What to do when your career path looks like an empty highway?
Make a list of what you’d like to explore, says our elder, then proceed with confidence!
Hi, I’m a high school junior. I have always been one of the best students in my grade. As the year has been progressing through, I’m starting to lose my motivation to perform well and complete my assignments. Even with my sports and instruments I’m exhibiting less effort.
The school has been putting on more pressure to choose a career path. Most students have at least been able to pinpoint a general area of expertise they would like to pursue. I feel like I’m falling behind. Where most kids can persevere through the intense stress of school, I’m stuck because I have nothing to work towards. I have this lingering feeling that if I don’t choose STEM, then it’s practically failure. Quite frankly, I’m not half bad at STEM. But I can’t see myself enjoying it as a career even if I am still interested in it in general.
I thought some sort of art or musical path would be enlightening because I do enjoy it and have talent, but it doesn’t seem like a reasonable and stable choice. Besides, most kids who are interested in that are likely miles ahead of me. I want a career I can be proud of, genuinely enjoy, and travel the world meeting different, interesting, and bright people. But most importantly, I want a career I can work towards and put my whole being towards pursuing.
I keep falling deeper and deeper. Nothing seems to interest me, nothing seems to make me happy, I’m just swimming in place. I thought going to university in a different country would wake me up, but it’s just some desperate attempt to make myself feel better. Most people think I’m crazy for choosing S. Korea, of all places, and my parents don’t entirely savor the idea either. I would like it though. I don’t know where to go or what to do. I don’t know how to take the next step. I’m sorry this letter was so long. Thanks for reading.
Thank you for your letter. I give you credit for wanting to spend your working life doing something that you love. Most people are not that fortunate and of course many don’t risk the chance to find it. Although it’s easier to do it when you’re young, I’m reminded of “Colonel Sanders” who created ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ when he was in his 60s; hence, it’s never too late.
I would recommend the following:
Make a list of potential careers you might want to explore. Think through the pros and cons of each and list them on a spreadsheet. In my experience, writing this kind of analysis down helped to give me clarity on which way to move forward. (Also, don’t worry about not knowing what career choice you want. I knew many college seniors who still didn’t know.) Once I began working, I found out later that some had college degrees in something other than what they were currently doing. Your ability to work hard, adapt, and persevere through a project is what many companies seek. (Of course if you know specifically what you want, you are well ahead of most people who really don’t know and go through trials to determine their path.) Also, I would encourage you to NOT limit yourself by what you believe you are capable of today. Most of us can do much more than we think. Don’t forget that if you do your best, you’ve already succeeded. There will always be people smarter and not as smart as you. I’ve found it best to not compare myself with others too much. Likewise, don’t worry about how far others may be ahead of you. If you really want a certain career, proceed with confidence.
It’s not unusual for your family to encourage you to pick a career that seemingly offers a stable employment option. They of course want you to have a good life. However, in your youth, I believe it’s important to take a chance on your passion. Most people don’t and to some extent regret it later in life. Also, youth affords you the opportunity to try something and if it doesn’t work out, you have time to get involved in something else. Many times, skills that you’ve learned in one area can transfer over to another; therefore, your education will always be an asset to you. I hope this is helpful.