Last Friday, I had a chance encounter with a young woman who had an appointment with one of my Employment Counsellor peers. She had just finished a 3 week Life Skills class, and so it is our practice to schedule a 1:1 meeting afterwards and talk about the next steps.
Our meeting happened just because as she arrive and signed in at the reception counter I myself was walking through going from one room to another. I could have said hello and kept walking and that would have been perfectly acceptable, but I wasn’t busy at the moment, and I thought I’d chat for a moment if she was open to it.
Turns out she was quite receptive to a talk as well, and having been in a class of my own in the past, and having talked briefly in passing over those same last three weeks, we quickly got on. When I asked her where she was going at this point as a next step, she told me she didn’t really know.
At 22 years old, her career path wasn’t clear, and she was feeling pressure. What kind of pressure and from whom? Two sources actually; herself first and foremost and from her family. Yes at 22, she felt that by now she should know exactly what she wanted to do for the next 40 years of her life and people where wondering what was wrong with her.
Doesn’t this sound like a common problem for many people? You know, if we really break 22 years down, it’s not like she’s had 22 years to choose a career and been wasting her time. At infancy, no baby I’ve ever read about looked out through their eyes and mused, “I’m on my way to becoming an Arborist.” Infants take milk in and empty themselves, sleep, cuddle and cry. Well done. At this point, all the babies of the world have figure out just about the same things in life.
Then there are pre-school years where the biggest life objectives are to play and have fun. Oh sure there are little lessons to be learned like how to tie your shoes, what you can play with and what you can’t, where you can toddle off to and where you shouldn’t go. Then comes kindergarten and public school and children are exposes to some adults with careers and jobs. The simple first books children read have adults with jobs but again no 7-year-old is seriously asked to choose their career path yet.
It’s only with the arrival of high school then that most of the teens who are morphing out of childhood are asked to think seriously about jobs and careers to pursue. Teens though are more concerned with things like acne, puberty, their first kiss, will they ever be kissed?, making friends, fitting in, school marks, wearing the right clothes, not saying anything that will ruin their desired image, saying the right things that will please everyone and maybe score them a boyfriend or girlfriend. That job and career stuff can wait.
So, although the school Guidance Counsellor is impressing upon young people to take the right classes so they are ready for college or university – the choice of which could well determine if they get a certain career or not – many young people haven’t really got a clue. So there she could be at 18, being hurled out into the big bad world and only really thinking about a career or job seriously for the first time. That was 4 years ago.
Now while she didn’t go to college or university, many who do head off to those schools of higher education often choose to change their majors, opt for different careers they get exposed to. In short, changing your mind about what you want to do is normal. When I was young I remember being told that the average person changes their career about 3 or 4 times, and has about 9 different jobs over their lifetime. So where’s the pressure coming from to get it right on the first try?
I blame Aunt Ethel and Aunt Lois really. Oh you might have Aunts and Uncles with different names, but they are to blame just the same. Why? Well it’s them that started asking every time you saw them that standard question you never had an answer to, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Here’s one thing to think about; some advice really. Stop over-thinking. If you have a clear idea what it is you want to do, that’s wonderful. All the best and if you later change your mind, that’s okay, you’re not a failure. If on the other hand, you don’t know what you’d like to do, just do something. Sell shoes or clothes, bag groceries in a store, flip burgers for a while, work on a factory assembly line, when your Employment Counsellor is talking with you, imagine yourself in their job.
To prevent stalling and growing anxiety, just work or volunteer. Do many things and find out what you like and don’t. Those jobs will give you experience, references and build your fragile self-esteem. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have it all figured out at 22. At an unemployed 22, you may not be the envy of every other working adult, but many of those adults do envy one thing you do have at 22; the gift of time to figure it out.
There isn’t only 1 perfect job for you. There are dozen’s of jobs you’ll enjoy so try them out!