How did YOU choose your career?

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How did YOU choose your career?

Post by cockersx3 » Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:15 pm

Hi Bogleheads!

I'd like to ask for this group's assistance to help me help my oldest daughter with some post-high-school planning. Many of her (early high-school) peers claim to have a plan for where there careers will go, and she is beginning to feel pressure that she should also have a life plan that will be ready to execute as soon as high school ends. I have consistently reassured her that it's not a race, and that she still has plenty of time to decide these kinds of questions before she graduates in a few years. Of course, I've reminded her that the best thing she can do for herself right now is to "keep her options open" by maintaining her good grades, keeping a challenging course schedule, and so on. But despite my reassurances, the pressure is still there....

My concern is that her school doesn't appear to put any framework around the thought process for how kids should be making these choices. While there is significant pressure to get kids on a college track, I don't see much in the way of career planning, such as bringing parents in to talk about their jobs and career paths. It just seems like the school's goal is to get them into college, without much regard for what they should study when they get there. Perhaps not coincidentally, I'm aware of many local, recent high school graduates that are enrolled in colleges without a clear / realistic (to me, anyway) path to an eventual job - so I'd like to do what I can to help her avoid that same fate.

So, I'd like to ask this group - what is your current job (or former job, if retired), and how did you decide to enter that profession? Very curious if others' paths to their careers was as haphazard as I feel like mine was - am really wondering if there even is a "right" process to follow to decide on a career. I plan to share the responses with my daughter, just to provide her with examples of how others navigated the transition to work.

I'll go first:
  • I'm a chemical process engineer. I was good in math and science in high school, and really liked chemistry - but did not want to be a scientist. So, I decided to borrow an insanely high amount of money (long since paid off) to become a chemical engineer. (Not really exaggerating here - my thought process on this was very short and simplistic.) One strange thing is that I now work in a branch of chemical engineering that did not even exist when I was in high school...
  • My wife is a special education teacher. She had once worked in a local summer camp for mentally handicapped students, and liked it enough to go to college for it. Same thing - didn't really put much thought into it....
Thanks in advance - looking forward to everyone's responses!

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by RadAudit » Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:29 pm

At least you had a thought process. But, since you asked ...

Flunked out of the first school I went to. For the next school, Dad chose a subset of Industrial Engineering for me until I made up mind on what I wanted to study in college. Graduated before I decided. For grad school, I flipped a coin. After that, I got a job in a company because there was a big military build-up starting. Six months later, the company fired everyone but six people in a 150+ man department. I was one of the six. After that, I bounced around the company for the next 38 years trying to stay employed. Then I retired.
FI is the best revenge. LBYM. Invest the rest. Stay the course. - PS: The cavalry isn't coming, kids. You are on your own.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by GerryL » Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:40 pm

I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was approaching 40. I was encouraged/forced to start college out of HS by my parents but eventually dropped out and began travelling the world -- well, France, for starters. Held assorted jobs in sales and offices, was an au pair in Paris. Eventually joined the USAF where I was in two very different jobs: computer operator and Russian linguist. Once I left the USAF I continued to explore. In no particular order, lived in Japan teaching English, worked at an East Coast publishing house, and somewhere in there finished college on the GI Bill and got a masters in Library Studies at the U of Hawaii.

It was all the different experiences and meeting people (including librarians who encouraged me to go to library school) that made me understand that I am, at heart, a librarian. Didn't actually get a real library job until 17 years after earning the degree, but it helped me in various jobs before then.

I'm a big believer in taking time off between HS and college, or after one year of college just to get a feel for what it is like. Back at college in my 30s I saw so many students who treated higher ed like an extension of high school. A "gap decade" may not be as feasible nowadays with so much competition for career jobs, but I could not imagine having done it any other way.

After 21 years as a corporate librarian, I am happily retired.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by galving » Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:53 pm

I had a similar interest in Math & Science in High School. Chemistry was particularly interesting.
Chemical Engineering was on the radar screen early and I targeted universities with strong programs that were large enough to allow exposure to other fields of study.

Quickly found that 'Problem Solving' is hard wired in my DNA and helping 'teach' people to solve problems was even more rewarding.
A Career Plan is a place to start, recommend to keep it flexible enough to continue to grow.

Bottom line is to Always Be Learning. . . take a new opportunity when your learning curve flattens out.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by depressed » Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:57 pm

I was a skydiving instructor. I just kind of fell into it.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by BolderBoy » Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:59 pm

Was aimless after high school. Flunked out of college while the Vnam War was raging. Facing a certain draft (remember, Dr Spock always said to avoid a draft!) I joined the USAF which discovered my color blindness and restricted me to choosing between being a cook, an AP or a medic.

I chose the latter and it ultimately set me on a 40 year career in healthcare. Now retired and no regrets.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by stoptothink » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:01 pm

To make a long story short, I was a 31yr old with a newly minted PhD when I was recruited by one of the largest companies in my niche health products industry. I ultimately turned down that first offer and accepted one from the largest company in the industry a few months later. I literally didn't know the industry existed until I was nearly 30, and had no idea what I do now (chief health and exercise scientist) was even a career possibility. I had spent the previous decade as a strength coach for collegiate/professional/olympic athletes (first at two universities, then at private athletic training facilities), then entered public health in my late 20's because there was no stability working in the sports world. 4yrs in this industry and I make nearly twice what I ever could have in public health, and really enjoy what I do. I got lucky, really lucky, but I had worked very hard to become an expert in my field (exercise physiology and nutrition), was a top performer everywhere I went, and made a conscious effort to network at every stop.

