What should I do with my life?: Choosing a Career / University / College Major

Consider the Statistics

NPR Planet Money explores choosing a university / college major (What should I do with my life?) – it’s a more important decision than the school a person attends. Yet the decision is often made at a whim. The dollar impact over a person’s lifetime could be millions. For instance Petroleum engineering has a median income of $120K/yr. Whereas Counselling Psychology median’s is $30K/yr.

This is the graph that illustrates why a person should go to college:

This chart shows job titles on an income ladder:

Not having a college degree:

  • impacts life expectancy due to exposure to “deaths of despair”: https://www.npr.org/transcripts/787555423. This is all too real, Planet Money’s “Big Rigged” podcast has a heartbreaking story of how simple hard work backfires; click here to listen.

Consider these other textor.ca posts:

USA Job Graph Illustrates that the future in 1st World jobs is service

Review of “7 Workplace Myths Disproven By Research” which explains that a person should do what makes a difference in other people’s lives. Not what they love.

“What should I do with my life?” – How to Choose by Prototyping

Cold hard statistics might not really help when considering “What should I do with my life?”. A podcast episode of Hidden Brain called “You 2.0: Getting Unstuck” offers good advice to help figure out what to do with your life using design thinking/prototypes.

Avocation = the thing you do for love, not money. Many times you need a vocation to pay for the avocation.

“Many of us feel stuck – stuck at work, stuck in the wrong city, stuck in life. When that happens, we often end up asking ourselves, what should I do? Where should I live? What’s my ideal life? It turns out, these normal questions are counterproductive to getting us unstuck. They place an unbearable pressure on us, the pressure to know how things are supposed to turn out.

The next time that happens to you, think of your life the way a designer at a tech company thinks of a new product. You don’t quite know what you want to build. Just for fun, you come up with a prototype, then a second and a third. You pay attention to whether you enjoy building one kind of prototype or another. You listen to feedback from others. You go back to the drawing board and try again. When someone asks you years later how you knew what you wanted to be, you can tell them – honestly, I didn’t.”

Consider Your Personality

There are many personality systems and here’s one: DISC “D (dominance), I (influence), S (steadiness), and C (conscientiousness)”. Based on your personality, there are certain careers where your personality will be an additional strength. This page helps explain DISC and the e-book referenced at the bottom of the page called “Personality and Career Decisions” has a list of careers by DISC-type: https://www.crystalknows.com/blog/i-hate-my-job

The Financial Consideration of Post Secondary School

Jill Schlesinger, business analyst for CBS News and the author of “The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money.” recommends that debt for post secondary education should not exceed what you think you can earn in your first job out of school in the first year. Click here to learn more.

Consider The Future Economy And Politics

Any decision you make should be in the context of not what the economy and politics is like “now” but what it may look like when you enter the workforce. How might the economy and politics be changing in the coming decade? Is what you choose to do going to be aligned with that? If you’ve already chosen a career, what changes might “put you out of a job”? Click here to watch the video “The Third Industrial Revolution” to see what millennials and the subsequent generations are expected to face.

Put Experts and Mentors In the Right Light

As you navigate your life and career, the best Mentor will be the one who believes in you and helps develop opportunities. Don’t invest too much in expert advise of what to do, which can be helpful for helping to indicate paths not considered, but often times are discouraging. Research indicates that expert opinions can be no better than chimpanzees throwing darts. The same research indicates the best experts (or “superforecasters”) are actively open-minded thinkers; they have an ability to change their mind based on new information and admit their mistakes. (Note: There is a method to finding true experts called the “surprisingly popular answer”, which is not the popular answer which leads lemmings off cliffs)

Started Your Job? Quit It

Podcast “The Indicator” explains that quitting your job is a very healthy thing. Economists worry that climbing the job ladder within a company puts people into jobs that are less of a match for their skills which then puts them into a tenuous position when a recession hits. Since switching jobs is usually a better fit for a person’s skills they become more recession resistant. In addition, switching jobs usually represents a kind of promotion and can bring benefits such as an increase in status, more pay and generally, if the skills match is better, a more productive worker. It appears the reality now is to be loyal to your work; that is, do what you agreed to and do a good job on it. But loyalty to your employer? That is something that belongs to past generations. Finally, this strategy tends to support finding a place that values you. Click here to read about the daughter and the Nissan Skyline R34.

Still Not Convinced? Consider BS Jobs

Before you start your career it’s important to understand how jobs can become generally meaningless, contribute no value what-so-ever and thereby impact your emotional well-being. I believe you should know about this so you know it’s not you and help you figure out quicker if it’s just time to move on. Listen the applicable Hidden Brain episode “BS Jobs: How Meaningless Work Wears Us Down” by clicking here. They cover all the types of BS jobs (duct tapers, taskmasters (2 types), goons and flunkies) and explain how they occur.

About the Author

Trevor Textor is father of three beautiful children he hopes one day to change the world and be happy doing it. He’s had his own career at a blue chip company only to leave it to pursue being an entrepreneur to explore all the ideas most blue chip company mentors told him would fail (they didn’t). If you’d like to get in touch with Trevor click here. Trevor has a hobby following Behavioural Economics and regularly updates this article with the new things he’s learned. The article was lasted updated: 05May2021.

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