Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Contrarian Approach to Choosing a Career

Most people choose a career based on their previous experiences and successes. But I'm wondering if a case can't be made for choosing a career that is completely different from what the person has done in the done in the past.

If someone has been painfully shy all her life and avoided people both in career and personally, mightn't it be exciting, motivating, for her to choose a career that put her in front of people--for example, a salesperson or even a performer?

If someone has spent his life decrying capitalism, might he--if he allowed himself to admit it to himself--be intrigued by the notion of working for a Fortune-500 corporation?

If someone has been a science-centered person, mightn't she enjoy applying her mind to something artistic--for example, creating breakthrough, stunning store displays?

Most of us are attracted by doing something new and/or by exploring a yet unexpressed part of who we are. So I'm wondering if people wouldn't be more motivated to make the significant effort to prepare for a career and then land a job in it if their goal was something other than to build on their experiences and already expressed strengths.

What do you think?


Rosh said...

I gotta say I like your reasoning, but I think that you're confusing working with internships/education . In my view, working is a performance, a place to show off how good you've learned the material. internships/education is where you learn these tasks. If someone was hired in the former group who belonged in the latter group, wouldn't we all have sloppy-looking storefronts and fortune-500 companies that lost all their money? Just a thought.

Marty Nemko said...

Often intelligence and drive not only compensate for but trump training and experience.

Corinne said...

The idea is intriguing, Marty, I've always thought that I never got over my math oppression as a girl growing up in the 1970's...but I think Rosh may be right-they want people to be good right out of the gate-and I've never lived in that culture or developed skills along the math/science/analytical line.

Sconelady said...

I agree. I am a biologist by education and employment—but am perhaps better known in many circles as “The Sconelady”. Several years ago (mostly on a self-dare) I founded Victorian House Scones, an artisan business manufacturing scone, biscuit, and shortbread cookie mixes. While biology and scone making are very different ventures, each is enhanced by the other. In the early years of VHS, I felt pulled in diametrically opposite directions, for there was a tremendous learning curve as I had to deal with basic accounting, marketing, sourcing of supplies, etc. Several years into this, I find that more and more the two separate spheres of my life overlap, and each strengthens the other.

Marty Nemko said...


It's likely easier to make a transition from a technical to a nontechnical career or from a people-delimited to people-centric career than from a non-math to a math-centric career.

Anonymous said...

I like this courageous train of thought. I deplored math in school. Today I work in finance.

I absolutely positively HATE this work/career and by association this job. Don't get me wrong...I feel blessed to have a job in this economy.

However I agree with Marty that we need to try new/different careers. This position has taught me many things about myself that I (assuming) would not have had the opportunity to learn working in career fields that are safe/comfortable to me.

What I learned in my other positions came natural. Now when I go back to that work, I can feel confident that the lessons I've learned here will add another dimension to me as an employee.

I am glad I was able to try something new even though this career path did not go as expected.

ST said...

Interesting idea. Like the scone lady, though, I think the person would have to have a natural gift or talent (and drive) for the opposite endeavor in order to actually make a career in it (versus a hobby). It would probably be easier to go out on your own doing it too, because going along the lines with Rosh, most employers would look at it as someone wanting to zang when they've been zinging before. I'm not saying it couldn't be done. If you can prove to an employer you can do the job as well and maybe even better than someone else, it really doesn't matter that you're zanging, now. Employers are still unfortunately stuck in the "years of experience" mindset. All that really means to me, is that they think they've found someone who is committed to that field and won't leave them in a year or two for another career. And, it's kind of a cop out for really determining talent in an applicant.


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