Did you actively choose your career?

I’m not sure if we’ve done this one before - a quick search got me nothing directly related to this subject.

I was musing in the shower the other day - most great ideas apparently originate in the shower, along with 93% of made-up facts - and doing a sort of life status check and review. Having just spoken to my parents and tried to explain to them for perhaps the seventeenth time exactly what it is I do*, I was looking back at how I got into this line of work in the first place, and I came to a slightly unsettling realisation.

I’m an IT consultant by accident. My general line of work and my specialism were both chosen more or less by a chance encounter with a person at a recruitment fair who I happened to bump into, and it seemed intriguing enough to try it out for a bit. I was a fresh-faced grad in need of a job, and the people and the office seemed nice enough. Looking back at this after nearly eight years of working in this field, it seems a bit strange to be in the position of never really having done anything specific to move in this direction, so I’m intrigued by the experience of other people.

Did you make a conscious choice to have the job / career that you do? Were there some discussions with guidance counsellors or other mentors involved? Or did you, like me, sort of accidentally wind up doing something that’s interesting enough to stick it out for a while?

*I’m an IT consultant, specialising in Microsoft-based Business Intelligence. I tried not to tell them I’m a bi consultant, having figured they were already confused enough about my life.

Totally not. I was going to be a scientist. Then in first year University those bastards in the Maths faculty absolutely forced all maths students to do a term of pure maths, a term of statistics and a term of programming. And I discovered … programming was really fun! The rest, as they say, is history.

My general attitude to career advancement may be adequately expressed by an email I had reason to send about five minutes which began “I seem to have unexpectedly fallen into a pile of paid work this week.” Basically, if I think I can do it, and someone is willing to pay me to do it, then I’m happy to do it.

Absolutely did. I always wanted to teach. The only issue ever was what I would teach. When I was young, I wanted to teach archeaology at a university, but by the time I graduated high school I realized it was the teaching I wanted to do, and teaching high school would satisfy that itch while providing a lot more security.

I aimed to be (and became) and English teacher. I fell into teaching economics, which I loved. I gave it up for a new job: I do hope to get it back some day.

Interesting. Going into science was my first choice of career too, but even that was mostly driven by being reasonably good at maths and physics, and needing to prove myself in a relatively intellectually-oriented family. I realised that it wouldn’t work out when I saw the ever-decreasing scope of the work that you do as a scientist, and in the immortal words of Konrad Lorenz, I could see that I would end up as one of those “people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing”, so I quit and bumbled about for a while before, as I said above, accidentally falling into my current line of work.

I know this might be a stupid question, but can you remember what led you to wanting to teach? Family influence? Admiration of your teachers?

Short answer, No.

Long answer: Floundered around with college after high school, but no clear idea what I wanted. Started a business with a truck and some tools, but it was only enough to pay my rent/etc. Variety of part time jobs (driving things, mostly) and landed at UPS as a loader. Always interested in airplanes, so all through this I paid for lessons whenever I could.

After a few years I gave up on college and discovered I was next in line to drive for UPS. Now a UPS driver, I married my POSSLQ*. Few years later found even better pay on offshore oil rigs, but was gone half the year. The Missus began to grouse about being separated for 6 months at a time, so I came home and re-enrolled. Still unsure, but declared as Geology major since it interested me. Still with the flying lessons whenever I could, and had managed Commercial and Flight Instructor certificates by now. The college had an aviation department so began flying for them part time. (Ultimate college job; good pay and control your own schedule)

Geology classes were popular (and full), so several semesters later I’m *still *trying to get into the entry Geo courses and taking computer classes to pass the time. A few semesters after that I find I’m 4 hours away from a CompSci major, with minors in Aviation, Math, or Biology. :rolleyes:

Tired of school, so take the one class and I’m out with CompSci/Math minor. Turns out the major DOD contractors are hunting for just that combo. So now I’m looking back at 30 years of avionics software jobs, and still fly as a hobby (instructing or ferrying planes, it’s a little butter-and-egg money for me outside the family budget). I still wonder how I got here sometimes.

Hey, I warned you it was the long version…

*I actually got to put POSSLQ on the 1980 census. :stuck_out_tongue:

Long versions are exactly what I’m after, actually! Any wistful regrets? Would you do it differently if you could go back and try again?

Yes. I made a conscious decision to leave my previous field and return to grad school to get the required degree to enter my current field.

Hey, me too. Kinda. I’m more on the MS Social Collaboration and ECM side (you know… SharePoint).

FWIW, I chose IT in college. Chose consulting/contract work 2 years into my 25+ year long career. MS and collaboration technology chose me about 10 years ago. I’m ready for another change.

My parents are older now and don’t really get why I’m still a consultant. I’m starting to see their point.

Yes a conscious decision for me. Always wanted to be an Air Force pilot but spent too much time dreaming about it and not enough time studying to get the required grades. After finishing school I realised it would remain a dream. So I did the next best thing and took private flying lessons that have lead eventually to a good career as a commercial career. Definitely no regrets about not getting into the Air Force, I don’t think I would have been suited to the military.

No, and this is the only aspect of my upbringing where I think my parents were lacking. The only advice I received after leaving university was ‘apply for any job you think you can do and accept the first offer you get’. Since then, I’ve bounced around jobs of increasing seniority, but no direct relation to each other, so I don’t actually feel that I have a career as such.

