Changing Careers

Careers can be a tricky thing. This is because, from the day we're born, society constantly tries to push us in directions that may not be aligned with what we're really passionate about. Parts of my own career path may sound familiar to many of you.

My Career Path

My parents grew up poor and without a lot of opportunities. My dad grew up in rural Georgia with seven brothers & sisters all raised by a single mother. (I have no clue how she did it.) Dad raised himself up by joining the US Marine Corps. He never went to college, though I saw he obtained some kind of business certificate that was never worth the paper it was printed on. After 20 years, he retired from the Corps and got a job packaging turbines. He had a long commute and worked long hours for little pay. People with less knowledge and experience than him were making more money and moving up faster in the company because he didn't have a college degree. My mom grew up in rural Japan. She had two sisters and a brother. Mom had to drop out of junior high so she could work and help the family pay for her brother to get a higher education. Together, my parents made a good team. My dad worked hard and my mom was good about being financially responsible. They made the most of what little opportunities they had, and they wanted better for me. From their perspective, that meant getting a college education and getting a white-collar job with a big corporation.

My dad had the foresight to see that engineering and computer science skills would be in high demand by the time I got out of school so he steered me in that direction. I had one of those kids journals where you recorded what you wanted to be when you grew up. There were checkboxes for the typical kid answers: policeman, fireman, doctor, etc. I had the Other checkbox checked with "electrical engineer" filled in. Yeah, you can say Dad heavily influenced me from an early age. My parents got me started early with a Commodore VIC-20 personal computer. I loved video games, and probably would have become a video game programmer if that was considered a "real" career back then. But I never even thought of it as a possibility because it didn't fall under that ideal white-collar big corporation category at the time.

Fast-forward to college and, surprise surprise, I spent my freshman year as an electrical & computer engineering major. My interests had already been expanding and evolving as I got older. Back then, that major matched all of the stereotypes. Most of my classes seemed to be 95% made up of uber geeky males. My 4-year curriculum consisted of nothing but math, science, and engineering classes. I had started to question my choice of majors and career path because I had already started to become more well-rounded and outgrow that narrow focus on technology my dad had steered me toward. A sophomore finance major friend opened me up, for the first time in my life, to the idea of looking at other potential careers. Up until then, I had an extremely narrow view of my career possibilities. I went to the business school's career center and browsed various company brochures. To my surprise, I found myself more interested in a career that could lead to becoming the Chief Financial Officer of a company. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was probably the first indication that I may be inclined toward more of a broad strategic-level than focused tactical-level career.

Long story short, I ended up graduating with a Management Information Systems degree that was in high demand and I thought would combine my technical skills with my broader strategic interests. Unfortunately, big companies tend to pidgenhole people with strong technical skills into purely technical roles until you reach the management or executive levels. I didn't fit into that neat package and found myself spending the next two decades floundering between various companies and careers.

I don't know why I became the way I am as an adult. For most of my adult life, I have been significantly different from my family, friends, and the environment I grew up in. I seem to want more out of life than most of the people I know. Sure, there have been times when I've tried to settle on a more "ordinary" life, but life seems to know that's not me and prevents me from settling on that path. It hasn't been easy, and I seem to have taken longer than most to figure it out; but I am finally resolved to pursue a more entrepreneurial, passionate, Renaissance kind of life. This website and sharing my experiences and wisdom is part of that journey.

Your Career Path

Unlike many career and life coaches out there, I'm not going to suggest that an entrepreneurial career path is the better path. On the contrary, I think it falls under the 80/20 Rule. 80% of the population is better suited toward being employees and 20% is better suited toward being employers and entrepreneurs. That doesn't mean you can't be entrepreneurial as an employee. I recommend everyone practice a strong work ethic and do your job at all times as if you owned the company. This will take you far both professionally and personally no matter what you do for a living. Many career and life coaches suggest entrepreneurial career paths because they are speaking from their own perspectives and their own career paths. Career and life coaching are inherently entrepreneurial careers. I have met people who are better suited toward being employees but keep banging their heads against a wall trying to become solopreneurs or employers because many career coaching resources steer people toward an entrepreneurial career. At the same time, I don't mean to discourage people from pursuing an entreprenurial career path if they feel that may be their true calling. 20% of the population may be meant to be entrepreneurs while only 5% of the population are. That means 15% of the population is living in frustration in their not-so-entrepreneurial jobs because our modern day, big corporation governed society tends to steer people toward becoming employees.

If you feel you are in the wrong job or on the wrong career path, here are some resources I recommend taking a look into:

The Little Book of Talent isn't a career book per se, but I list it here because it provides us with actionable insights into how talents are developed. While some people are predisposed toward developing certain skills more easily than others, there is way too much emphasis on the belief that people are good at things because of "nautral talent" or because they were born that way. You can use the methods in this book to test if something you are interested in is a potential career or hobby.