Choosing A Career? How Exactly Does That Work?

Cover of "What Should I Do with My Life?&...
Cover of What Should I Do with My Life?

I knew from the age of 12 or so I wanted to be a writer, especially a foreign correspondent. I grew up in a family of journalists and film-makers and writers and actresses and it all looked like a lot of fun.

Some people, as this recent Wall Street Journal piece points out, don’t have a clear direction and seek one. Or their job, career or industry (hello, print journalism!) has buckled beneath them like a horse shot through its heart.

For some, it’s clear what our vocation — from the Latin word “to call” — will be, and nothing will deter us in our efforts. But job markets have a nasty habit of drying up and disappearing (mortgage lending), sometimes overnight.

In 1989, burned out and utterly fed up with journalism and desperate for some idea what other paths might even fit my skills and behavior patterns, I took three days’ worth of career and psychological testing. It cost a fortune and suggested I become a…journalist. Or lawyer or florist.

I’m still here, writing for a living. The tests did help me much better understand some of my other aptitudes and how I might use them in other fields. Turns out not everyone loves being decisive all the time or talking to strangers every day for a living. My retail job taught me a lot more about what I love and hate about certain kinds of work — love meeting tons of new people, loathe being emotionally abused by them. Loved selling a great product, hated the mindless tedium of cleaning shelves and folding T-shirts month after month.

Po Bronson wrote a best-selling book called “What Should I Do With My Life?”, a plaintive wail if there ever was one.

When and where and how did you choose your job or career? Have you changed it along the way? How did you know where to go next?