7 answers

Was your career how you expected it would be or did it change ?

Asked Astoria, Oregon

This question is for anyone who has recently started their careers.

#career #career-choice

7 answers

Sam’s Answer

I never envisioned myself having the career or type of job that I now have. Most of my career development happened as a result of following opportunities as they arose, rather than having a specific plan that I stuck to rigorously. This isn't to say you shouldn't have a plan. You should, so that you know what you believe matters most to you. But, you may also find along the way that your vision of a job/role may not be consistent with what that job/role really is or requires. Similarly, things may arise in the course of your job that you never expected as opportunities - a big problem that came up, a new priority for the company, a new line of business. By being flexible and following those opportunities whether they were exactly what you were expecting or not, you will find ways to grow personally and professionally, and your career will grow along with it.

For me personally, I realize now that what I was expecting early in my career and what I thought mattered most to me was not actually what I ultimately cared about most and was most passionate about. I only learned this because I was willing to take on new problems, teach myself about things I didn't know, and dive into any problem and figure it out. As a result, I ended up having a career that is very different from what I expected when I first began. Being flexible and willing to change and learn was what ultimately served me best in discovering my way into a career and role that I am truly passionate about and where my knowledge and experience were best used.

Sam recommends the following next steps:

  • Create a "big picture" plan for life, not just career. In 5, 10, 20 years what would you ideally be doing both professionally and personally? What matters to you most? Use that as a way of keeping your biggest priorities top of mind as you evaluate jobs and opportunities that arise. Update it yearly as your life evolves and your priorities evolve too.

Parsa’s Answer

As highschool students we are often not very well prepared for what it means to be "in the real world". We don't often get exposure to non-traditional career avenues so we're left believing if we don't achieve our childhood dream of being a doctor/lawyer/fireman/carpenter/pilot/etc, we've failed.

In reality, this couldn't be farther from the truth. When I was in highschool, I didn't know I was going to be a software engineer. I had an aptitude for mathematics and did some light programming but knew next to nothing about the field. I ended up applying to 3 disparate fields, Nanotechnology engineering, business, and life sciences. I almost pursued business, but my perspective shifted entirely after talking to students of each programs and what their studies and careers entailed.

I transferred into my field later on once I knew more about myself and about the industry - once I'd talked to literally tens of students and professionals.

Our decisions, choices, and identities are constantly changing and evolving. My grandfather went to law school at the age of 48 and changed his career entirely in his middle age. It's possible (and acceptable) to have many "careers" throughout one's lifetime based on interest and priorities. Don't be afraid of change.

Vijay Shankar’s Answer

Updated Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Hi Mariah - Thanks for asking this really thought-provoking question. I am at a very different place than what I probably expected when finishing high school. I hear similar things from my friends.

I was always interested in understanding how things worked and decided to pursue this interest by majoring in Engineering Physics. Somewhere in the four years of college, I realized that I was pretty keen on applying mathematical methods to real-world problems. I took a job as a quantitative analyst in an investment bank to see where this interest would lead me. While the work was interesting (and paid really well), I missed the nature of problem-solving in physics and decided to go to grad school to pursue a PhD.

The PhD taught me a lot about how to tackle complex multi-faceted problems but also made me realize that I did not want to become an academic. At this point, I decided to pivot again and pursue the a career in the growing field of data science where my background in mathematical problem-solving and interest in technology merged. The field of data science was nascent when I started my PhD (and I did not really know about it), but has really taken off in the past few years. I am now three years in this field and still being challenged by it :)

Hopefully that helps you a little bit and yes, always keep an eye out for opportunities where you can learn a lot or feed some of your growing interests. Keep in mind that your interests and what you want from a career change over time and embrace whatever challenges those bring.

All the best!

Andrea’s Answer

Updated Raleigh, North Carolina

Hi Mariah - great question! I am definitely not where I thought I would be career wise when I started college. Heading into freshman year, I thought I was going to be a Biomechanical Engineer. As I took courses in college, I realized that I was far more interested in business. I ended up with joining a consulting firm right out of college, figuring that was a way for me to get exposure to a lot of different companies, business models, and types of work, and that I would move on after 2 years. I ended up participating in a recruiting event and loved it...and quickly made my way into recruiting with that same firm. Over my 20+ year career, I've lived in 4 different locations, worked for three amazing companies, and gotten to work on so many different projects and teams - doing work that I didn't even know existed before I graduated!

In reflecting on my career, I have been open with my managers and teams about what I am passionate about, what I think I am good at (and they also helped me better understand my strengths and opportunities for development). I asked for chances to participate in projects where I could learn and kept discovering new roles which helped me grow into a more well rounded leader. Be open to change and opportunities because you will always learn something (even if you learn what you don't like!)

Thank you! I appreciate you sharing your story with me. It helps me to explore more opportunities that I might enjoy more than others.

Julian’s Answer

Hi! I initially started by career after college in a profession that was similar to what I studied. I received my degree in Journalism and briefly worked in PR. Though I did not stay in PR for long, I transitioned into HR. I have found a ton of value in this career route and found that it aligns more with my personal goals! I definitely am glad that I found out what exactly was fitting for me!

Stephanie’s Answer

If you were to at my work history, it is an array of experiences and it's because I was not one that "knew" from the beginning what I wanted to do. I used to be envious of others who always knew they wanted to be a doctor or engineer because I figured that having that clarity made their lives so much easier. But the reality is I ended up learning different skills along the way with every new job/career and learned more about myself. I've learned about the work environment I want to be in, the management style I work well in. It's not the easiest path because sometimes if you're applying for jobs you may be competing with others that stayed true to their career path from the beginning. But everyone has an interesting story. If you do make career switches along the way, be confident, recognize the skills you've learned and that your experiences are valued by employers.

Stephanie recommends the following next steps:

  • Identify different jobs you may be interested in.
  • Reach out to people who are in the field that you're interested in. People love talking about themselves. They'll be flattered.
  • Make a decision. Go for a job.
  • Step back and assess. What resonates with you? What could you improve upon? What's your next step/aspiration/timeline?

Alexandra’s Answer

My career has changed many times. I started as an attorney who wanted to work in health law then chose tax law for non-profits for a while, and then went into international tax. I also took a break to do teaching and start up work. I would say that change is welcome and makes you better and more knowledgeable.