I get lots of emails from younger adults, who ask me how I decided to know what to do with my life and how to choose a career in the right direction. I want to talk about this, as I still feel that exact same way and you can never know 100% if you were on the right path.
I want to talk honestly about this, because I think a lot of people think that one day you wake up and you just like suddenly figure out that you exist and know exactly what you want to do with your life.
Maybe for some people it is like that it’s just like a switch flips and you know that’s what you want to do, but I think anyone would be lying if they say that every single day they’re 100% sure that they’re on the right path. I think it’s kind of ridiculous that at 17 years old you are expected to know what you want to do for the next 40 or 50 years of your life.
It really sucks to have to try to make a decision like that right away, and you really don’t. Just be patient with yourself, and realize you don’t need to have it all figured out right now. I didn’t switch into an ecology major until two years into school because I actually started studying microbiology doing the general ed courses. For that, I did my first years in Community College so I pretty much just did general ed courses the first two years anyway.
I didn’t really even need to decide until going into my junior or my third year that I wanted to study ecology. Then I was able to switch in then but I only switched after I had had enough education in ecology to even know that that’s something I wanted to do. I’ve always really liked being outdoors – I was raised in a really rural place in California.
I definitely didn’t like have the idea that being a scientist or something I wanted to do, nor did I know that was even a job when I was little, so that wasn’t really something I decided until I was in college. I wanted to be a movie director like maybe the fact that I still do YouTube videos, shows that I like still really enjoy film and being creative.
I decided like that’s not really I wanted to do one thing that made me decide. I didn’t want to do that career was when I thought about the stuff like you’re supposed to do, for the career like oh you’re supposed to make movies or you’re supposed to write scripts or something.
I’ve been filled with an overwhelming sense of dread, so I think that that’s one of the things that just made me decide that I didn’t want to do that career was getting filled with dread thinking about the stuff I had to do for that career. So, if that rings a bell I think that that’s like a sign in your gut saying like you’re going down the wrong path.
I truly believe that that your intuition is saying don’t do it. You should be excited about taking the courses that you need to do for your major. I mean, I don’t necessarily so excited to do organic chemistry, but you know looking at the electives for your major, be like oh that also looks interesting.
That excitement is the kind of feeling you should be feeling towards your career. So then I took an ecology class and when I took my first ecology class it was required for the microbiology major and my professor was so cool. I really cared about what was being taught in that class and it was so interesting and I got so involved and it was like probably my favorite class ever.
I think if you have like a favorite class in school that’s a good place to start looking if you really enjoy one course over another, like I did, always like my science courses so that could have ticked me off earlier than I wanted to be a scientist. I would say look at the courses that you’ve taken or maybe the chapters in school where you were really interested, and try to see what kind of careers come from those types of work.
I went and I worked in an animal sanctuary in Bolivia and when I worked at an animal sanctuary that was like far and beyond decided made me decide to do wildlife conservation because I actually got to see boots on the ground and there was animals in the Amazon that needed my help.
That definitely confirmed that this was the right career for me, so I think if you don’t know if you’re going down the right path, trying to get an internship or volunteer work in the field that you are wanting to go in it’s a really good idea. Then that gives you an idea of what a job actually looks like because picking a major isn’t just what do what I want to study this subject forever.
If you were gonna work 9:00 to 5:00 doing this job all day, every day, is that something you are interested in or are you more interested in just studying it? Studying it in school is like totally different from working in this field. If you were wanting to study lions and you don’t have any interest in hiking, traveling or tracking Lions, it’s not just about studying in a book it’s about like actually having to do that as your job.
It is something to think about realistically, to see if you will actually like it and if you don’t really know internships or volunteer work and then another thing that I think a lot of people think is that if they pick the wrong choice they’re forever going to be wishing that they did it the other way.
There are a lot of fields that some days I wish I went into instead. Sometimes I have this idea that I could have been like some international diplomat because I almost went studied international studies in school, and what if I actually did that what if I was working for the UN and I was in Geneva? That thought like what could have happened?
I still think about that all the time but the reality is I had to I have to choose something like I can’t just have like 20 ideas of things I want to do and try to do them all. I knew how to choose a career, and I had to pick something so I picked the thing that would give me a good lifestyle, that would allow me to travel to places like Ubud, Bali in Indonesia, that would allow me to help the environment, and allow me to help animals.
It could change in the future, you could decide to be a doctor in 20 years and want to go back to medical school. You really just can’t think that far ahead. If you had told me when I was like my second year high school how to choose a career and that I was gonna be working as a wildlife biologist in Canada and like traveling internationally, I would have been had no idea that was gonna happen.
Five years from now, I could be doing something totally different, so all I can work off of is the information that I have now and what I like now and where I see my future going. I can’t look into the future and suddenly decide if I change, and how to choose a career in the future. You just got to pick something to go down or you ever get it forever gonna be waffling between although what ifs and what could have been.
If you aren’t totally sure what you’re doing like try to do something that you don’t have to commit as much for, so like community college or like a lower cost state school, where you’re just doing your general ed courses for the first two years.
Generally after the first two years, something will pop out and your coursework like the courses you like to take over other ones and then that might tip you off on you actually might want to change your career field. So, if you aren’t totally sure, there is no shame in going to Community College. I went to Community College. My degree still says University of California on it.
It doesn’t say University of California but the first two years were at Community College. The degree is a degree – all it did was save me tens of thousands of dollars and allowed me to figure out what I was supposed to do in life.
The other advice I have is a little bit more personal. When thinking about how to choose a career, don’t let your boyfriend or girlfriend that you have in high school decide what you are going to do with your life or where you are gonna live or what you’re going to study. That one was learned the hard way, just try to be as independent as you can and go off of what you actually want to do.
If that means that you and your significant other high school boyfriend/girlfriend are going to be separated at different universities, if it’s meant to be, it’s gonna work out with you too. Just don’t compromise your future and your dreams for someone else who very realistically may not be in your life in a few years.
I hope that this has helped some of you who are unsure what they’re doing, and help them on how to choose a career. It’s kind of a fallacy that when you are an adult you suddenly know exactly what you’re doing in life. That’s not how it works, I still feel like I’m a kid that is pretending to be an adult all the time.