Young Adult Council members understand how challenging it can be to choose a career that is a good match for you. YAC member Christine provides a list of questions to ask yourself, and other YAC members weigh in on how those questions impacted them personally.
Remember that your career choice isn’t set in stone. You don’t have to retire from the first company that hires you. If you start a job and find out that it isn’t a great fit for you, it is okay to step back, assess what does and does not work, and make a change.
Here are some areas to consider.
- Is your job meaningful to you?
- Is it enjoyable? A job can include “important” work but not personally fulfilling.
- Do you want a job that gives you emotional fulfillment or just one that pays the bills?
YAC Member Lauren: Fulfillment has been incredibly important to me in finding a career, so I knew that I wanted to work in healthcare to heal and care for others. It took me time after college to figure out, but eventually I settled on pursuing my doctorate to become a clinical psychologist. Although I am still in training, the work has been so enriching, and I am always learning something new. It has been a privilege to be introduced to the intimate parts of people’s lives, as well as their struggles. Of course, this comes with its challenges, so self-care has been essential for me to continue to provide quality treatment. Knowing my limitations is also part of the job, so I try to be mindful of this and establish boundaries where I can. What keeps me motivated, and ultimately fulfilled, is how inspiring it is to see how therapy improves the quality of someone’s life and empowering others to realize their worth.
- Are you easygoing or more ambitious?
- Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
- Are you more hands-on or theoretical?
- Are you introverted or extroverted?
- Do you have a soft touch or a firm hand?
YAC Member Mason: I am definitely more ambitious than easygoing, but whether that’s me or the GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) is hard to tell. Unlike most people, I prefer to work alone, and then share, and then revise, rather than work collaboratively. When I work independently, I have to motivate myself to do it because there is nobody there to do it for me. I can be both hands-on and theoretical, depending on the task. As far as extraversion goes, my Meyers Briggs suggests that I am 51% introvert – so I guess that clears that up. I can definitely have both a soft touch and a firm hand depending on the scenario and how much confidence I have. I have been working on myself, trying to become a little more confident and independent. My primary occupation is as a sound designer for live theatre. I am often the head, if not the only member of my department, so learning to be more decisive and fostering personal growth are very important. Additionally, I try to keep a sense of humor because in these hard times, everybody needs a laugh.
- What are you good at?
- What skill sets, training, or hobbies do you have that may be useful in finding a job?
- What is your past job experience?
YAC Chair MJ: I started freelancing as a designer after college, and I learned early on that it relies on some traits that I don’t have. I’m a good multitasker and a clear communicator, but I’m also a fairly introverted person, and setting firm boundaries with my clients proved to be difficult for me – nt to mention maintaining the stamina it takes to be constantly searching for new leads and partnerships. I burnt myself out pretty quickly, but then I found a job that plays to my strengths in a way that freelancing doesn’t. I had to know the Adobe Creative Suite inside and out, which I had learned in school and further developed in my freelance work. I had to clearly express design and technical issues to coworkers who aren’t familiar with the work, and my communication skills helped with that. The benefit of my current position is that the work is brought to me, and I don’t have to seek it out. There’s more design work than socializing involved with the role, which plays better to my introversion; plus, when I talk to my coworkers and clients the communication is mostly written, and I’ve found that it doesn’t drain my energy in the same way that phone calls with my freelance clients did. It was a very slight shift in terms of the work I’m doing, but it’s made all the difference in my mental health and work/life balance!
- How many hours a week do people normally work at this job?
- Will your employer be flexible with hours and/or sick days?
- Do those you know in the field have time for personal obligations, and is their work flexible if they need to take a sick day or go on maternity leave?
- What kind of life do you want outside of work, and will you be able to achieve this with the job you’re thinking about pursuing?
YAC Secretary Olivia: This is something I wish I had taken into more consideration before choosing my career. I work as a television news producer. Television news is a 24 hour affair; there is always a producer in the newsroom. I anticipated taking the least desirable shift as a new hire; I figured it was only fair that the new person would get the “worst” shift. However, I didn’t fully consider how the hours I work would impact my family and social life. I work nights and weekends, which makes it difficult to maintain a sense of social wellness. I’m able to cope with the situation for the time being, because I know I will be moved to a “better” shift eventually. However, I have definitely thought about how much easier it would be to maintain healthy relationships if I had chosen a career where everyone works 9-5.
Difficulty of Path
- How much training is required for this job, and what might it cost?
- Will the journey to this career be high stress and/or physically taxing?
YAC Member Christine: I am in my last year of medical school, training to become a physician. The cost, both emotionally and financially, of this chosen path has been high, but after careful consideration I decided it was worth it for the fulfillment that my job brings me. I think that it’s okay to choose a high stress path, as long as you are sure you want it and you go in with your eyes wide open. Make sure you do your research, so you have an idea of what obstacles you may face, and make sure you have a great support system and set of coping skills for when things get rough. The items in this list are things to consider when searching for occupational success and wellness, but no job is perfect, and you have to decide for yourself which factors are most important!
- Are you looking for an hourly job or a salaried job?
- Will you be making enough money to cover living expenses or, if you want one, a future family?
- Does the industry have a high turnover rate?
- Is the degree you are pursuing versatile?
YAC Chair MJ: After I graduated college, I moved to New York City with a friend. We didn’t have jobs or anywhere to live yet, but we knew we wanted to be in New York. For a while, I just worked freelance design for nonprofit organizations, and found other ways to make extra cash when the freelance work was slow. At times, I was a bartender, server, paid television audience, and a dogsitter. I quickly got exhausted from always hustling different jobs and trying to plan where I’d be able to make money next, and realized that I’d prefer a full time position with a single company in the design industry. New York is expensive, though, and I wouldn’t be able to make rent as an in-house designer for nonprofits, so I turned to the tech industry. I found a low-intensity design job at a large software company, and it provided me with the financial security I wanted, a singular source of income, which I preferred, and in my industry of study. I make enough now to save a little money for the future, too!
Physical and Emotional Limitations
- Are there physical or mental health conditions that may limit the type of work you can do?
- Is a high stress job or a night shift job right for you and your mental health?
- Is it important that your bosses are supportive?
- Will you have insurance and paid time off benefits?
YAC Secretary Olivia: For a short time in college, I thought I might want to become a licensed counselor or social worker. I wanted to use my personal experience to help others living with mood disorders. After I added psychology as a second major, one of my close friends experienced a mental health crisis. I’m glad I was able to help my friend and direct them to treatment, but I realized that I couldn’t commit to doing that on a regular basis; it was simply too taxing on my own mental health to feel responsible for others in crisis. I reevaluated my career options and decided to pursue television news. Now in my career, I can help share the stories of others living with mood disorders and help educate the public without putting my own mental health at risk.