There are two schools of thought about choosing a career (including a second career).
The first says to follow your dreams, to do what you love, and to never settle for less.
The second says, “They call it work for a reason.”
I think both are right and that these two points of view are not mutually exclusive. It’s when people choose one or the other viewpoint without acknowledging the truth in each that an imbalance occurs.
How to Choose a Career for the Long Term
People who follow their dreams sometimes end up being wildly successful, seemingly overnight. We hear the stories of how celebrities get discovered, apparently right after they got off the plane in LA or Nashville. We enjoy reality TV shows where unknowns become overnight sensations. And we marvel at YouTube talents who are discovered first by people like you and me.
It is not pessimistic or defeatist to point out that these few people are exceptions. Only a very small number of people will ever have instant fame, instant success, or instant opportunities. Most of us will have to work very hard to get there. Keeping this balanced perspective, in fact, is critical to achieving the success. Dreams don’t come true until you pursue them.
The balance on the flip side is also important. Just because it takes hard work to achieve your dreams does not mean that you should give up on them and settle for a job that enables you to dabble in your hobby on occasion. Before you relegate your passion to the status of hobby, think about the possibilities for pursuing it as your vocation someday.
At my age, I see a lot of peers entering their second career. They’ve been laid off from jobs they never really loved. Or they are re-entering the work force now that the kids are in school. In some cases, they’ve just had enough of working for someone else or for someone else’s dream to come true. The choices most of these people make about how to choose a career are usually driven by what they want to do. Unlike my younger colleagues who make job choices for different reasons (amount of pay, stability of the company, good benefits), my peers seem to be more willing to invest in what they genuinely want to do.
When they talk about their dreams, my peers talk about how hard they are willing to work to make their dreams come true. They aren’t expecting overnight success, and they don’t have grandiose plans for fame. They want to work hard because it satisfies them to do so.
Three Considerations When Choosing a Career
So I think the real secret in this equation includes three considerations.
First, pursue what you love and are interested in. But be willing to work very hard for it. That hard work on something you love will not seem nearly as hard as the easy work on something you hate. For me, it’s why I can work 20 hours straight on designing a new training program without even noticing the time, but barely made it through a 4-hour shift in an assembly line job.
Second, figure out what you love before you commit to whims and fancies. There may be many things that engage and interest you for a fleeting period of time. Your true passion, the one that you will never tire of, may take longer to discover. Along the way, use every opportunity to learn and those bits and pieces may be useful when you pursue your passion. I was wildly successful as a salesperson, winning every award there was. When I found my true passion, training, I was able to marry the work I’d done with the work I would do.
Third, take into account your natural preferences and tendencies. Not everyone is naturally cut out for the same kinds of work. That doesn’t mean you cannot do something. It just means that you may have additional work to do in developing toward your goal – it’s better to know that now and start working on it right away! For me, a person who prefers to make decisions based on how others will be affected and how it makes them feel, I had to develop so that I could also see the value in making decisions based on logic and precedent. In my dream job, I need both approaches to decision making in order to be effective.
Where are you?
Success Doesn't Happen Overnight—Change Doesn't Have to Either
Are you already doing what you love? Count your blessings and keep on doing what you’re doing! You are an inspiration to others.
Know what you love to do but not sure how to make a switch? Consider this: you don’t have to make a change all at once. Think instead about transitions, stepping stones that get you closer and closer to your dream. Pursuing them will be satisfying, and you’ll build a path every time you take a step. Meet the “right” people, take the classes, job shadow people who already do what you want to do, join the groups, research the possibilities… every little bit counts!
Or maybe you are one of many who isn’t sure what your dream might be. That’s okay. Just be sure you aren’t suppressing your dream because you’ve accepted that it’s unrealistic. Fear of failure is never a good reason for not trying. Instead, look at what it would take for your dream to become more realistic someday. In the meantime, look for work that puts you closer to your dream and not further from it. And consider using some tools to get a clear idea of what work would be satisfying for you so that you won’t find yourself looking back someday and wondering what could’ve been.
As a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show ever person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.