To Be or Not to Be: The Question of Career

What are you going to do when you grow up? We start thinking about this question as early as JK and SK, making little drawings of our future selves dressed as policemen and doctors. We think about our future through elementary school, through high school and mandatory careers class until we’re faced with choosing a major in university. Choosing a major certainly narrows down the chasm of career choices, but even then there are an overwhelming number of options. So where to go? What to do? 

Another question we’re asked is, “What are you passionate about?” While it seems like a good question, because it’s important to consider your interests, it’s too vague. What does it mean to be passionate? I kind of like biology, but I’m not into anatomy. I kind of like studying French, but I can’t do grammar. Most people have multiple interests, and no one interest is completely perfect—there’s always something we don’t quite like about a subject. Even when you’re able to choose a subject to focus on in university, there are still a lot of directions you can take and places you can go. It doesn’t help that, according to many self-help books, when you get good at something you also tend to like it more. So how much importance does passion play, and how much of passion is determined by natural inclination, situation, and amount of work/time put into it? 

Additionally, passion isn’t everything. While, again, it’s important to consider your interests, it’s also important to consider how in-demand your field is and how much money you can make. After all, once you graduate, you have to be able to find a job afterwards and make money—make a living. It might feel bad to say that you’re interested in a certain career option in part due to the salary you might make, as society tends to propagate a romantic image of a beautiful career where money comes last while ironically being ruled by capitalism. But money isn’t inherently bad; money is important. 

Another factor that can be a huge player in narrowing down career choices is family. Many may argue that other people’s opinions regarding what you do, whether family or not, should be completely ignored. In the words of Bon Jovi, “It’s [your] life!” after all. But everyone’s situation is different and sometimes this isn’t possible. In which case, you can choose to negotiate and do a double major, take a minor, get a different kind of certificate, or tweak your education in some other way. It’s a tricky topic that you’re going to have to think through. In the end, remember that it really is your life—you’re the one who will put in the hours, put in the work, graduate, and get that job. 

As a student in my final year, I’m really concerned about my next steps. When I entered high school, I thought I would have everything figured out by grade 12. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. So I set my eyes on university—when I graduated, I was sure I would know exactly what to do. But I don’t, and neither do most students. In talking to several older acquaintances  who already have jobs, I found out that even they don’t completely know where they’re going. Finding a job can be like shooting an arrow—you know exactly what your target is and you either hit it or you don’t. But it can also be like exploring the woods. A certain situation, circumstance, time, and some luck might be what get you to a career you love—and that’s not a bad thing. Not knowing is just part of the process. 

So, what are you going to be? Where are you going to go? Don’t know? Don’t worry. Educate yourself as much as you can about your options, pay attention to the aspects you like most in your favourite subjects and the kinds of things you like to do when you volunteer or focus on work experience, and reflect. As life continues, new options and opportunities open up, and we learn more and more about ourselves and what we like/dislike. It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to think about money. It’s okay to do what you’re passionate about. And even if ten years down the line, you realize you made a mistake, you can always go back. It may be a little harder than now, but it’s never too late to start or start over.