I got into the IT field by accident; I was hired as a technical writer for a small firm, but started doing computer graphics and became their computer guru. Eventually, I found a job doing just that – though I was also hired to teach.

Writing science fiction was always my dream, though.

Yes and no.

I chose to major in mechanical engineering because that’s what my dad was, and for my entire childhood it seemed like he could do anything and answer any question, and I wanted that. So I started out by pursing a BS in ME.

But I didn’t know what kind of job I wanted. Actually I didn’t even want a job. As undergrad was ending, I applied to grad school in several different places so I wouldn’t have to get a job and become a real grown-up. Not having a passion in any particular direction, my choice of specialty was ultimately dictated by where I found funding - in internal combustion engine research.

Toward the end of my MS, my advisor asked if I had job plans. When I said nope, he invited me to stay for a PhD, so I did. At the end of it, I had several job interviews, but only one offer, so that’s where I went. I’ve been working in the same place now for around 15 years.

Like some others here I wouln’t really call what I have a “career.” I haven’t actively pursued advancements or promotions or excellence in my field; I just want a job that provides some security and pays the bills and isn’t excruciatingly boring, ya know?

Yes, I did actively choose my career at about the age of 12. I thought I could be a lawyer. My teachers encouraged me. And so I am.

And that was the right decision.

No, I fell into call center work. I think very few people would choose this career on purpose. It’s more like the white-collar position of last resort.

I definitely chose my career, but only after about fourteen years of aimless and frustrating full-time work. I quit college after my freshman year to become a rock star. That didn’t work out too well, so I started driving a truck for a small printing company. I learned to run some presses, set type, make plates, and eventually became a salesman. I am a crappy salesman. I then went through eleven jobs in fourteen years, never happy, never making much money. Along the way, I got married, had a child, and got divorced.

In late 1986 I got fired from a horrible job and was feeling pretty hopeless. For several years I had been hearing about how well my sister-in-law was doing as a computer programmer. I talked to her about what the job entailed and what the education requirements were and decided to pursue it. In January 1987 I started at the same community college my sister-in-law had attended. At the same time, I moved back into my parents’ house and started a job as a security guard on third shift. I graduated in the spring of 1988 and had a job at a regional stock broker lined up before I graduated. Twenty-five years later, I’m still at it, making pretty good money and doing work that is interesting and satisfying to me. It took a while, but I guess I chose wisely.

Pretty much. I originally went to school for civil engineering at a really good engineering school. Managed to find a couple summer jobs as a CAD draftsman (that was more mechanical engineering related) and then later as a draftsman for a local structural engineer. Passed the EIT exam, graduated with my degree and then went to work for a small engineering firm in my town.

Pretty much hated it.

It was the mid-90s and a lot of my friends were working in technology / accounting / management consulting firms like Accenture (back when they were Andersen Consulting), PwC (back when they were PriceWaterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand), Deloitte, or smaller firms like Razorfish or Sapient. So a high school buddy of mine (who did more network systems Novelle / MCSE type work) hooked me up with his roommate who got me an interview at a smallish tech consulting firm.

I’d say the specifics of my career are less “planned” though. I tend to try to pick projects or companies that are doing work that might be interesting to me.

No way - but I am now.

I went to school and started a pre-med course, had to leave for financial reasons (as in I needed money to eat, kind of financial reasons), and eventually ended up in a “career” as an admin. It’s not really much of a career to be honest, but it does pay the bills, and more importantly, it’s helping pay for me to go back to school, and I am garnering a degree in information systems.

As a 18 YO, I wanted to become an aircraft mechanic. So I joined the US Air Force. That one I chose.

While in the USAF I was asked to become an instructor of aircraft mechanics. That one chose me; however, I ran with it even going to night school to get a degree in Education. I figured when I retired that I’d teach high school.

However around 1990 we started getting PCs at work and I found out that I was a natural especially at database work. So I again went to night school and got a MA degree in Computer Management. I finished this just in time to retire from the USAF and while the Internet Boom and Y2K scare were going strong. Now I’m in IT. So this was my choosing.

I still did use my Education degree as I taught night classes at a local college for 16 years. My choice there.

Ah, SharePoint… the place that I publish my reports to and then forget about! I’m starting to wonder about the consultancy thing myself; the constant travel, the always looking for the next project / client - it seems to be a young person’s game, and I wonder if I have the endurance for the long haul. The money, on the other hand, is always nice to have.

I didn’t get any real guidance from my parents either, beyond “find something that you love to do and do it”, which wasn’t actually very helpful. I know they had my best interests at heart and are and were great parents, but a nudge in a direction might have been helpful. However, being at the age when I rejected parental advice as being a useless weight on my all-knowing shoulders, I would probably have scoffed and gone in the opposite direction anyway. Can’t win with teenagers, or immature 20 year olds.

Dammit, I missed a lot of replies while very slowly typing up that last post!

Interesting responses, all. I wonder if kids are encouraged or even forced to specialise in a single line of work too early, and start working towards it without having the freedom to dabble in a bunch of things and find something that they might enjoy more. The pressure of having to get started and make a living seems to push a lot of people into jobs they don’t seem to enjoy very much. Or is that just idle rose-tinted dreaming?

I might have made other choices if I’d known about the breadth of professions available out there. Scientific computing rather than consultancy, for example, possibly combining two things that I really enjoy.