A question on career selection

Social Media Camp 2009- Social Media for the Job Searchphoto © 2008 Dean Meyers | more info (via: Wylio)

Here is a question on career selection I got from someone. I decided to answer it in a post since this might benefit others too.

“…. So I am studying Computer Science in college as it has always been something I have enjoyed and it is what my father does, it also has a good job market. But I am not sure how much it inspires me, I feel like I might not be able to do that for my whole life.

There is also Psychology, I love the subject and for many years have read books and read articles on it. I took a class on positive psychology and really felt connected. There is also not much of a job market here.

Another thing that drives me forward is helping people. I love helping my friends through problems and trying to get them to be happy. I want to make a living this way if I could but I see Steve’s website and your website and feel I could never compete.

Just the whole what I am going to do for a living thing is frustrating. I am young so I have options but I am not sure where to go.

What advice could you give me?”

If I have to answer in one sentence, I will say – Do whatever excites you the most.

To decide what you like the most, read this post .

You seem to be stuck between two things, your fears and insecurity about your future, and your desire to work at something you love. You also seem to like more than one thing and don’t know which one to select.

A lot of people can’t summon the courage to even acknowledge that they like something that is not conventionally ‘safe’. They just follow the crowd, do what everyone calls safe and pretend it is their passion. I congratulate you on your courage.

You have doubts about whether you will succeed if you follow your passion.

The Success Formula

For me, success has a simple formula, you dream about a certain kind of life, you make efforts towards it. You face difficulties, some really hard ones. You learn from them and carry on. You face more difficulties and failures, you sometimes loose heart, doubts enter your minds, but your resolve is strong, you put aside the doubts, learn from the failures and carry on. You might see some day that the goal you have been following is not as worthy as you thought, your dream changes. You change course. The same cycle of failure and learning and trying again repeats until you achieve your goals. This is a simple, fail safe formula. It works, every time.

The only thing that can cause it to fail is your fears and doubts. If, after a few failures, your resolve breaks, your doubts start looking like reality and you can’t fight them back, if you accept defeat, you are defeated. In fact, the formula didn’t fail, you did. You accepted a particular failure as final. When you follow the above formula, you are bound to face a lot of doubt demons, fear demons and failures. Achievement of your dream life, literally requires you to go through fire. Like gold, burning in that fire makes you pure, burning through that fire and going through it makes you what is required for that dream life. This is all that you need to know to succeed.

The best career

A lot of young people try to find the career that they will stick to for the rest of their lives. The truth is, you cannot judge what is going to be best for you, for the rest of your life. If you live consciously, you are bound to get new inputs and new understanding that, more often than not, will make you seek out new directions later. You can only say what feels right, right now. You learn about what is best by experimenting with life and learning from it. In fact, the definition of best itself will change a few times(maybe a lot of times) through the course of your life.

Make your best guess depending on your current information. What you do in your first job may turn out to be the best, or it will give you more input and better clarity about which direction you want your career to go.

From my point of view, this thing about career selection is like an adventure. You pick the most exciting path, you follow it looking for new experiences and knowledge. The new knowledge helps you carry out your adventure better, you learn new tricks to improve your experience, you also learn new things about yourself and what you are seeking in this adventure. Sometimes you realize, you have enjoyed the adventure enough and want to expand your world further by going after a different, more meaningful and fun adventure. It’s not that you leave behind the first one and everything you gained from it. Those lessons will stay with you always and help you in your journey ahead. You will, invariably, find at least a part of your previous adventure overlap with the new one.

You might complain it is difficult to switch careers once you have started on one. I disagree. This is just a block people have in their minds. They have got too comfortable in their present roles to try face the fact that they don’t like their jobs anymore. Changing jobs later is not a a piece of cake, but it is a necessary part of personal growth. The other option is to act like a chicken, take up a job that everyone advices and then force yourself to like it for the rest of your life.

No.. Don’t do that. That is not your natural state. Accept that finding the best work for yourself is an ongoing journey rather than a destination at which you arrive and then stay comfortable for the rest of your life.

Your decision in hindsight

Later, the decision you take today, might not seem to be the best decision you could have taken, but it surely will give you important lessons. It’s not that you are bound to do what you decide today, for the rest of your life. Keep your focus on doing things you love. Your focus determines what you see more in life. If you take up something just because it is safer, you will see more situations where you have to pick between a safer option and an exciting option. Unless you decide to follow your passion, in spite if your fears, this will keep happening. If you do what you love, money and other security needs take care of themselves. It’s not like you ignore these needs but, as you follow your passion, you will find ways to satisfy these needs through your passion itself.

What others say

What others say is what worked for them or those whom they know. But every person is different and a lot of people have done very well in unconventional areas as well. Consider the ideas other give you, but be the sole judge of what works for you.