I know very few people, even the uber successful ones, who had a clue what they wanted to do before entering college. I wouldn't be putting pressure on your daughter to have a plan right now, just make sure she figures out what she is good at and works hard at everything she does. Those who keep grinding tend to figure it out...eventually.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by quantAndHold » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:10 pm

I was an applied art major in college. I never considered anything else. I had no doubt I was going to be one of those poorbuthappy, thrift store shopping people who spent way too much money getting a MFA.

Even artists have to take electives, though.

I took a computer science 101 class as an elective, at a point when I was having self doubts about my ability to make it as an artist.

I liked it. A lot.

I changed majors and got a BS in computer science. Spent 30 years writing software. Made a lot of money.

Reached financial independence.

Then quit to do art.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Boulder92 » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:18 pm

I am a Physician Assistant and I always knew that I wanted to work directly with people. I had an interest in health and science and narrowed it down to PT or PA. I also carefully thought about what is a good paying job I could get with my intelligence where there will always be jobs. At the last moment I attended PA school and forever grateful as the PT field would have been a little boring for me in many of the settings. I now work as a PA part time for fun so I think it was a good choice for me.

I did not come to this thought process though until I was about 28 years old. Before then I took various jobs in health centers, working with sport teams, and other random people related jobs. I saw a pattern through these experiences as to what I liked to do (speaking with people, directly helping them that day) vs what I did not like (meetings, long term planning, administration, general beauracracy waste).

I wish I had even more life experience when I was younger and I would encourage your daughter to stretch herself to meet as many adults as possible and talk about their jobs. It can be intimidating at first but after a couple good questions people just keep talking about themselves. I would also encourage her to make her summers as interesting and fruitful as you all can afford as she gets older. Any job will help someone learn about themselves but consider extending herself as much as possible. If not needing to work for money consider NOLS or outward bound trips if into the outdoors, travel, internships, etc. It may feel like a lot at a young age but life only gets busier. Many internships or interesting job experiences will not be posted anywhere for a young person so she should focus on putting herself out there, in person. I believe with varied experiences she will realize a pattern of what she likes and does not like to do.

Agree with the idea of gap year especially nowadays with the cost of college — take an interesting job, learn a language, etc.
Finally I would add that I think the current working generation may have many different jobs the next one may have many different careers as automation, artificial intelligence and possibly climate change affect our future. She may just want to focus on doing the best she can in school, take advantage of different experiences as mentioned above, but accept that the world is changing rapidly and the chance of her picking a specific life-long career now could be low.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by rob » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:28 pm

I'm not going to be any help as knew I wanted to be a computer programmer from the day I played with punch cards at school (the school had someone who had a contact at the local university and they ran the cards).... My kid has wandered from one thing to the next as he has no idea.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by radiowave » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:43 pm

I've had nearly a 4 decade career as a registered nurse. In high school I joined the local volunteer rescue squad/fire department and my chief who was a nurse convince me to go to nursing school. Probably the best advice I've ever received.

Note, it took me 6 years to complete my BSN and get licensed. Stretching it out two more years helped me mature a bit. I spent the first part of my career as a critical care nurse. Second half in academia, teaching and doing research. Nursing, like most healthcare careers, is hard both physically and emotionally, but the rewards are helping people and having the flexibility to do many different things and career pathways.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by 2015 » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:56 pm

Today it's hard to believe I was ever an entertainer, but it happened for the first ten years out of undergrad. The last couple of decades before retirement I hung out with the rest of the pigs at the trough in so-called organizational leadership.

Were I starting out today, I would study in order to work with individuals on the autism spectrum.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by celia » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:08 pm

I would suggest you have your daughter ask her HS counselor for an aptitude test to take home to see where her natural talents lie. There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, but the results can point her to things that would appeal to her, even if she isn't aware of them already. For example, one of my kids had a result showing he would be good at something that sounded like "traffic routing" (think stop lights, on ramps, speeds). At the time, "routing on the internet" was not even known but he ended up working in a similar field.

The important thing to realize as a parent, is that over half of the entering college students have a major of "undecided" or change their major within the first year. Part of their first year schedule should be for taking classes in various departments to see what appeals to them. (Remember when you could choose from a huge array of subjects instead of being forced to take the same classes (in HS) that almost everyone else was taking? That's what I most liked at that time. :D )

Also know that very few people do the same type of job for their whole career. Some people have 3 or 4 careers, in different fields, during their career. For example, I was a high school teacher, aerospace engineer, database administrator, and now volunteer for whatever I like in retirement. (All of my careers were related to my college Math major, which was a natural fit for me.)

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by MathWizard » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:15 pm

I wanted to be "Scotty" and engineer who could fix anything.

However, the road to my career was winding. At each stage, you make the best choice you can, with what is available, knowing you have to support your family, and you end up where you end up.

