Can’t define what career I want

I want to help people solve problems – is that a career?

Could be, says our elder. It sounds like a broad university program might help.


Dear EWC

So I have had an issue finding employment most of my life. Though I am always curious and wish I could be doing something meaningful. I am not afraid of pain and actually look forward to having a challenge I feel is moving me towards my goals. but it is hard for me to see how realistic my imagined future is. So I have not gone to university, I have studied some film animation and done a lot of different volunteer activities and small courses but never felt like any of them was moving me closer to a job. I am an Australian/American, currently in Japan and I hope I can study Russian in Russia later in the year. I wish I could be bringing people together to solve problems but there are endless amounts of ideas and problems and I do not have any specific skills or authority and am usually stuck living as an outsider. I have figured if I learn language or teaching it would give me a way to connect with more people. But so far I have made little progress and multiple failures. I have also thought about policy or international law, or some kind of journalism. I really just want some way of uniting people to fix a problem but I do not know what could lead to a job or what would suit me. I have always aspired to be a role model and believe in responsibility, learning from experience, having no bias.


Ketchman replies

Thank you for your message. I’ll try to help.

You seem to have a very general idea that you’d like a future in which you’re involved, in some way, with leading people to solve problems. That’s an awfully broad career specification that encompasses hundreds, maybe thousands of possibilities. There isn’t a career that I can think of that doesn’t involve solving some sort of problem – from a mechanic that solves someone’s problem with a faulty machine to a politician who tries to solve her constituents problems with a particular government policy. You’re going to have to get a lot more specific.

Unless you’re  both talented and fortunate, or have some very influential connections, you will have to start your working life being employed by some sort of private or governmental organization and to get that job you will need some qualifications that will, in all likelihood, require university training. I’m assuming, based upon what you’ve related, that you’re not interested in the skilled trades or technician-type training. Is that correct? My suggestion is that you start by planning to attend a university.

A university that offers a wide range of studies is an ideal climate in which to discover what you would like to start your new working  life doing. You may end up, five or ten or twenty years later doing something very different than what you studied – as many people do – but you’ve got to start somewhere. Most universities will allow you to enroll without declaring  what your major field of study will be and you can use your first year or two taking some basic courses and sampling a variety of others to see what catches your interest. You’ll also meet a number of people like yourself who have yet to decide what direction their life should take. Your conversations with them might help you formulate your own direction.

You didn’t mention anything about your age, and so I’ve assumed you’re a relatively young person. That’s not to say that university is not an option for someone a bit older. Many people in their thirties, forties, and beyond have successfully completed university programs and gone on to rewarding careers. If you are a little older there may be some other options available based upon your life’s experiences. We can discuss that in another communication, if you like. Another important factor is your financial circumstances. If you have a secure source of income, independent of your employment, there are a wealth of international organizations that you could work for, like the International Red Cross, and help solve some of the worlds most intractable problems. Make contact with them, find out what skills they’re most in need of, get the necessary training and you’ll be on your way.

The hardest step is the first one, overcoming the inertia that wants to keep us speculating about what we might do, without actually committing to doing anything. Once you make that first step, be it enrolling in a university or other training, or starting career counseling, or committing to an international organization; the rest becomes easier. 

If you would like to provide a few more specifics about your experience and education I might be able to offer something better than the generalities I’ve gone on about. You can contact us anytime and there will always be someone here ready to help and, of course, you could always ask for me and we can continue this conversation or go on to anything else you could use some assistance with. I appreciate the chance you’ve given me to offer a suggestion or two. I hope they’ve helped.


Article #: 470046

Category: Career

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *