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What was the hardest professoinal decision you've ever had to make, and how did it get you to where you are today?

I know life is full of difficult decisions, but how do you know which decision is the right one? I'm having trouble deciding whether to go to school to get my BS in finance or pursue my dream of acting. #finance #financial-services #investment-management #investing

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Chuck’s Answer

The hardest was also the easiest decision. I had worked at IBM for about 14 years when I decided I didn't want to stay there for 30+ years since it would be doing the same job for the next 16+ years.

I checked out the book "What Color Is Your Parachute" and after reading about half of the book (and doing none of the exercises) I decided to become a stock analyst/portfolio manager. It then took me two years of networking, researching and taking the first of three tests for the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam until I was able to get a job in the industry. The 12 years I had as an analyst were the most satisfying of my entire work career even though I was laid off twice.

Something I have always used to make key decisions for many aspects of my life is the decision process I used to buy my first car. This will sound a bit strange but you will hopefully see why it translates to almost any decision you can make when confronted with a fork in the road.

I was 18 and had narrowed down the decision for my first car to a Chevy Camero or Pontiac Firebird. They were both made by General Motors and were almost exactly the same car. For some reason the Camero felt "right" while the Firebird didn't give me the same feeling.

I asked myself if I bought the Camero and something went wrong would I second guess myself.
I then asked myself the same question about the Firebird.

As you can probably figure out I went with the Camero. I knew I wouldn't second guess myself with it but would if the Firebird had a problem.

I've used it to decide on multiple occassions to ask myself if I would regret making a decision one way or another.

If you have the option you don't want to ask yourself 1, 5, 10 or 20 years later what if.

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Kristen Kimi’s Answer

Hi Kate, I am unsure of where you are currently in your education. I can tell you the hardest decision I have made had to do with deciding to make a change in my career path and no longer pursue a career in the area I studied in college. It came with the challenge of finding someone to take a chance on me, the willingness to start from the bottom again and the confidence to work hard to learn something new. What I have learned in the end, I do not regret what I studied in college and I do not regret starting off in a career path that ended up not being for me. It is all worth it as long as you remember to collect skills, knowledge and experience along the way.

On another tangent, I used to work in college admissions and I worked with numerous students who have diverse interests, like you do. Student like you were my favorite to work with because college is a time when you get to explore your passions and interests. I would always ask my students why do you have to pick? Why can't you study your academic interest (finance) and pursue your arts passion (acting)? Who said you have to give up one to do the other? A great example - one of PIMCO's economists just released his first album. He didn't pick between between Economic and Music, he found a way to satisfy both interests. Is there a way you can do the same?

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Lisa’s Answer

My toughest decision was personal life vs career and it paid off. I wanted to get married and relocate. So I left a job with Sara Lee as Manager Financial Planning and Analysis and took a demotion to Sr Financial Analyst to work for ESPN over 20 years ago and now I am Sr Manager Financial Accounting for Disney EspnABC Sports. It is better to get different lateral moves and experience than always assuming that you need to climb the ladder with a promotion for every job change. Life is a journeyman, so be unconventional .

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Teuta’s Answer

They are two very different paths - where do you see yourself in the next ~ 5-10 years? Go with what makes you happy. At the end of the day, you may do well in finance but if you're not passionate about the field, it will not be the best decision in the long run.

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Nadia’s Answer

I recommend making a list of your goals and what you like/need to accomplish in 5-10 years. Then plan your education, career, life style and activities with those goals in mind at all times. You may need to reaccess every couple years and adjust plans, slightly but try not to divert.

Hi Nadia. Since Kate asked for anecdotes of personal experiences, do you think you could expand on your answer with a challenging professional decision you had to make? I am sure it would be really insightful! Jared Chung BACKER