I was good in math and science and solving logic puzzles, so at age 8 I was going to be an engineer.

I like Physics in HS, so I chose Eng Physics. This also upped my chance for scholarships, which I needed.

Quantum mechanics wrecked my nice orderly billiard ball universe. The Copenhagen interpretation
sounded like vodoo science to me. I eventually reconciled myself to it, but figured I needed more math,
so I got a PhD in Applied Math.

Along the way I found I was very good at programming and algorithms. I took some jobs in programming
while in grad school, which led to a programming and consulting position.
This was good, because there was a glut of math PhDs when I got mine.

I now run a team of people like my former self in a computing center.

A winding road for someone who stuck with the same employer for 30 years, but did many different jobs,
changing what I did as needs required.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by LaurieAnnaT » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:19 pm

I didn't get into a job I loved until I was 37 years old. Until then I was a tax accountant, first at a Big Eight accounting firm, then for one season at a small CPA firm, then eleven years in the tax department of a large corporation. I even got my master's degree in business taxation. I didn't really enjoy taxes, but I got my master's degree because my boss was brilliant and I thought maybe I'd like taxes better if I knew more tax stuff. Didn't work. What saved me? Computers. I was there at the beginning of PCs within the company and I loved them. When my boss left, they asked if I wanted to head up the tax department. I said no, I wanted to move to IT. Fortunately, both tax and IT reported to the same VP and our company had a policy of supporting interdepartmental transfers. I loved PCs and I enjoyed the people I worked with. Before I left, 9 years later, I was the primary person installing workgroup and corporate applications on the company's network. That was fun.

I think the biggest problem with trying to choose a major when you're starting college is that you really don't know what jobs exist in the real world. I remember when I started working for a large corporation. I was amazed at all the specialized jobs within the company. How many high school students know what a buyer is? Or all the different positions within an accounting department at a large corporation? Then there's marketing. I'm sure I had never thought about marketing when I was in high school. I wish I had had a book which just talked about what different jobs were available with different areas of interest. In other words, if you love biology, what can you do with it? Do you like cellular biology, or large mammal biology? Do you want to be in a lab? What kind of lab jobs are there? If you love plants, what can you do with that? Do you want to develop new strains of apples?

I think if a person knows what jobs are available based on their different areas of interest, they can make a better choice of college classes.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by happy_statistician » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:20 pm

I'm a data scientist, something that didn't even exist when I was high school. So I don't know that it's a problem that your daughter doesn't know what she wants to do!

- In HS, I was generally "good at school", with no particular focus
- Started college as pre-med, because that's what my parents were pushing
- Realized I didn't want to be a doctor (after working at a hospital for a summer)
- Became a chemistry major
- Realized I didn't want to be a chemist (after working in a lab for a summer)
- Added a math major since it was the only other major I could finish and graduate on time
- Financial crisis hit junior year and realized I should probably go to grad school
- Took my first statistics class spring of junior year
- Realized that i shouldn't go to grad school for pure math (after spending a summer doing math research)
- Started a PhD in statistics
- Realized I didn't want to be a professor (a major focus of PhD programs. This took years, not a single summer).
- Finished PhD, got a job I liked at a small company
- Got a job I love at a megacorp

Overall the advice I would give is
- Keep your options open and always think about your backup plan. This was critical for me as I changed course many times, yet finished undergrad on time (and my PhD relatively promptly).
- Spend your summers wisely. Every summer for three years I ruled out another career. On the one hand it made me feel aimless and a little confused, but on the other hand it helped me hone in on a field I really love.
- Develop skills that would be useful in multiple careers. Writing clearly and convincingly is one of them. Programming is another.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by jmg229 » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:30 pm

Like most the others, I've had a winding path (and I'm only ~10 years post-undergrad), and I think it's crazy to think that most will have a solid career path planned out in HS; HS kids don't even have a vague sense of what 90% of the potential jobs out there are (my favorite example: how many people do you think knew they wanted to become bartenders, brewers, sommeliers, etc. before the age of 20 when they can't even legally experience those worlds).

But some advice for helping your daughter wrap her head around this. When I worked with HS-aged kids, I would advise them to think about either the types of work they'd like to do and/or the type of impact they'd like to have, rather than a specific job, and then to keep lots of doors open while moving towards things that do that. Knowing what sort of impact she wants to leave on the world is a much more meaningful question and will likely guide her through college (in coursework, extracurriculars, networking, etc.) and allow her to be exposed to something that eventually really clicks. My example: a commitment to environmental sustainability which shifted over the years to a commitment to equity issues with a preference for things that utilize my math/science/data brain. This has led to an exciting and fulfilling career path I would have never imagined 15 years ago.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by xenochrony » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:40 pm

I have a late HS daughter.

Perhaps painfully obvious, but I think the path forward is to dig deep introspectively and to discover what are our passions and talents are. Once we discover this, we are 90% of the way there. We just have to be really honest with ourselves.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by sawhorse » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:45 pm

xenochrony wrote:
Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:40 pm
I have a late HS daughter.

