Now that I’ve hit the big 4-0, having that birthday has given me a chance to reflect back over the last couple of decades, especially with career and financial choices. Career is topic of conversation with friends around my own age. Recently, I was talking with a teacher friend of mine who has about the same number of years in education as Jim, meaning about half way through to pension eligibility. At this point, it makes no sense to leave her job or move somewhere else, but she is very convinced that if she knew then what she knows now, she would have never gone into education and cannot encourage young people into that career choice. For me and optometry, it depends on the day of the week you ask. Whether you are just starting out or about to finish, it makes sense to continually evaluate your career choice to make sure you’re making the best use of your time. Would you choose the same career again?
Why Do People Choose a Certain Career Path?
I’m sure there are a ton of variables, but in my opinion I think career choice is due to one of three reasons.
1)Your family influenced you toward a certain path. Maybe they didn’t force you at gunpoint, but if both parents were engineers and you were always pointed in that direction, it makes sense that you’d choose to an engineer.
2)You do what you love. These are the people who wholeheartedly pursue a job that is close to their heart, regardless of wheter it might pay the bills. This type personality might also go to their dream college, even if if means racking up lots of debt to get there.
3)You are practical. You want to choose a career that will meet your needs whether those are financial, include benefits, or offers the promise of flexibility and time off.
I think in my case, it was a combination of #1 and #3. My family never told me to be an optometrist, but they
required strongly encouraged me to go to college. I also wanted a job in health care that I knew would pay well without my having to be on call all the time. If I’d done what I loved at the time, I would have majored in English literature.
Why Do People Burn Out?
I think with just about any career, people start out thinking they are really going to make a difference. Over time, you realize that maybe you’re just a cog in the wheel. This is especially apparent when your employer doesn’t seem to value or even notice your efforts. Why try harder, when you can do the minimum and still get paid the same?
In my case, I think I tried to do too much for too long. I didn’t have a boss, but I tried very hard to make everyone happy while running myself into the ground along the way.
-Industries change. Perhaps the career you chose has had major changes since you started. There are jobs being outsourced all the time. You are expected to work harder for the same or less money. After the recession, we know that no job is 100% secure.
-Values change. At age 25, my career was more important. At age 35, my family was.
-You have too much debt. Working to make the minimum payments to fund a lifestyle you can’t afford will make anyone burn out eventually.
How Can I Be Happy With My Career?
In two words: CHOOSE WISELY
-If you know you’ll never make more than $35,000/year, you have to adjust your lifestyle to that amount of income. A private school education and leased BMW are not in your future.
-Find happiness elsewhere. If happiness is tied to your job, it’s rare that you’ll maintain that throughout your career. Even people who claim to love their job are often looking forward to the weekend. If you are happy otherwise, showing up for work is much more rewarding. If you work so much that you are missing out on what makes you happy, then it’s time for a change, or at least a plan to make the change at some point in the future. Happiness might mean working and saving really hard for ten years and then doing something else entirely.
-Live within your means. Being in debt ties your hands.
Would I Choose The Same Career Again?
After talking to my friend who would in no way be a teacher again, I sat down and thought about what I would have chosen if I knew at age 18 what I know now.
Health care has changed dramatically from how it was when I started college. More and more, doctors choices are dictated by insurance plans and what they cover instead of what you think might work best for the patient.
School did not prepare me at all for running a business. All the medical knowledge and skill in the world does not pay the electric bill.
Lifestyle inflation is a black hole that seems bigger the more money you make. If I could have avoided that from the beginning, it would have been a lot easier.
So after weighing all those factors, I think I would pick an optometry career again. I would, however, work harder at paying off student loans quickly, and I would have maxed out my retirement from the beginning. Hindsight is always 20/20.
I spent 8 years in school to do what I do, so I have no desire to start over again in another career. After cutting back my work schedule and selling my practice, I’m starting to remember why I liked this job in the first place. It went missing for a while as the stress of debt and not being able to afford a future took over. I’m certainly not defined by my job, but it allows me to have the things I need and want, so I’m pretty grateful.
Would you pick the same career again? Why did you choose your profession?