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Anna L.



What made you decide what career you were going to pursue? Was there a big catalyzing event that occurred? Did you always know that is what you wanted to spend your life doing?

Asked Jacksonville Beach, Florida

I am struggling to figure out what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I am interested in certain fields but do not have a clear idea yet of where it will take me. #medicine #science #law #economics #surgery #history #language

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5 answers

Hi Anna!

Picking a career is like dating or buying a house. It's easier to figure out what you don't like than what you do like. Careers come in two categories: What you are good at doing and what you want to do. They don't always coincide. Then there's "what everyone else wants you to do." Do not let someone else call the shots, even if they control the money for college (parents). You will regret it.

Nowadays, people do not stay in one career forever, or even with the same company. In fact, many employers look at such people as "stagnant," and it is harder for them to find new jobs. Even moving up within one company is not looked on as favorably as it used to be. You are in charge of managing your career. Many people move about every five years.

As for me: I never knew what I wanted. I was working as a parking lot cashier shortly after finishing college. A position came open for a police officer, I went for it! I do not like worrying about wardrobe, and spending money on clothes. I enjoyed it. And working with mostly guys was pretty neat. I stayed there 25 years. Never went for promotion, but did a lot of special projects: budget, planned a disaster exercise, training officer, etc. Had a conflict with the new management team, and needed to leave. After leaving, I filed a lawsuit against them. The lawyer who took my case and I hit it off really good. He does not have enough work for me to do full time, so I work for him part-time. I happened into a full time position with a state workforce office, where I have been for six years. I help people find jobs. MANY people were fired over bad situations, and my experiences with the PD help me to relate to them.

The important thing is to manage your career, do not let it manage you. When opportunity knocks, be prepared to go down that road, even if it was not in your original plans. And do NOT let a fear of failure hold you back. From anything. Tackle all weaknesses head-on.

Have a good resume, and understand the concept of "transferable job skills." My experience as a cop, talking to people in stressful situations, easily relates to my work with unemployed clients. My analytical thought processes developed as a cop relate to my work with the attorney. It is up to you to be able to show how your skills relate to the position you are applying to. When you start writing resumes, you will learn that we re-write it to match the job that you are applying to, you don't use the same one all the time.

And one last thought: a short stint in the military helps many young people focus their career decisions, and also provides money for schooling.

Best of luck! Kim

Last updated May 13 '16 at 10:59 PM

Hi Anna,

I am a Credit Risk Analyst at Fannie Mae and I've been in Credit Risk Management for nearly my entire career. I also worked as a Corporate Financial Analyst here at Fannie Mae when I first transitioned to real estate from energy trading to get my lay of the land before I could opine on credit risk. What I've learned is that careers are different, but so are the same careers in different industries. I decided I wanted to make money and I enjoyed personal finance in high school so I majored in Finance. I grew up pretty poor in a not so great part of Washington DC. I wanted to get a job that paid well so that I could pay off student loans and allow me to move into a better neighborhood. I was never that wonderful at math, but finance seemed to be more about figuring out the best outcome to a story of sorts. I didn't know what credit risk management or credit analysis was when I began looking for internships and part time jobs while in college, but once I was on the job for a few weeks, I really enjoyed analyzing the companies that were applying for loans in the neighborhood. I don't think you need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you enter college, but you should now what you don't want to do and that narrows it down quite a bit. I didn't know what industry I wanted to be in until a few years ago, many years after graduating. I started in local banking, lending to small businesses. Then I moved into energy trading, which was very exciting before and after Enron failed, but the industry stopped taking risks in 2009 with the financial crisis. I decided the real estate industry needed some financial help, so I switched industries. Risk management is very exciting when there is a large event that causes financial institutions to fail. I've been with Fannie Mae for over 5 years in a workout role, helping loans that are at risk of default with modifications. It is a little different from the new business credit risk management, but I feel like I am helping to minimize foreclosure and that is very rewarding. I wish you the best.

Last updated May 13 '16 at 07:08 PM

I have always known exactly what I wanted! I mean, obviously setting aside "astronaut" and "zookeeper" when I was five. I went to college ready to major in Art History, because I really loved that subject, and wanted to teach it. (I was 18.)

And that was true until I found out how much I hated Art History in college. Also, I dropped out of college for four years. But when I went back, I was ready to major in English, because that was the subject I actually loved, and wanted to teach it. (I was 23.)

Though it turned out that while I loved reading, I didn't really want to do the kind of analysis of books that an English major required. Also, on a whim, I took a linguistics class and thought it was the best thing ever, so I changed my major to linguistics, so that I could go to graduate school and be a college professor. (I was 24.)

I did go to graduate school. I was even a college professor for three years afterwards. But at some point it just became too difficult to keep accepting one-year jobs in different cities, moving every year, so I stopped looking and had no idea what I was going to do. (I was 38.)

At that point, a friend of mine found a job listing for a language developer/computer programmer, and I'd been practicing programming in my free time since college. So I applied, and got that job, which I've had since. I'm quite happy in it and am unlikely to change careers again! (I'm 43.)

...though of course, I've thought that before...

The upshot is this: at no point, ever, in your life do you have to know what you'll be doing for the rest of it! Sometimes there will be a "catalyzing event" (as when I took that linguistics course) but sometimes it's just a matter of finding over time that you do or don't enjoy something (as with programming, for me). Experiment, try things out, totally be prepared to decide that something you're trying isn't working and you should try something different.

Last updated May 13 '16 at 06:44 PM

Hello Anna,

My choice in a career path actually started at the age of 6. I knew I wanted to be a business woman who traveled and carried a brief case (now it is more like a professional carrying a laptop). When I entered high school I selected a school that specialized in business. At that point in my life I was fascinated with the idea of marketing until I started to research the statistics on the job market for that field. By the time I entered college and started to gain more professional work experience my passion for training and development began to materialize. I seen a need in the workplace and wanted to do something about it. Although I didn't want to be a full-time Trainer, my passion created more definition for my future career development. As I pursue a Graduate Degree in Human Relations and Business, I continue to focus on my end goal. Even though I am not currently working in my ideal role, I am still growing and educating myself to unitize my passion in the non-profit sector at some point to expand the knowledge of those within the community. I am a firm believer that all life experiences can be used to define and mold your purpose in life. It is okay if you change several times on that path. What matters is your determination to continue to the end even when obstacles create turbulence. Best wishes on your decisions!

Asia M-A

Last updated May 13 '16 at 06:46 PM

Hi Anna,

You are not alone. I regularly still wonder what I want to pursue and I'm 35! The approach I took was find something that you're OK with doing and do that until you want to do something else. Keep your options open. That can be beneficial in two ways: (1) because you want to go in another direction or (2) you need to go in another direction because job prospects are limited. If you set yourself up with a broad knowledge base and the ability to adjust as things change, you'll be in good shape.

Last updated May 13 '16 at 06:43 PM
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