Perhaps painfully obvious, but I think the path forward is to dig deep introspectively and to discover what are our passions and talents are. Once we discover this, we are 90% of the way there. We just have to be really honest with ourselves.
The thing is, a lot of careers are very different in reality to what those on the outside think.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Dottie57 » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:53 pm

Political Science degree in 1979. Big mstake. I didn’t have an affinity for anything except reading. Can’t make money doing that. Workedfor a temp agency. Became an admin for a buying office. I hated it.

Decided to go to a local programming school. Did well. Got my first job. I could now make decent money. Liked programming a business solution. It was good up until serious out-sourcing.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by xenochrony » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:53 pm

sawhorse wrote:
Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:45 pm
xenochrony wrote:
Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:40 pm
I have a late HS daughter.

Perhaps painfully obvious, but I think the path forward is to dig deep introspectively and to discover what are our passions and talents are. Once we discover this, we are 90% of the way there. We just have to be really honest with ourselves.
The thing is, a lot of careers are very different in reality to what those on the outside think.
Agreed. But that still doesnt negate the merit of discovering ones passions and talents. From there, subsequent pragmatic investigations into specific careers, including informational interviews, education requirements, salary data, internships, etc.. should bridge the remaining gap. Its a protracted process, hell, I'm 50 and still "evolving" into my career shoes.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Wilderness Librarian » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:54 pm

Another retired librarian here. Although my bio & reasons are rather boring compared to GerryL's.

I grew up in a college town within walking distance of the campus. Went clear across the country and over the border to a Canadian college for undergrad (didn't want to go to college in the town I grew up in and wanted to do something exotic) Went home for summers and worked the usual student shelvers jobs in home town university library. Ending up really disliking my undergraduate major but liking the summer work. Didn't want to start over with a different undergrad degree so went direct to library master's program in southeast. Lucked out and landed good professional position in a sizeable midwestern university library only 2 or 3 months after graduation. Worked in academic libraries steady for the next 40 years retiring in 2016.

Career was good but with rough spots. I had a lot of bad luck with coworkers department heads and library administrators. In summary really liked working with library collections and the people (especially students) who came in to use the library but disliked working with other librarians and never had a knack for academic politics. In retrospect liked the career and glad it worked out in the end but wished my path had been more circuitous. Gap year is a good idea - and it is a really good idea if one has trouble deciding on academic major or appears to be at the wrong campus for whatever reason. Also like the idea of taking aptitude & career interest tests while either in HS or college. Although I will warn you : one such test places librarians in the category with artists and other creative types. That is dead wrong: the library field is more akin to office management much of it is routine and I have never met any library administrator I would consider creative.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Mimmz » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:14 am

I’m actually somewhat surprised by the responses here, which in my opinion, seem somewhat un-Bogleheaded in their lack of decisive direction. Bogleheads typically take a path that minimizes risk for an expected return, and while the market may lead you and your career in a variety of directions, a regimented approach seems much more Boglehead to me. I’m too young, both relative to some of the other posters and in absolute terms, to (1) not caveat that nobody knows nothing in terms of how and where your career will lead you and (2) not require a post-mortem of this post sometime 10-30 years from now, but in terms of what I feel I did that was actionable and can be replicated:

(1) Start working jobs/internships early and often. Experience is everything, in anything you do, and nothing will beat getting out there and trying it. Jobs are different than careers, and even jobs seemingly unrelated to your ultimate career can teach you a lot about what you’re good at, and what you like. My jobs in high school and college taught me more than my internships in my field did about how to pursue my career, but my internships opened more doors for my career than my jobs. Changing jobs is easy; changing careers is often much more difficult.

(2) Be honest in assessing what you’re good at, and what you like. Admit that if they aren’t one and the same, you’re setting yourself up for a harder path. Be realistic in what economic returns are available for those pursuits, and be comfortable with the economic reality you set yourself up for. Don’t become a [history] major, and then wonder why your “idiot” classmate who became an investment banker is in a better financial position five years post-graduation. Do become a history major if its your passion, remembering dates and names is easy, living below your means comes naturally, and the idea of passing on that passion to others in the future makes you giddy.

(3) Be deliberate in what you choose to pursue, and know why you make that choice, even if it doesn’t seem direct. I took a number of courses in college that had nothing to do with my major, but instead of being wasted, they helped make me a more well rounded person, and helped me challenge assumed perceptions I had developed from the bulk of my coursework. That improved social awareness has helped my career more than most of the courses I took for my majors.

(4) Luck, while nearly universally plays a crucial role in most successful careers, often finds those who put themselves in a position to get lucky. Be ready for when opportunity presents itself, and be prepared to take appropriate risk to capitalize when you can.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by gamboolman » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:28 am

Grew up in oil patch town in East Texas
Went to work in the oilfield 41 year ago because it was good money for a non 4 year degree man. I was 18 year old.
Planning to retire in 2019
It’s been a good living for Ms gamboolgal and I
It seems like a short while ago I bought my first pair of steel toed Redwings
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by ge1 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:58 am

Fairly straightforward for me. (Also just as background that I went to school in Europe where you specialize earlier.)

