How to Choose a Journey before a Career

By August 7, 2015 Blog

This is the most recent in a series of co-written articles with our intern Karli Enriquez from St Edwards University in Austin.  In this post, Karli and I sat down to discuss the pressure on young people to choose a career early and the process of thinking about a journey first before selecting a career.  – JF

Out of high school, you are frequently and repeatedly told that college is your best choice to start on the road to true success. But when does that highly sought after recipe for success begin to only result unhappiness? It happens when you choose a career for yourself before you choose a journey.

A career can seem like a journey and may be mistaken for one. The starting goal for most people is to find a career that makes them happy, but we all know that can easily be pushed to the back burner and seen as only a childhood dream once “real world” issues factor in. Before you know it, you are settling to do what is safe or will ensure financial stability whether it is truly what you love or not. The dreams and desires of your heart may seem unrealistic, so we ignore what we always wanted “to be when we grow up,” and we settle for the safe career. And well, as Justin Foster says, “settling is death.” So how can you tell if you’re making a journey for yourself or just choosing and settling for a career? I had no idea either, until I sat down with Justin.

In high school, the whole system is designed around prepping kids for where they will go to college and how they will get there. As a student, if you do not go to college, you may feel or be looked at as though you are failing or not achieving what everybody has been setting you up for the past twelve years. Alternatives to opportunities after high school other than college are occasionally mentioned, but are not as encouraged and emphasized.

So before you decide whether or not you want to go to college or where you want to you go, start here!

A major part of a journey is thinking in terms of organizing around your talents and passions rather than what society, family, friends, etc are pushing you to do. How do you do that? Here are three things you can do to ensure that you are starting your journey in the right place:

  1. Make a list of things that feel like intrinsic gifts. This means things that you are good at, things that come easy to you, or come natural to you. Leave nothing out even if it seems like it does not fit. Especially if you think it makes you “weird” or different.
  2. Make a list of specific things that you can do better than anyone you know. Like the list above, leave nothing out! Consider physical abilities, intellectual skills and even things like intuition and empathy for others.
  3. Make a list of things you want to get better at or improve upon. Again, these typically cover areas related to your physical, emotional, mental, spiritual etc well being.

Once you have made your lists, you will have a different lense to look through. Instead of a curriculum path around a major, you will be building a path around you and what you are born to do. This will help you to improve yourself and set the foundation for your journey.

If you still decide to go to college (which was my choice!), make sure that you are choosing a school for the experiences and not for just for the degree program. While overall you are going to school to gain a great education, the college years are such an important time in your life to discover who you really are. So it is ok to choose school based on the culture, the weather, the activities, etc. That is all part of the experience – not just sitting in the classroom! There are also so many options for studying abroad, having multiple majors, and hands on work in your field of interest in college that you can very well start your journey out of your time there.

Another alternative to college is mastering a trade such as electric, welding, plumbing, construction, etc. Not coincidentally to the term “journey”, the people that work in the trades are called “journeymen”! The trades can be a great option for your journey because they are starved for young talent. Take welding for example. If this is a skill you have or learn, you can completely choose your own journey. You can weld anywhere in the world, and for countless different industries. A trade like this is a way to live out a journey while doing something that can help you fund all of your other necessities.

While going to college is the most endorsed route, the military is not too far behind. You can either directly enlist or enroll in ROTC. ROTC helps students with leadership skills and prep them for a career in the military as officer. One of my brothers joined the Coast Guard out of high school and continues that career and journey 15 years later. Not only has he made an extremely successful career in the Coast Guard, he was able to embark on a literal journey as well – traveling all over the world and have amazing experiences. After about 7 years in the service, he decided to go back to school while he continued in the Coast Guard. Not going to college right after high school was the best thing for him and now he has great experiences and a degree! This shows that  college does not have to happen immediately after high school to be part of the journey.

A lot of people go to college and major in entrepreneurship, but there are so many options and opportunities to convert your talent into a business right now without going to school first. Design, software development, art, etc or whatever your talents and interests are could be converted into a business today!  Especially in the world we live in where an e-business can be successful quickly with very little start-up costs. You can set your own schedule, work from anywhere in the world, and possibly even combine this with one of the other three options listed above. You can travel while being an entrepreneur, be in the trade industry and be an entrepreneur, go to school to be an entrepreneur. The list goes on and on!  When in high school, few people tell you to go start your own business based on what you love or have a passion for. It may seen unstable to them, but if you are doing what you are passionate about and are having a journey full of experiences and possibly trial and error, you are already successful. Not to mention, you may learn more about yourself and the world than you would if you were in college!

Two years into my college experience, I know that I would not change my route of choice. I love St. Edward’s University and I am in one of the best cities in the nation. I have now realized that my journey and experiences are based on me and all that I intend to make of them. I could go to school, get my degree, and move on to the next milestone in life, or I can base my time in college off of the opportunities and experiences I have sitting in front of me. It is up to me to embrace and utilize them before it is too late to do so. From studying abroad, to service projects, to clubs and organizations, and more, a college student in the 21st century has endless opportunities for a journey.

I think that choosing a career over a journey means picking something to do for the rest of your life before you really find yourself, which I worried I had done. But if I have learned one thing in college and this whole experience, it is that your college major is not a life sentence. Obviously you can change your major during college, but even after you obtain the degree you are not locked in for life.

At the end of the day, you certainly should listen to the advice of parents, counselors, mentors, etc. but as Justin says, if you are awake and self aware, you should most of all listen to your heart.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs (college dropout)

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