lists down and discusses all possible career options, easily accessible with a simple internet search.  And it's free. I strongly suggest to do that. Your life may not depend on it, but your future happiness might be, so start searching. The professions you choose should be practical though. It should at least be able to provide you with financial security, making sure that clients and/or companies are willing to pay for those skills you'll be developing. And you should be able to see how you would progress along the way and recognize the rewards you would receive at certain milestones.

You'll still get chances later on to shift careers if you made the wrong choice, and I'm still naive enough to believe that the world is full of opportunities to turn around and start all over again, but the longer you delay, the harder it is to change paths. And at a certain point in your life you may find it too risky already to alter your course, where financially-secure-but-detestable-work is now more preferable than financially-insecure-but-enjoyable-work. So you choose instead to bear and grin and try to find your contentment instead on something else outside your office walls.

Aguas Family - May 2011
The rewards are enormous though if you made the right choice from the very start. A very fulfilling and enjoyable career is just the beginning. If you like what you're doing, difficult tasks are challenges instead of sources of stress, to be approached with gusty enthusiasm instead of a cloud of morbid air. Tight deadlines aren't a problem since you won't mind working overtime (You love what you do right?). You'll find satisfaction at almost every accomplishment. And you'll probably become very good at what you do, since your learning and growth isn't bound to the 40-hours work week nor the perimeter of your work place. Developing your skills continuously even outside work is a fun and exciting exercise, instead of a dreary and troublesome task. It's almost like having a hobby that provides financial rewards, with people happily paying you so you could do what you want. Definitely a win-win situation.

I’d like to end this with a famous Confucius quote: "Find a job you love, and you will never work a single day". An idea that maybe too idealistic, but I believe is true nonetheless, and searching for that career you'll love is a worthwhile endeavor that would provide clarity and outline for your life plans. Choosing the right career path is probably one of the first essential key steps towards integrating personal happiness and career success together.

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