- Elected the business / law path in High School, which was the only one with a clear path to a career (at least in my mind). Other options were math (I was good in math, but couldn't imagine what jobs you would do with that), languages (2 foreign languages were enough, thank you), Latin (no comment) or art (no talent).
- After some back and forth decided to do a business and not a law degree for college
- Did an internship in a finance department of a Mega Corp
- Landed a finance job straight after school with another Mega Corp
- After 10 years in various Finance role, I decided to do my CPA and specialize in Accounting (have taken a lot of Accounting classes in college but did not do my CPA back then)
- Now the Corporate Controller for a public company
- Ultimate goal is to become the CFO of a private or public company

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by GerryL » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:10 am

Wilderness Librarian wrote:
Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:54 pm
Also like the idea of taking aptitude & career interest tests while either in HS or college. Although I will warn you : one such test places librarians in the category with artists and other creative types. That is dead wrong: the library field is more akin to office management much of it is routine and I have never met any library administrator I would consider creative.
There are many roles librarians fill that are strictly administrative, but there are others that can be very creative. Even before I finally got the "librarian" title, I was able to use my info science education to design databases to help people organize and find information. The aspects of my job as a corporate librarian I liked the best were designing systems and solving problems. Don't forget, the worldwide web was created by librarians.

With experience, the OPs daughter can look for work that lets her use her special talents and interests in different settings.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by catdude » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:16 am

I was 30 years old and in a job I hated... I went thru a significant depression and realized I had to find a way out of my dead-end job. I remembered that years before, in college, I had taken -- and kinda enjoyed -- an introductory accounting class. So I decided to take a few more accounting classes. They went well... I discovered that I had an aptitude for it. After a couple years schooling, I sat for and passed the CPA exam. One of the most satisfying aspects of achieving that was seeing the looks on my old co-workers' faces. I could tell, just by the looks on their faces, that they had no idea I was capable of passing the CPA exam.

Anyway, I eventually got into governmental accounting, and (later) into debt management. The salaries weren't great but the benefits were nice. Those benefits allowed me to retire at age 55, eight years ago.

Looking back on my 30-year-old self, what made me miserable then was my perception that I was stuck, with no way out. Once I realized I had a way out, my misery vanished. I'm a firm believer in the importance of having options in life...
catdude | | "As much as cats fight, there always seems to be plenty of kittens." (Abraham Lincoln)

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Watty » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:21 am

The year I graduated high school my dad had an unexpected opportunity that came up at the last minute to go on a six week business trip to Europe with was unusual for his job. I was the youngest child and the only kid at home so my mom could go with him for very little cost but they did not want to leave me at home alone.

I ended up starting college during summer school and living in a dorm at a big midwest university about two weeks after my high school graduation. I thought this was great since few teenage boys really want to spend that summer living at home anyway. There were a few other entering freshman in summer school but most of the students were a few years older so I made friends with them and my roommate was senior who just needed a few more credits to graduate.

One advantage of this was that the older students tended to set a reasonable balance between academics and their social life and I sort of picked up on that balance. In the fall when thousands of freshman showed up I was not overwhelmed with the freshman partying, although I did my share. Way too many freshmen partied too much which caused them to get into academic trouble.

When my son was looking at colleges one of the things that I helped him with was reviewing the retention and graduation rates of the colleges. These may be buried on the colleges website but they are there is you dig for them. The school he decided to go to did not have great retention statistics but I talked that over with him about needing to have a reasonable balance in his social life. I remember him commenting on how many students did not return after Christmas break in his freshman year and I think that was a good reality check for him.

I started in a degree program call something like Engineering -Undeclared where you did not need to decide which type of engineering for a year or so.

I decided that I did not like engineering so I switched to Geology with a Computer Science minor by the end of my freshman year.

I was mediocre in Geology and the price of oil crashed so the Geology job market tanked. Without an advanced degree I might have been able to get a job on an oil rig doing things like examining the muck that came up but even that was not certain.

I switched majors to Computer Science before my junior year. Did pretty good at that but overall I graduated with maybe an overall 2.5 GPA. I graduated in a recession and didn't have a clue about how to effectively look for a job so I did not have a job lined up when I graduated. I had a brother who was an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley so I went out and stayed with him and found a programing job out there.

I changed jobs several times working at different software companies but then one of them laid off about a third of their employees including me. I ended up getting a job with Apple before the Mactonish first came out so it was already pretty big by then. I was working in their IS department on things like inventory and sales systems which was a change from writing software which the company was selling.

That turned out to be a good thing since I could work for pretty much any company in their IS, not just a tech company.

I left Apple after about six years and after working at several companies and moving around the country I developed some skills with warehouse management systems and worked with those until I retired after working in IT for about 35 years. I was always working in a technical role but for a lot of time my knowledge of inventory systems was more valuable than my technical skills.

Most of the jobs I got were because I knew somebody(or knew somebody who knew somebody) and they were often a very indirect connection where they mainly just helped get resume out of the stack so that the hiring manager would actually look at it.

One thing I would suggest for a college student is to plan on getting a very strong minor degree or even a double major. That way you can switch majors to get a degree in what was going to by your minor if it turns out that is a better fit for you.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by gazelle1991 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:28 am

Looking back, I think my pattern has been keeping my options open and see what opportunity falls into my lap, so in a sense I put a lot of thoughts into this but at the same time it feels a bit aimless.

