Choosing the “right” career

I am thirty years old, and I am still in school. My brother jokes about this and tells me that I have been in school more years than he has lived. So, you can say I am an expert student of different educational systems. My journey started in Albania, and it continues in New York for the past ten years. Different cultures, different educational systems, different beliefs and values regarding family, educational system and career. However, throughout my journey I found one thing in common: the fear and anxiety around choosing the right career. I see this more often now that I work with students. 

I’ve had people telling me they wanted to do what I do; and is interesting because I have worked many different jobs: picking and selling blueberries (when I was a child), writing, babysitting, housekeeping, waitress, secretary, medical sonographer, clinical assistant professor, tier I therapist, and maybe some more that I have lost track off. At first, I was a little confused, because at times I could tell that what I was doing wasn’t a good fit for them. Some went on to try it and realized it wasn’t a good fit, and some others never got around it. Some people decided to go back to school and do both school and work; because “If Veneta can do it, then I can do it too”. Some succeeded and some didn’t. I started to reflect on these experiences (part of my Vocational Development course at NYU) and realized what was really going on. I realized that people were feeling inspired and wanted to do whatever I was doing not necessarily because they liked my job, or things I do. What they really wanted was to be happy, passionate, and excited about school, or work, or even their life in general. Because I was so passionate, energetic and happy about things I was doing, it created the perception that it was easy, and working as a professor for example was all they needed to be happy like me. This realization was very important because it encouraged me to stop for a moment and reflect on what was about me, about my experience that allowed me to do all this? What was my drive? What was my motivation? This was one of the best reflection papers I have done at NYU. My story is very long (it can probably be a book), but one thing I can share is that I believe work and career are more than just means to get money, or social status, and we don’t have to choose a career early on in life and just stick with it. Comparing yourself with others is only going to hold you back and make you more anxious around your career choices, or any other choice for that matter. Therefore, I want you to start reflecting and thinking about your own career, explore your narrative, your story and see if it needs revisions because your story, even if it seems very similar to others, is unique to you, because of the way you experience it!

Reflection questions:

  • What does work mean to you? 
  • Growing up, did you feel pressured to choose a career?
  • What have your parents and/or society told you about the importance of work and career?
  • Do you believe you need to choose one career for life? Where did that belief come from? 
  • Why are you doing what you are, right now? Why did you choose this profession/career? How did you make that decision? What were the events that brought you up to this point?
  • When you were deciding about your career, how much of your parent’s voices were you hearing in your head? 
  • What does it mean to be successful for you?
  • How much of your identity is related to your career?
  • Who are you doing this for?
  • What are you worried about regarding your future career? What would you like to be different? 
  • Would you change your career right now? Why and why not?
  • What do you love about your job?
  • Imagine the environment you would want to work in. Think about as many details as you can from the physical space to the relationships with your coworkers and the type of tasks, things you will be doing. What feeling comes up for you when you imagine this?

There are different assessment vocational tests that can help you figure out what can be a good fit for you. I do believe that assessment tests are helpful, but not enough. Therefore, reflecting, and asking for help if you need it, is very important. I hope this short article can be of help for a start!

Below is a link to a test you can try out.

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