Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Mid Week At Work Query: How did you end up doing what you do? Is it what you expected?

Iris Gaines: You know, I believe we have two lives.
Roy Hobbs: How... what do you mean?
Iris Gaines: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.
The Natural

This past couple of weeks we've posted queries regarding whether your adult occupation, or occupations, match your childhood aspirations.  So far, in my case, of the variety of things I've done as an adult, a few did in fact match them.

Which doesn't take us to how we end up doing that thing.  Our job, our vocation, our occupation, which even presumes, likely inaccurately, that those things are in fact the same thing.

At some point, at least for most of us, we end up doing something fairly steadily.  Not everyone does, of course.  Some people drift from job to job, and some people frankly like doing that.  I'm occasionally amazed by people who are truly so varied in their talents that they can do that fairly effortlessly.

For most people, however, once they lose a job its a disaster.  They have, at some point, little ability to move occupations, which isn't the same as having no ability.  Of my close friends I think probably half of them have moved occupations as adults.  I definitely have not, but I've been unusually employed in multiple things as well, even while having a main vocation.   Still, the more specialized their occupation, and the more training that goes into it, the harder it is for a person to switch away from it even is desperate necessity requires it.  A lawyer friend of mine, for example, once observed when he decided to try to leave the law (which he ultimately did, returning to school in his 40s in order to become a teacher. . . his third career) that "lawyers are occupationally illiterate".  It isn't just them, if a physician walked into NAPA for example, hoping to pick up a counter job, he'd be unqualified for it.

But, amongst the same group of friends of mine noted above, a bunch of them didn't end up where they started to go.

Of my close high school friends, including myself, none of us did.  A friend who started off to be an engineer ended up a restaurateur.  One who aspired to be a dentist ended up a very successful electrician.  A friend who was hugely musically talented attended a first rate music school but has only played in bands on weekend gigs, basically.  He is principally employed as a big IT guy, self taught.  And I'm not working as a geologist.  Indeed, after I started practicing law the state started licensing geologist and I never took the exam for a license.  So I couldn't easily work in that field now if I wished to.

A lifelong friend who wanted to be a marine biologist had to switch gears to obtain a teaching certificate and never found employment in that.  He's worked as a chemist for many years.

Looking at my college friends the story is more or less the same. My closet college friend burned out on our mutual geology degrees (a very common story, frankly, and part of the reason I didn't go on to geology grad school) and never completed one final class for his degree.  He went on to work in retail for many ears and then switched to school infrastructure.  Of the other geology students I knew at the time, four were able to actually find full time work in the field, or closely related ones, and three remain employed in it today.  The fourth quit to become a lawyer, something that one of only two of us who graduated with Bachelors degrees and job offers in my class also did, refusing an offer of a job in  Australia after his family objected.

Law school, where I ended up, was a sea of altered dreams mixed in with islands of long held aspirations.  My closest friend in law school had a history degree but had spent a hitch in the Army as an enlisted man.  He nearly returned to that when we were in law school and did go on to a hugely successful career in the Army JAG Corps.  A friend of mine from basic training, who was discharged due to shin splints but who managed to get back in, to my surprise, completed a career as an Army officer, something I would never have guessed was a goal of his.  One of my better friends in the law started off as a U.S. Army Ranger (indeed two of my friends in the law were Rangers, and the individual mentioned above was in the Special Forces in a reserve unit for a time), then went to school to be a game warden and then switched to geology, a career path that isn't unfamiliar to me.  Most of us in law school, of course, did end up lawyers.  Its sort of the end of the road in terms of career change.

Indeed, one of the huge lies about law school is that "you can do anything with a law degree".  That fable is absolutely true as long as what you want to do with your law degree is practice law, which of course is actually the one and only point in getting a law degree so generally it works out well in terms of finding work with the degree.

Or it did.  I read that is no longer true and there are a lot of unemployed or underemployed lawyers.

Anyhow, I think it's interesting that when I talk to people their career paths often aren't what we think they are. We'll often read a trade journal and it'll say something like "Geologist Bob decided to enter the field when, at age 12, he found a triceratops roosting on his parents barn door. . . ." or "When I think back on my career in the law that has lead me to be appointed a United States Supreme Court Justice, I think back warmly on that time my little sister stole my Wheaties and I looked up on how to obtain a Writ of Replevin to get them back. . .I was six".  Hmm, probably not.  Indeed, many of those folks who obtain real pinnacles in their careers started off somewhere else.  The two now passed gentlemen who started the firm where I work now both started off with other career goals, but how many know that?  Not many, probably.

I'm' not sure what the point of this really is.  Many later career goals do work out.  Three of my close friends from my geology days have made careers in that field, or very closely related ones, for decades. Maybe more of the students I knew then are employed in the field other than the one I mentioned above.  Most of the engineering students I knew did become employed engineers.  More than a few of the people I knew who took up pursuing a teaching degree found work in that, and indeed, at least one of them is retired from it.

So what about you?  Did you have career goals, and did you end up where you planned to be?

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