Both of my parents worked in the financial field so that was all I had exposure to at a young age. I was told you could major in a lot of different things to be in that field so when it comes time to apply for colleges, I applied to a gazillion different schools and picked the one with the lowest out of pocket costs. The summer before my freshman year, I looked up all the undergrad majors offered at my college, assess their job outlook, my personal strength, and get my parents’ thoughts on the few finalists I was able to narrow down. I couldn’t get concensus from my parents so I started taking general classes that apply to all of the majors I was considering. After a few classes I knew I like pure math and econs and were pretty good at them. I find laws facinating too but didn’t think I’d be good at the job. I ultimately majored in a lot of different things to keep my options open. Before I graduate, I applied to a lot of different internships and jobs in a multiple fields. The first one that fell into my lap was the one I sticked with, now 5-6 yrs post college. I like the job ok but still can’t stop thinking about retiring early and trying something else I may or may not like better. My backup plan if I had not found a job right out of college was to go to grad school for either econs or math or go back and live in my parents’ basement. Lots of options. I just needed to make sure I would have been happy even in the worst case scenario, which i would have :)

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Watty » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:33 am

Mimmz wrote:
Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:14 am
...which in my opinion, seem somewhat un-Bogleheaded in their lack of decisive direction. Bogleheads typically take a path that minimizes risk for an expected return, and while the market may lead you and your career in a variety of directions, a regimented approach seems much more Boglehead to me.
An alternate argument could be that diversification is the Boglehead way to approach your early career planning.

One huge problem with a high school student picking out what career that they want to be in is that they may not be very good at it and in some fields there is no way to know that until you try it.

Before I retired I was a software developer in one form or another and there were way too many people that got into programming because someone had told them it was a good career choice but they didn't really have a lot of natural skills for it. They could sometimes learn how program enough to get by but they usually did not really like their job and they were never the top performers.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Watty » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:37 am

One other thing I thought of.

We were able to pay for my son's college education so one of the things I told him when he was picking a major was that it had to be one that had a good placement rate where graduates are able to get jobs in that field, even if it was not a high paying job.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Cruise » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:54 am

When students or young adults tell me that they have no idea what career or field of study they want to pursue, I chuckle because indecision like this is foreign to me.

When I was growing up, my parents informed me that I had a choice of becoming a doctor, dentist or lawyer. Coming from parents who were either a high school dropout or a trade high school graduate, they wisely set a high bar for academic and professional achievement. It is truly incredible that, despite their own meager education, they planned this life for me.

Now I ended up getting my doctorate and other advanced training in another field, and I was further influenced by other relatives who served as role models.

While I had an extremely successful career, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had not had the parental programming that directed my aspirations. Very possibly, I would have had a very pedestrian job and would not be FI. Then again, maybe I would have created a FAANG company. One never knows.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by orhkaf » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:59 am

I ask myself this question everyday at work :,(

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by maroon » Wed Nov 28, 2018 2:28 am

This is such an interesting topic!

My bachelor's degree is in liberal arts and I graduated in the midst of a recession. I took the first job I was offered, which was in sales. I spent years in sales and product management but eventually burned out and decided to do something different. After earning a teaching certificate, I visited a local school to ask about teaching positions and was offered an administrative position instead. This led to the specialized career I have now. I'm not sure whether the type of job I have now even existed when I was in college.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Starfish » Wed Nov 28, 2018 2:57 am

It was pretty random for me.
I was good at math, physics, chemistry in HS (national olympiad level). Also not good at teaching, so it had to be some kind of engineering. Maybe.
Had no idea what to apply to after HS, but avoided computer science :oops: because my best friend chose that (at his parents pressure, ended up not doing that).
Tuition was not an issue in my country but money were, I thought I couldn't afford to go to a bigger university outside my home city, so I chose electronics engineering from the limited choices I had.
Transferred out in a bigger university when I realized that good scholarships were withing reach and decent money.
After graduation, went in the army (mandatory), got very bored, applied for PhD in US. Now I am a chip designer and manager. Not optimal but ok.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by timboktoo » Wed Nov 28, 2018 3:16 am

My Dad taught me what he knew about programming when I was 11. It was fun and interesting to me, so I pursued it naturally. I didn't choose my career intentionally, I just kept taking jobs doing programming work from the time I was 17 onwards and people kept paying me to do something which I found fun and easy.

I consider most of what happened to be a blessing which was not in my control. I'm incredibly fortunate to enjoy my field and receive good compensation for it and to have worked with so many good people.

- Tim

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by goaties » Wed Nov 28, 2018 3:57 am

I'll start with the executive summary: the way I chose a career was to hang out with people I liked and felt kinship with. Turns out, those were the people I wanted to work with. You'll spend more hours with your co-workers than anyone else during your working years. It's wonderful if you enjoy their company.

I started as an arts major in my hometown college. Was not challenged, to say the least. Transferred to a bigger school far away with, unbeknownst to me, a strong reputation for science and math. Met a band of fun (to me) engineers, physicists, and mathematicians in my dorm. Realized I'd been hanging with the wrong people all my young life. These guys were my peeps!

They teased me about how easy my arts curriculum was. I decided to prove that I wasn't an idiot by taking four advanced math classes in one semester. Yikes. Okay, so that was a bit out of my depth. Took computer science courses the following summer. Ahh! Home at last!

