Graduation and what career to pick

I was recently asked by a student, “How do you know what career to pick?”

Well, for starters, if you don’t know what career to pick then you can’t know what career to pick. Not right now, anyways. Best to stop trying to figure it out and just do something.

I just finished Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read your Sh*t–this passage seems relevant, called “How Careers Happen, Part Two”:

“It happened for me from the inside out.
     I was seized by an idea. I followed it. It failed.
   I was seized by another idea. I followed it, and it failed too.
     I did that a hundred times. Five hundred.
     Finally an idea or two succeeded.
     While I was thrashing from one idea to the next, I could discern no pattern. It all felt random. Each passage was one of a kind.
     But when I looked back, I could see not just a pattern. I could see a career.
     It had been there all along, infallibly working itself out.” (p. 179).

In the future I’m not sure we’ll be thinking of the question in terms of “jobs” and “careers” anyway, particularly once robots can do them better than we can. It’s almost certain that the job you’re training for today will be obsolete in fifty years.

It’s more likely that, instead of jobs and careers, we’ll be thinking in terms of “trades” and “projects”. We’ll frequently hear the question, “What have you built?” and “What problem can you solve?”, rather than “What do you do for a living?” and “What’s your major?” In the future, many more of us will be entrepreneurs and freelancers, which is why Fredonia holds “entrepreneurship” as a key part of its mission.

If that scares you, then it might be a good thing to explore. You don’t even need to start a business; you can be an entrepreneur in whatever job you already have (This is the core idea in one of my favorite books, Linchpin).

For instance, I built a strength and conditioning program at Fredonia from the ground up. Then I built this blog. Then I built a following around these things because I was excited about them. Eventually, somebody paid me to do it.

Through the process I picked up a number of skills: public speaking, writing, coaching, marketing, and photography, to name a few. Those skills apply to a lot of careers. When in doubt, focus on what you can control: your skills. (Start here).

Keep learning, because in the future the separation between high performers and low performers will come from their ability to adapt.

I wasted a lot of time trying to find the perfect career. Please don’t do the same.

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