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Author Topic: Choosing a career path  (Read 2486 times)


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Choosing a career path
« on: 09 Sep 2011, 04:03 »

I'm in my last year of high school. For the past 3 years my plan has been to study Civil Engineering, go into Development and basically be a practical and highly efficient humanitarian in my own country or somewhere else in Africa. When I applied to university, I applied for a Civil Engineering course as my first-choice, but the university encourages people to apply for their second-choice course as well just in case. Looking at their list of majors, I saw one for Astrophysics and just picked that since I got sorta interested in cosmology and relativity this year and also because "Astrophysics" sounds so damn impressive.

I got accepted for both and now I don't know what to do! The idea of Civil Engineering was majorly tied up with helping people, but the idea of being an aid worker doesn't excite me as much as it used to. I've done nothing but write exams the past few months, so no new learning, no volunteering. I'm wondering if that's the reason for the loss in passion or if my recent interests are genuinely more fulfilling.
I would love learning about the universe, thinking about it makes me all like "WOW", but then I worry I would make a shitty scientist. I didn't have a passion for the stars since I was 5. Maths is an easy A for me, but I'm not the resident Maths Genius nor am I the wonder kid who solves the difficult problem that nobody else can do.

So, what do you do when you're not sure about a huge part of your identity anymore? And how do you know whether your doubts are worth considering or not? I'd really like some grown-up input on how to handle a crossroad like this. By the way, this has nothing to do with relationships  :laugh:


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Re: Choosing a career path
« Reply #1 on: 09 Sep 2011, 05:43 »

You can study physics and volunteer on the side. You can be an engineer who reads the lattest Hawking book before bed. You don't really have to pick one passion at your age and only do that.

I don't know how different the schools are where you are, but if you were a student in the US, I'd point out that most of the basic classes for both Enginearing and Astrophysics are going to be basic math and physics courses that probably overlap a great deak, and that you can take those courses while talking to professors from both departments to narrow down what it is you actually want to do with your life.
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Re: Choosing a career path
« Reply #2 on: 09 Sep 2011, 06:45 »

Don't think that a specific interest or course has to define you!

I went through school planning to go into medicine.  I went to uni to study physics, but changed my course to engineering science.  While at uni I attempted to get a job in pipe-organ building, but was blocked by the union closed-shop and apprenticeship rules.  At the end of my studies I worked for a few months in a fusion lab before taking up my (previously arranged) career in sound engineering, at the BBC.  A few years later I left this career to go into computer programming, which eventually morphed into systems management (hands-on rather than managerial). 

Nearing the end of my career, I provide computer management skills to a medical research group.  I also have active hobbies in music, organs and sound recording (and the two together), so on the way, in my own time, I have published a scholarly edition of some previously unpublished music by Haydn, and a number of commercial CD recordings of contemporary classical music (performed by my son, solo and with others).

All your interests, past and present, can feed into who you are - nothing needs to be cut out unless you choose it to be so.
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Re: Choosing a career path
« Reply #3 on: 10 Sep 2011, 03:11 »

Never start thinking that you've closed a door by learning something new - I'm doing a law degree but I know I don't want to be a lawyer; I think I want to be a midwife. It's not going to harm my midwifery prospects to have a degree in something else as well! And university isn't the only or even the best way into most careers. My advice would be to take the course that you think sounds most interesting for its own sake, rather than worrying about what career it might lead to. You can return to either of those things through different routes at any point in your life.
There's this really handy "other thing" I'm going to write as a footnote to my abstract that I can probably explore these issues in. I think I'll call it my "dissertation."

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Re: Choosing a career path
« Reply #4 on: 24 Sep 2011, 05:13 »

I'm on about my fifth "career".   

Actually, let me think about it... I've been a soldier, a tradesman, a nerdier-than-thou IT weenie, (in that IT period I was an engineer, a project manager, a business owner and a technical writer) and now I have kind of an odd strategic thinking job that suddenly went from being IT related to now I do my strategic thinking about very blue collar logistics. I have truly had to learn an entirely new skill set every couple of years for the last 20.

Here's my honest advice: it's life, just roll with it. Pick something and do it.  There will be things about it you like and things about it that you don't.  When you get an opportunity to do something that sounds like it might be interesting, take it! Stretch the boundaries of what you're comfortable with and don't settle. 

It seems like the big plans we make rarely work out, but little decisions have far reaching consequences that we can only see in the rear view mirror long after the fact.  For example... Because I decided to take a job in the trades back in 99, my wife now runs a company that does the same thing that I was done doing by late 01.  I've known her since she was 19 years old, and I assure you, that was not her plan.  But she loves it! Honestly loves it and the people she works with. 

Life is going to throw a whole lot of things in front of you that will stress you out and you will have zero control over.  Don't amplify it by trying to decide now what you're going to be doing in ten years because you'll likely be off that course in three.  There are some guiding principals in my life that I try to adhere to that have served me well...

Know yourself and seek self improvement
Your job, no matter what you do, is to make your boss look good.  If you have a good boss, (s)he will take care of you for doing this.  If you have a bad/abusive boss... Move on.
You can't control what anyone does, you can only control how you react to it. 
Stand up for yourself, but pick your fights carefully.  Know when you can't win.
"I screwed up, it won't happen again" is always better than a bs excuse
Teach others what you've learned
Never ask anyone to anything that you won't do yourself
Be nice, to everyone, as often as possible.  Being a dick is a tool that you use when it's necessary.  Over use diminishes effectiveness.
The world is full of douchenozzles.  If you find yourself trapped with someone who is completely unreasonable, move on.
Say good morning to all your co workers every day.
Buy lunch or a drink for someone on your team once in awhile.  Being good is important, but you can be the best, and if you're unliked, you won't go anywhere.  I've learned this lesson the hard way more than once.
 Find a mentor
If you ever get really comfortable with what you're doing, it's time to move on.  Stagnation is the first step on the road to mediocrity.  Life is a journey, why the hell would you want to pull over on the shoulder and wait to die?
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Wow, that's a lot of typing before coffee.  Sorry about the dump, I guess I'm feeling a little philosophical this morning.

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Re: Choosing a career path
« Reply #5 on: 24 Sep 2011, 19:20 »

Well I can't say anything to you directly that hasn't been said, but let me tell you my plans:

1. Finish college, dual major in education and some sort of biology
2. Downtime of a sort, intern work at a college or a laboratory
3. Work up to a Doctorate in biology
4. Get a job at a university teaching biology
5. In downtime and summer, work on research
6. Study psychology/philosophy in downtime
7. Somewhere along the line write a novel

You can never learn too much. You can never g to too much school. Never close your mind up tolearning and yu'll do fine
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Re: Choosing a career path
« Reply #6 on: 25 Sep 2011, 01:33 »

You can never learn too much. You can never g to too much school. Never close your mind up tolearning and yu'll do fine

I agree completely.  It's frustrating that so many people look at college as a barrier on the way to getting a good job rather than an opportunity to learn.


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Re: Choosing a career path
« Reply #7 on: 01 Oct 2011, 19:32 »

Honestly, the advice is the same for everybody.

Think of something you're passionate about


Can you make money from it? (if yes, go to next, if no, repeat from top)


Can you imagine doing it almost every day for years and still enjoy it? (if yes, go to next, if no, repeat from top)


Do it with as much vigor and drive you can muster and don't let anyone tell you not to do it.
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