Worked many years as a software designer and loved it, loved my nerdy co-workers. Happy ending.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by onourway » Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:15 am

I’m in technical engineering although I’m not a trained engineer.

I went to a liberal arts college not having any specific idea of what I wanted to do, but I enjoyed learning for the sake of it and was a fairly dedicated student. I had been using computers since the early days, but never taken to programming. I ended up in a challenging computer science program that I promptly flunked out of, leaving me a few credits shy of graduation. I left and pursued other personal goals for a few years, which then led me directly to my current career through network effects. I have ended up traveling to client sites all over the world where my main skill is the ability to troubleshoot complex problems for them. While in the office my responsibilities have ranged from IT to technical writing to marketing to production. I eventually finished my degree with evening study.

So that said, I firmly believe that picking a specific career in high school is not the right course of action for most people. As noted several times already, teenagers don’t really have any idea of the range of careers available in the real world. Most of what they know is shaped by family, friends, and media, which tends to lead to a narrow view. I suspect her peer group is trying on various career paths because it gives them an identity, and if one were to follow them over the next 20 years, there would be little alignment between what they say now and where they actually end up.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 7:34 am

My career was somewhat chosen by chance.

In high school, I worked at the local ski/bike shop but was looking towards a 2 year, 4 month stint in the Navy to learn electronics because my high school had an electronics course that I both liked and easily pulled "A's". In April of 1975, the US pulled the last remaining soldiers off the embassy roof in Saigon and the Navy killed the 2 year option, making it now 4 years, 4 months (the 4 months was the electronics training). That sounded like forever to me so I decided to go to community college.

While in community college, I did some ski resort rental shop work and management and the owner encouraged me to make that a career. I left community college after my first year to concentrate on the work I loved doing. The manager of the shop left and I did some moonlighting at the shop he went to. The owner caught wind of this and fired me. That sent me back to community college, having missed just one semester.

As an associates grad in the late 70's, it was pretty easy to find a job and I jumped around for 3 years, started taking night classes with company tuition re-embersement and realized I could do more. I sold everything I owned and left my job to pursue my BSEE full time. After the first year full time, I realized that I could handle more coursework and transferred to a much better school. During my time there, I ran out of money (all self funding) and did an 8 month co-op. While on co-op, I observed that the group I worked for had a gaggle of digital engineers but only one analog engineers. This was a down time in the economy (early 80's) so layoffs were always on my mind. My school required a specialty, not just generic electrical engineering, so I changed my specialty from digital to analog on my return. I graduated with my "goal" on my resume to do analog design with some control theory and digital as sub specialties. This got the attention of every power supply design group who came to the school for interviews and I received several offers to work as a power supply design engineer. One company told me about a program to send engineers back to college full time for graduate degrees. I was sold on that, took the job and after 3 years working, got into the program and went away to spend 18 months attaining my MSEE with a specialty in power electronics at the top school in the world for this specialty.

So all of this was observation and chance (not in that order). My son actually tried to follow my footsteps, majoring in Computer Engineering, but really didn't get it. He changed majors to Civil engineering and is specializing now in structural engineering and finite element analysis. He completed a summer internship doing actual engineering work in this exact field which solidified his choice.

You say your daughter will graduate high school in a couple years. I'll submit that her friends will not end up with the careers they now think they'll do. That's way to early to choose. How are they going to make their decision? They have no experience. Have they looked up the demand and salary of the career they think they want? If she feels forced to choose, she'll likely make a poor choice.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by SQRT » Wed Nov 28, 2018 7:52 am

In high school I thought I wanted to be a physicist. Took the courses required but realized in my second year at university this wasn’t for me. The fact that I flunked out had something to do with this revelation. Got a job as a clerk in a wharehouse. Eventually went back to school part time at night. First course I took was Accounting 101. I figured I better get some practical knowledge that would help me be a better clerk back at the wharehouse.

I met some guys in this course that wore suits to class ( I had construction boots,jeans, and denim jacket). I asked them why and they responded that they were CPA students working for accounting firms during the day. I asked them how much CPA’s made (this was 1972) and they responded $11,000 per year. I couldnt believe they would be paid so much. When I got my first mid term test back and outscored my new friends by 20-30%, I figured I might want to become a CPA. By 1977 I qualified as a CPA. Turned out I really had an aptitude for Finance. It worked out very well.
Last edited by SQRT on Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by warner25 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:38 am

I'm a military officer. As a kid I was interested in military history and aviation, so that naturally drew me in. I was seeking adventure and the chance to do something impressive or be involved in something historic. The promises of a full college scholarship and a pension after 20 years were not insignificant factors, but I really didn't know how much the career would pay until late in college, so I got lucky to fall into something that actually pays pretty well. One nice thing about the military is that it's huge and spends heavily on training and education, so it's easy to make lateral moves into new fields without giving up stability, seniority, etc. I'm going through that now: I was a pilot, and now I'll leverage my computer science education by working in IT.

