No matter how often we try to underplay it, your career is one of the most important decisions you can make in your life. The truth is you are going to spend a lot of your time working towards being deemed worthy to enter your career field of choice and when you are finally in there, it needs to all be worth it. However, all that is easier said than done.
Even before we grasp the importance of deciding what we want to be when we “grow up”, most of us change our minds multiple times before we settle on what we want to be.
I went from wanting to be a medical doctor, to wanting to be Miss SA, then Hannah Montana, then Albert Einstein in that order. Then it was microbiology, medical science, marine biologist and then psychology. Then life happened… fate did its thing and long story short, I graduated from the faculty of Humanities ready to document the world. Ready to take on the world with the power of my words and the mighty pen.
But even when I had my degree in hand, ready to enter the industry I had spent years studying, I quickly realised that nothing could have prepared me for the reality of my industry. The things that nobody tells you about when you dream out loud about how your career will pan out to be.
These are things I wish someone had told me...
Get A Mentor
If you want to be a lawyer, why not shadow a real-life lawyer - instead of binge watching How To Get Away With Murder and Suits... This lawyer will be able to tell you how hard they had to work even after graduation and that before you're a big shot attorney there are tons of hoops of fire to jump through like articles and bar exams etc. They will be able to at least paint a realistic picture of what you are getting yourself into.
Make The Effort To Get In The Action
When you can, volunteer your time. Get some of the action. Test out a future “typical” day in your future day. Perhaps if you experience the realities of journalism during a pandemic - you will either be stuck to your desk or be right in the thick of things just like an essential worker - then you’ll know what you're signing up for.
Be Teachable And Willing To Adapt
Contrary to Grey’s Anatomy and Chicago Med, most days won’t be glamorous when you are an intern at a public or private hospital. You need to take your future career for the potential good and bad days you’ll probably experience. Always take the right context into account. Then when you are done, be willing to be taught and adapt to the situation you land in. Even if you dream of changing it, you can’t change what you don’t know.
Pro tip: You need to remember that as you grow and redefine certain things in your life, you can always change your career path. It is never a waste of time to change the direction of where you want to channel your efforts. It has to make you happy, it will make you miserable.
Go ahead and restart if you need to. Here’s the thing, it’s better to just start that new qualification at age 28, because in four years' time, you will be 32 years old anyway... with or without it.