Career Planning 101
â€œIt isâ€¦ too late for me.â€ - Darth Vader
If youâ€™re like most rational human beings, youâ€™ve probably come to the conclusion that work sucks. Anything that other people are willing to pay you to do is usually unpleasant. It really doesnâ€™t matter which field you are talking about. Whether youâ€™re a toilet scrubber or a rock star, you probably dislike some aspects of your job.
Few situations are more ludicrous than the idea of choosing oneâ€™s career at the tender age of eighteen. Most teenagers are far more interested in the opposite sex or whatâ€™s on TV than in making a well-considered assessment of their personal futures. At stake is a lifetime of prosperity or failure, fulfillment or misery, depending on the astuteness of the decision. Our society does not consider a person this age to be old enough to drink; yet they can be trusted with a decision that may haunt them for the next fifty years of their lives.
Any young person who has focused on their studies seriously enough to get into a decent college is, ironically, usually less experienced in the necessities of the â€œreal worldâ€ than their counterparts who may not have had as many advantages. This is how people spend eight years getting a PhD in Russian Literature and then wonder why no one wants them when they get out of college. Meanwhile, the guy who dropped out of school to start an auto detailing shop is making a fortune doing what he loves.
Most people choose a major in college or an area in which to pursue employment based on what they â€œlike to doâ€. This often ends badly. Chances are, by the time you have become really good at any activity, you have long since ceased to find it remotely interesting. So donâ€™t even worry about whether you â€œlike to doâ€ whatever you end up doing. Even if you started out liking it you wonâ€™t like it anymore after a couple years. Most things that are enjoyable do not pay very much. Those gigs that are enjoyable and pay in the six figures are sought after by way more people than there are jobs available in the field. When was the last time you saw a Help Wanted ad for movie stars?
Choosing a career based on what you like to do will often lead to unemployment and the consequent necessity of taking a dead end low-paying job in a different field in which you never had any interest. This is how people end up in the food service industry.
Put aside any romantic notions that you need to find something you are interested in. Look instead for something you can tolerate that most other human beings cannot or will not do. These jobs are always in demand and usually pay well. Often they involve dealing with unhappy people or huge piles of paperwork. Health care remains the best area to find this type of job.
By their late 20s most people have caught on that they donâ€™t want to do whatever it is that they are doing. They are sick of it and donâ€™t want to put up with it anymore. They arenâ€™t getting the pay and recognition they deserve. They think they should change careers while they are still young. This feeling is usually accompanied by a desire to build a time machine and undo some poor decisions. Failing this, there is always the option of returning to school to beef up oneâ€™s resume. Some people find that getting an MBA helps them to blend in with the vast swarm of middle-aged professionals who wish they were in upper management. More ambitious souls may choose to start their own business, usually with catastrophic results to their personal finances and marriages.
When you become serious about leaving your current position, be sure you have something else lined up before you quit your current job. Donâ€™t piss anyone off on your way out the door. You may need them for a reference.
If you do decide to bite the bullet and go back to grad school, take into account the law of diminishing returns. For every year you spend in grad school you lose approximately $20,000 in extra income that you would have earned if you were working at a decent job. No one can live off a $15,000 graduate student salary. You will have to move back in with your parents or sponge off your friends or significant other for a few years. No one wants to go out with a grad student, so your love life will be non-existent.
In grad school you will experience mind-blowing stress as you are transformed into a driven relentless professional capable of a degree of sustained effort that most people cannot comprehend. You will learn that sleep is optional. You will learn how to memorize entire textbooks overnight. For your hard work and sacrifice you will be rewarded with five or ten thousand dollars a year more than the guy who only got a bachelorâ€™s degree in college. It will take you two to four years of work to make up the lost wages for each year you were in grad school. Donâ€™t you feel smart?
Many people decide they just want to learn to live with their situation instead of jumping from one bad job to another. Theyâ€™re tired and beaten. They often use daily affirmations to help them stay positive. Most affirmations are of the wildly optimistic type like â€œEvery day in every way Iâ€™m getting better all the time.â€ This is pure rubbish, of course, but it gives them the self-confidence they need to persevere. Affirmations use the well-documented power of positive thinking to transform how people experience reality.
Donâ€™t let your cynicism rob you of the opportunity to utilize this powerful coping mechanism. You too can tap into the magic of self-deception! You simply have to lower your standards until you find a believable affirmation that connects with your unique situation. Here are some examples:
â€œIf I donâ€™t get laid off in the next ten years Iâ€™ll get a pension.â€
â€œAt least I have health insurance.â€
â€œI may not get paid much but I get a lot of time off to spend with my family.â€
â€œThis is the best job I can get in this part of the country.â€
â€œIâ€™m doing the best I can until we get the kids through college.â€
â€œIf I keep kissing ass maybe someday Iâ€™ll get into middle management.â€
â€œAt least Iâ€™m not in real estate right now.â€
You can mix these in any combination you like, or even make up your own affirmation! Repeat it under your breath at work whenever you need guidance and comfort. It helps to mix in the word â€œbestâ€ into these affirmations. It implies that while things may not be all that great, they are somehow as good as they get. This helps your subconscious mind accept bitter disappointment.
Be sure to avoid negative affirmations. These usually begin with words like â€œIf onlyâ€¦â€ or â€œI wishâ€¦ â€. Negative affirmations only make things worse by reminding you of what you should have done differently. They imply that your bad situation is somehow your fault just because you were the one who made the decisions that created it. This type of thinking is totally counter-productive. Here are some examples of negative affirmations, so you know what to look for:
â€œI wish I had stayed in grad school.â€
â€œI canâ€™t believe I married that bastard!â€
â€œI wish I still qualified for welfare.â€
â€œIf only I hadnâ€™t taken out that home equity loan.â€
â€œIf I had joined the Marines when I was eighteen I would have a pension by now.â€
â€œIf only I could get these damn credit cards paid off.â€
â€œI wish I had gone into massage therapy.â€
As you can see, this type of thinking can lead to trouble. Itâ€™s best not to think while working.
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