I started on this path at 16, so I was decisive, but that doesn't mean I never have doubts or never wish I'd gone a different way. It will be a while before I need to advise my own kids on college and career paths, and right now I don't know what to tell them.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by KarenC » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:05 am

Entering high school, I wanted to be an engineer like Scotty from Star Trek. In keeping with this, I took an Intro to Drafting course. Grownup me knows that replicating blueprints is not representative of engineering but I didn’t know better as a 14 year old. I found it so horribly tedious and boring that I decided against engineering.

About that time, my high school had some sort of “career fair” where adults in various occupations gave short presentations on what their jobs were like. One of these presenters was a “systems analyst,” and that job sounded appealing to me. I was fortunate to be at a high school with a donated DEC PDP-8e along with a couple of ASR 33 Teletypes (this was about 1977) so I was able to take computer programming courses in high school.

The path after that was a little bumpy but I eventually had a 25 year career as a software developer. I feel very fortunate that I stumbled into a occupation in which I was reasonably competent and where the compensation was well above average.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Sandtrap » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:09 am

Still don't know what I want to be when I "grow up". :shock:

I think I can finally decide on some things. Law school. MD., Architectural Engineering.
But, I'm running out of time. :oops:
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by lthenderson » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:14 am

Between my sophomore and junior years in high school, I won a two week stay at a local university during the summer to encourage people to become engineers. I fell in love and went on to become a mechanical engineer. I ended my career by being part owner of a large company.

My younger brother on the other hand was like the OP's daughter and didn't know what he wanted to do after high school. He started off in engineering since all the required courses were advanced. After his second year of college he decided he actually wanted to be a wildlife biologist. When he transferred to that major, he automatically met most of the prerequisite class requirements for a wildlife biologist so he didn't lose any time and still graduated in four years. He still works for the U.S. Forest Service as a wildlife biologist though more in a managerial role these days.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by GuySmiley » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:20 am

I did a little programming in middle school, and told myself I didn't want to be a programmer. Then nearing the end of university, I decided I wasn't really interested in a high-level of travel. Upon graduation, I promptly took a consulting job as a traveling programmer. Did it for 18 years, it ended up really suiting me. So I think it's fair to say that sometimes the job chooses you, vs. the other way around.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by core4portfolio » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:54 am

I studied electronics and communication engineering.
Become an electronic engineer then studied networking become network engineer
Then studied programming become programmer then become project manager then become programmer again.
Now studying Azure but not sure if i land in that area. Decided to stay programmer until retire or so.
Some how i like coding :)
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:57 am

I was nearing the end of a technical school program and MegaCorp came recruiting. Another student already worked for MegaCorp, and filled me in on the company. So, given the immediate large bump in earnings, and interesting work, I signed on.

While at MegaCorp I completed an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree pretty much on their dime. At the time most of the technical managers had no college degrees. They were either tech school folks, or came up through the ranks.

I bounced around for a while in various positions for about 20 years, sometimes managing, sometimes an individual contributor. I moved about every two years, as upper management liked to encourage movement, as they felt it strengthened the overall competency of the management team. I liked to move also, as after a couple of years one can have their team running smoothly, and the job can get boring. And bored managers can find themselves in pursuit of activities the upper management frowns upon.

Then I slid into the sales side, where the real money was made. Since I understood the technical part of the company/products, it was an easy transition. And the money poured in! I only wish I had went to sales earlier. But, my pension was calculated on the best continuous 60 months earnings, so it was all good.

Our account team had the single largest customer for MegaCorp. Great job. Great final boss. I left his department in 1999 after my accident, but I will see him and his wife next month at our Christmas party.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by Mr.BB » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:58 am

depressed wrote:
Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:57 pm
I was a skydiving instructor. I just kind of fell into it.
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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by happymob » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:12 am

Mine was accidental, or perhaps you could say out of necessity.

Coming out of high school, I wanted to be a theoretical particle physicist. Yep, you read that right. I wanted to be the next Richard Feynman or Robert Wilson or Leon Lederman. I was really excellent at math. Rather than going pure math, I wanted to go applied math in an area that would win me a Nobel prize. That was seriously the goal. I went to state school for undergrad (and not just free, but getting paid to go there as they cut me a check for scholarship money in excess of tuition + room +board). And I expected to get into a top grad school to complete my education.

And then the depression (or perhaps manic depression) which was there in high school but nobody ever diagnosed or treated hit me hard. I'm smart, getting paid to go to college, and I can't be bothered to show up to classes, so I flunked out my sophomore year of college.

I struggled for a couple years working minimum wage jobs while dealing (poorly) with the depression and eventually get an opportunity to get into the one STEM field that mostly didn't require any sort of college education - IT. IT is still, to a great extent, about what you know and can do, rather than your credentials. I eventually did get an undergraduate degree and a computer science masters from University of Illinois, which certainly helped my career in certain ways. But ultimately, I can't say I chose my career. I liked programming in high school. And I was good at it. But it isn't what I was going to do. I chose something else. And then life intervened and my career chose me.

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Re: How did YOU choose your career?

Post by KyleAAA » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:26 am

Haphazard. In the late 90s I figured this computer thing was pretty big and would likely get bigger, so I majored in CS. Turned out pretty well. I generally enjoyed computers and the internet but it wasn't initially some deep passion of mine, I was just trying to be pragmatic.

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