photo by EfrankE

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Choose a Career

Sometime during my senior year in high school, each of we students were told to write out our intended occupations, what we planned to do after graduation.

I had absolutely no career direction at the time. I had always viewed becoming competent at something and making a living as distant future situations.

My friend, Darron, had suggested to me that a couple of good career possibilities were, 1.) shepherd and 2.) organ grinder. I gave some thought to his recommendations and agreed they were not bad choices, so those are what I wrote down.

Shepherding seemed like honest work and not overly demanding, except, I reasoned, when you might have to pull a double shift if your reliever calls in sick. Shepherds often fared better than most others in the Bible. God seemed to favor them. Moses was a shepherd. King David started out as a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. God sent the angels to shepherds to first announce Jesus’ birth…

On the other hand, if you were a professional organ grinder you got to have a monkey, which also counted as a business deduction on your taxes. I had never seen very many organ grinders around so I supposed the market wasn’t over-supplied with them. Image in the field seemed to be paramount, though. Could I grow the requisite mustache to be able to pull off the full effect? Probably not for another year or so, I concluded.

Having been lying in bed off and on over the past few days trying to get over this cold that invaded my sinuses, eyes, ears, throat and chest, I’ve been musing over my career choice and path.

It's never been a secret that I drifted into architecture sideways, starting off studying something else. One of my instructors told me he thought I should go into architecture. Really?, I thought, well…er, uh, yeah, okay…, I guess.

And that was about it. I made the change and continued through school, spent a few summers working construction, graduated, got my first architecture job, and then another, and on and on until finally becoming my own boss almost eleven years ago.

My 40th year high school reunion is next year. I made the 10th and 25th but couldn't make the 5,000 mile trip from Hawai'i to the others. I’ve been wondering this week how many of my former classmates made their career decisions thoughtfully and deliberately versus how many just wandered into a path, as I did. I wouldn’t mind listening to some of them tell their stories on the subject.

Incidentally, my classmate, Darron, chose to become a medical doctor and work as a research scientist at a major university, which was probably a good career choice. I doubt that either shepherding or organ grinding could have matched the benefits of his current position.


  1. hope you feel better soon Mike...

    When we were in school... all 4 of us kids... our Dad told us we better take some classes that would get us a job directly out of grade 12 because we were not going to college or university. So...us girls took typing and bookkeeping and my brother took "shop"... it was a long time ago and we must have been a bit slow.... or perhaps there were not student loans in those days... who knows.. anyway... I got a job in a bank before Grade 12 was over because I couldn't stand living at home anymore with a mean drunk.... and that's how I got started making my $1.10 an hour to support myself in a very frugal manner til I got a bit older. Then... went back to school to get my Grade 12 while I was recuperating from a serious car accident..and finally continued on in college to become a dental assistant... not earth shattering as a career..but, I did it for many years ...and found it enjoyable...to a point.

    I've never been to a reunion and definitely wouldn't bother... school was a horrible place for us....

  2. Thanks for the wellness wishes, Vee.

    School did have its ups and downs, socially. We noticed that there was a huge difference between the 10th reunion and the 25th. By the latter, people had settled out, accepted themselves, and most others, wherever they had landed in life, and the gathering was a pretty happy event. Seeing old friends was fun, all right, but noticeably, cliques that had divided people in school had mostly broken down and people mingled freely. Time had become a healer and something of a leveler, as it often seems to do.

    Your Dad was right with the advice of getting some training in a marketable skill early on. Your having fought through tough circumstances is impressive and, I’d wager, made you a more successful person. Perseverance usually has to be learned sometime during one’s lifetime and you gained that at the better, younger age.

    I’m the most surprised that your remarkable creative & artistic abilities weren’t identified early and encouraged to blossom.

  3. My guidance counselor chose nursing for me. I became an RN then decided after working a couple of years in high stress areas that my guidance counselor had been an idiot and I went into library sciences. Then after a few years of that I decided I was an idiot and stayed home with the kids. Now I have to decide again since they're in school full time. Maybe I'll just flip a coin this time.

  4. RN to librarian... so, Perp, you basically went from saying, "Shut up and take your medicine!" to just plain, "Shut up!"

    Staying home with your kids was the best choice. Hope any future occupation decisions benefit from your wit and creativity.