Those who say they got their most satisfying job the first time, are either lying to themselves to avoid facing the uncomfortable truth, or they were darn lucky. Don’t expect to be lucky, it’s better to learn to try different things and learn and grow as you go along. There is no avoiding making bad decisions and learning from them. Fail, learn from your failure , then try again.

Shouldn’t we address safety and survival?

In a way, your question really is – ‘Should I take up something that is safe(has more secure jobs) and that which I like somewhat, or should I take up something that I totally feel passionate about(although it is seemingly unsafe)?’ If you have read my previous posts, you already know my answer – follow your passion.

While survival is absolutely required, our fears make us stress upon it much more than we need to. When you do what you enjoy, you will do it well. If you have some good skills to offer, this world will offer you situations where those skills are needed and will be paid for. Seeking security now will keep you seeking it for the rest of your life. Have faith in yourself, be courageous. Do what you feel passionate about, do that through which you can add value to this world, do that which seems challenging and fun enough. The future will take care of itself.

Interest in multiple fields

Its perfectly normal to be interested in multiple things. Since you have 3 different things that interest you, I think you should take the one that interests you most. This should not be very difficult, if you set aside your fears and doubts. Imagine that you have gotten your hands on some treasure. All your finances and needs are now taken care of for the rest of your life. What are you going to do now with your life? Now that everything is taken care of, what purpose and direction do you want to pursue, what will you use this gift of life for now?

Your first choice of computers seems more to be inspired by the safe job idea. I don’t know how much you enjoy it(although, it seems you are not really passionate about it). The other two choices seem to be what you feel passionate about. In fact, you can do those two together. You can study psychology and use that knowledge to help people out. I am not going to directly suggest a course here, since I believe in just giving pointers. I believe you will be the best judge of what is right for you.

Don’t get into ‘paralysis of analysis’ over this question. If you make a mistake here, it is not going to be the end of the world for you. You will be able to learn from it and use the lessons in your life ahead. You will be able to take corrective action and get back on track. It may all seem very scary from where you are(because you haven’t been there) but life is not that unforgiving. You will get your second chances :)

About competition in your chosen field

There is no need to be afraid that you won’t be able to compete. I also felt the same when I started this blog. My ideas are very similar to those of Steve’s. I just believe that I can help some people on my own. You have been to Steve’s site but you put your question to me. That may be because Steve is too busy to lend his attention to everyone personally, but I will pamper my ego any ways ;).

There is enough for everyone. Any field will have a number of people doing well in it. Even in my field(blogging on personal development), there are quite some successful and well established people already. But I am adding in my own unique way. And I already have some people who have taken an interest in what I write.

Everyone learns through experience and experiments, and improves. You will also learn and improve your skills over time.

Everyone learns different thing. You will have your own unique insights to add. You may be teaching the same things in a different way that some people might find more interesting.

Look at bestselling authors. How many of them are there? Does the world ever say that it has had enough? every so often some writer becomes famous and leaves his mark, his distinctive signature on this world.

There are different ways of looking at this situation. When you work at something you love, you won’t be competing, you will be looking for interesting inputs. The focus should be on learning and improving, always. Learn and improve your life and those of others. If you find some people better than yourself, see them as knowledge sources, learning sources rather than competitors. When I started blogging, I also thought of Steve and other’s as competitors for a while. But I soon realized that I was acting in a negative way. I see him and his likes as useful inputs on my journey towards better understanding and helping myself and others. Believe that there is enough and you don’t have to compete for scarce resource. Try this perspective of abundance.


  • Jyoti
    January 15, 2011 - 10:06 am | Permalink

    It’s a very well written article and am sure that it will be of help to a lot of us. Reading this article has given so much clarity to me. I have interest in multiple fields and that’s the thing which confuses me at the time of applying for jobs, because I feel that I can work as a manager as well as trainer (giving examples from my NGO field).
    And this always made me feel that there is something wrong with me. Reading your article not only made me realize that it’s a perfectly normal thing but also at the same time is pushing me to explore and experiment to find out my current true passion.
    You are an inspiration and your articles are motivating in true sense. Your personal experiences help me relate more to real life and helps in developing a deeper understanding of situations in a simple way. Keep up the good work. :)

    • Rahul
      January 16, 2011 - 10:36 am | Permalink

      Glad it was of help. :)
      Thanks so much for adding to my posts by sharing your experiences from time to time.

  • Kranthi
    January 17, 2011 - 9:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Rahul,

    Great post. Your posts give great encouragement to do different things that excite us.


    • Rahul
      January 17, 2011 - 8:23 pm | Permalink

      I am glad I am being able to inspire some people. :)
      Keep visiting.

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