I Wish I’d Had More Help Choosing My Career

You’re 18 years old and people keep asking you, what do you want to be?  What do you want to do for the rest of your life?  In fact, you have to start thinking about this when you are even younger–before you start high school–if you want to go to university you need to go the academic route, if you plan to go to college applied route.  These questions start as young as 13 and don’t stop until your path is signed, sealed and delivered.

Thinking back to my own experience, I did go to university after passing all my A-levels because I had big career aspirations….not!  I went to university because all my friends were applying.  My sister was already there and it felt like the next logical step.  I was a sheep, a sheep with really supportive parents.

I had big career aspirations….not!

When I look back now I see so many different paths I could have taken based on my personality and interests.  I thought I knew who I was at 20 but add another 20 years to that number and I feel like I’m only just figuring that out.

At the risk of getting too deep–kids, marriage, death, career, friends–throw curve balls, derail you, punch you in the gut, take you lower than you’ve ever been, and bring you to a level of joy and happiness that you could never imagine possible.  You can’t ignore the impact all of this will have on you and how it will shape you.

You are who you are, but how you view the world and move through it each day will change.  You’ll see for yourself!

So back to my university days. The extent of my soul searching was that I knew I liked people.  I’m a people person and the feedback from friends and family always confirmed this to me.  “You’re a good listener, you give solid advice, you’re very empathetic” that sort of thing.  Bingo, I’m going to become a Lawyer.  I did one year of a law degree and changed degrees faster than you can say ‘Mens Rea’.  It was not for me.  Back to the drawing board.  BA in Social Sciences, that sounds good and what can I do with it?  I can get a nice office job in a ‘business’ environment. Whatever that means….

Naive, stupid or just being an average 20 year old?

I’m not blaming anyone.  I could have done more research, I could have asked around, but I didn’t.  I’m certainly not looking to my parents either to say “why didn’t you tell me what to do or push me harder” because they were doing their best based on what they knew at the time.  I got unconditional love and support, but no solid career advice.

I have to be honest too, I was not ‘career minded’ I wanted to earn money and live life but I wasn’t ambitious in the slightest in my 20’s.  I was thinking about the next party and the Canadian boy I had just met.  What to do with the rest of my life and to start making those plans was way down my priority list.  Was I naive, stupid or just being an average 20 year old, you tell me?

At the risk of sounding like a fossil, today is a little different.  I don’t think we as human beings have changed much (in terms of who we are at our core) but information and access to resources has changed considerably.  I would have had to make an appointment with a career adviser at school.

I have no idea where the career adviser’s office was at my school nor am I convinced we even had one!

I would have had to go to the library and actually put some time into researching career options.  Urgh! Just the very thought of it, when I could be hanging out with my friends–I can very quickly transport myself to my mental state at that time in my life–and I am embarrassed to admit, none of this was even on the radar (and I can’t recall the messaging coming at me from other people either; professors etc.).

As long as I was making class, handing work in on time, paying rent and budgeting well enough to be able to feed myself (and go out) I was winning at this university thing!

I wish I’d had help

FoodGrads is a selfish endeavour, its all about me!  I hope you get value from it and feel supported as you start your career.  But the truth is, it’s my ‘Do-Over’.  Everyday in speaking with students and grads I am reliving this point of my life–with a few obvious exceptions–I am 20 years old again and wondering what the heck I want to do.  I have my degree, I made it through that chapter of my life.  But now what?  What are my options?

I don’t just want to see job titles, because I don’t understand them.  Even if I google them, I’m not satisfied I know enough.  What I can’t figure out–what google can’t tell me–is it exciting?  Will I have some fun?  Will I want to do this for the next 5, 10 years or longer, if not, what are my options?  Will this all have been a waste and I’ll have to start over?  What are the people like in this industry?  Will I fit in?  Will I be happy doing this?

Will I be proud to tell my friends/family what I do for a living?

If you are in your 20’s in 2017, there’s enough uncertainty floating around.  Thinking too far ahead creates anxiety, living in the moment is a much smarter decision and I would recommend it.  I wish I had a community I could turn to for support and guidance, where I could connect with people my age.  Hear their stories and not feel so alone in the process.

I wish I could connect with people who have been in the industry for a couple of years.  Did it live up to their expectations?  If not, why?  What would they have done differently?  I wish I could speak to people who are about to retire having spent 30+ years in the industry.  Lets have it!  The good, the bad and the ugly–because lets face it– in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert;

There’s always a shit sandwich, you just have to decide on the flavour you want to eat.

It doesn’t matter what career you choose it will not be 100% perfect, 100% of the time.  But to be able to move forward with eyes wide open and an optimistic attitude, that’s the key and that’s the reason I started FoodGrads.

You don’t have to be in your 20’s to feel lost

Imagine being part of a community where people admitted they didn’t (and even many years into their career) still don’t have it all figured out, and there’s no shame in that.  If you do have it all figured out–those gut punching moments in life that I mentioned earlier–come in all shapes and sizes–layoffs, business closures, acquisitions, redundancies, relocation’s etc etc. things out of your control that you never saw coming.

You can’t plan for everything.  I wish I was part of a community that had my back and could give advice so that all my hard work, accomplishments, skill development and experience could be transferred to something else within the industry I have spent so much of my life.  Now that would be a great resource.

Choosing your path

For the past decade the buzz phrase from an employee perspective has been ‘Work/Life Balance’.  Due to technological advances people were suddenly able to work 24/7.  Work from home, the cottage and from the beach while on vacation!  I’m sure many employees liked the freedom, if they liked their job.  On the flip side, I suspect large numbers of employees hit a wall.  Soul searching and asking themselves why they were doing what they were doing, and doing it all the waking hours of their life.

I remember a line in Sex in the City when Carrie was about to leave for Paris.  She gave up her newspaper column and her dear friend Miranda said, “You can’t give it up, its who you are”, to which Carrie replied “Its not who I am, its what I do!”.  Athough I would never normally question Ms. Bradshaw, I think times have changed.  In 2017 what we do is who we are, so it’s more important than ever to make sure you have given this some serious consideration, I’m talking ‘Big Picture’ stuff.

Who are you and what do you care about?

How can you represent that through your work?  It doesn’t have to be set in stone, what I mean is, the way you represent yourself through your work can change–as interests do–but to be happy and fulfilled in your job, you must have a clear idea as to why you are doing it everyday.

Personally, for this reason I think the Food & Beverage Industry is a pretty awesome place to start.  I would like to give you the help and support I wish I had, empowering you to make the best decisions for you in this moment.  Given this option, I think I would have had a little more purpose, control and peace of mind, as opposed to blindly letting the universe decide.

If you are reading this reflecting on your 20’s, do you agree?  If you are in your 20’s what are your thoughts?  If your experience was different leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.