A lot of young people have a lot of questions and misconceptions about developing a career and how to go about it. Most people end up allowing life happen to them without giving wings to the ideas they have to fly. It is important to debunk certain mindsets and ideas in order to develop a career that is fulfilling at the same time impact filled. These ideas that have been passed on from generation to generation like a family heirloom need to be done away with. Some of the misconceptions you need to watch out for include:
- Your career is your education: This is by far the most deceptive lie I know that could be told a child or a young adult deciding on a career. Fortunately or unfortunately, for most young people here in Ghana, you either grow up studying some particular courses in school because your father wants you to become so and so and hence that course would facilitate that or you’re fortunate enough to pursue courses that align with what you’re passionate about. It’s a pity to see young people struggling with depression and feelings of inadequacy at workplaces because they studied a particular course in the university and hence have confined themselves to the space offered by that particular skill. It is common to find people with professions than people with vocations. Let me break that down, profession in this scenario describes something you’ve been trained for and have skills to perform and get paid for it, whilst vocation is something you love doing and yet still get paid for. Most of the young people are sucked into believing that they can’t really do anything aside staying in the industry of the courses they studied in school. Truth is, a career shouldn’t be for the sole purpose of being gainfully employed, it is a part of your life and hence deserves to be enjoyed and most importantly contributes to the building up of society. It doesn’t matter whether you read computer science or human resources management in school, you can still become that accountant with a passion for numbers and facts if you want. All you need is to carefully and patiently search for the right avenues that will promote such growth for you. Don’t be in a hurry to get a job just for the sake of it, know what you want, plan for it and go get it.
2. Careers happen on their own: The essence of planning for and in any worthwhile endeavor can’t be emphasized enough. Your career only turns out how you planned for it to. There is a popular saying that “failing to plan is planning to fail“. A career is a life long commitment, just like marriage and you can’t just choose any one just because you feel like whiling away time or making some quick money. As a young person, don’t let money be your only motivation. Be concerned about being the best you available in all that you do and that includes your career. Take some time to discover the things you’re passionate about and map them against revenue, discern how you can be paid to do something you absolutely love naturally or can love with just a little effort. After discovering what that thing is, start investing into it; attend seminars, build and maintain networks, have a vision, set goals, take courses/classes, get internships, volunteer, work on projects with other people etc. Don’t wait for someone to offer you an opportunity to make money and use that as a standard to determine your career. It’s important to consider the opportunity and market available for your chosen career before taking the plunge in, however be careful not to let money be your main motivation. Doing that would probably leave you frustrated at a point in the career, seeing that money isn’t everything in this world. As much as it has the power to get you the things you desire, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness.
3. You can only have one career: A career is one’s life work. In as much as focusing on one thing at a time has potential of producing excellent results, sometimes doing more than one effectively can also provide excellent results. There are so many avenues to do all the things you love, provided you have the time and ability to do so. Who says you can’t be an accountant and a photographer at the same time? I think that the age where career was defined solely as a profession for which you’ve received training is slowly dying out if not already dead. There are new inventions and innovations that call for new skills set that don’t necessarily need you to be a part of a professional body to join. Bottom line is, you can have as many careers as you want to, provided you can manage all of them. You can be a full-blown IT support engineer, at the same time, a blogger, author, social media marketer/manager, web designer and the list goes on. And all of these are careers you can have virtually without reporting to a physical office, except maybe for the support engineer. As a young person, don’t limit your mindset to what you’re trained for, feel free to explore various other avenues and careers. Run away from that boring job if you can’t stand it. Free yourself and spread your wings to do more. Aside being able to make more money by having more than one career, it has the potential of making you an all rounded person with more skills than someone pinned at just one job/profession/career. You become a kind of “jack of most trades and master of most“. There’s too much opportunity to pursue your passion for you to remain stuck with a job or in a career just for the sake of “so-called professional training and education”. Just have the most important trait of learn-ability, that is all you would need to conquer multiple industries, fields and worlds. You can read this Forbes article about how to have two successful careers at the same time.
4. Career relegates all to the background: It’s a great thing to be focused on getting better at being you. And I understand that sometimes it means sacrificing the things that matter most to you. But the truth is that, if you work really hard on your career and make it to the top but have no one to share the success with, then was it worth it at all? There’s a popular saying that “joy shared is joy multiplied”. Personally, I have come to understand the importance of family and friends in the journey to the top. Every truly successful man/woman would tell you that there were times when they wanted to quit but the words of a treasured friend or family helped them move past the difficulty. Being a career man or woman needs balance and tact. You need to utilize wisdom in your everyday life and this wisdom is knowing when to slow down in your pursuit of career to factor in family and friends. It’s knowing when to spend some time to help your child develop and grow, help your spouse achieve some of their goals, return a friendly favor etc. However, this balance would only mean something to you when you know your personal definition of success. Knowing what your success looks like determines what you give up on or work harder towards. In these Ted Talks, some light is thrown on work and balance. Facebook is trying to help its employees reduce the rate of burnout significantly by asking them to set personal goals aside work. Find out more in this article by The Huffington Post: How Facebook is Helping Employees Tackle Work Life Balance. Personally, I believe in balancing your work and social life in all it’s forms. No matter how you think of it, human interaction can have some really important benefits for you as an individual. According to The Huffington Post, “The belief that you aren’t successful unless you are busy has created an unhealthy workforce where employers lose up to $300 billion annually due to employee stress” — The Importance of Work-Life Balance and Health. I have witnessed hard-working employees die and get replaced. Don’t let your career take the most part of you, strive to live a balanced life in all aspects!
After all is said and done, the onus falls on you to drop the misconceptions and work at getting a better picture and understanding of what it means to have a career. I leave you with this quote by Dorit Sher.
Your career is your business, it’s time for you to manage it as a CEO.
Further reading: How to Build a Meaningful Career – Harvard Business Review
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