How not to think of career

How not to think of career:

“I’m going to university to become a biologist.”

Rather,

“I am a biologist. I’m going to university to get further practical knowledge and certification.”

The point here is that one should start being a biologist a significant amount of time before deciding to go to a university (say) to further one’s biology-related career. That is, one should start doing things that biologists do before deciding to go to a university to further one’s career in this area.

Most high-school students ‘decide’ to start a profession without having done much of anything in relation to that profession! Most of the time, they don’t actually have good reasons for believing that is the right profession for them.

This attitude is part of the institutionalization (‘Mandarinization’, to use William James’ phrase) of Western society, education, and careers.

7 thoughts on “How not to think of career

  1. Andrew S.

    I found this blog from some comments you wrote a while ago at Agellius’s blog.

    Anyway, it seems to me that most high school students would not have enough experience to even be able to begin to do much of anything with respect to a profession before they are midway through college. I mean, at best, people might tend toward very popular careers (e.g., I know what doctors, lawyers, and engineers do, so I’ll consider those) but still not have good reasons for them.

    I know when I started school, I knew early on I was going to study accounting because I wanted a stable career that would still pay the bills. I had some interests or desires for social sciences, but I doubted the financial sensibility of a lot of those fields and did accounting instead.

    I really appreciated my accounting courses, and now, I love what I get to do at work. But, there is NO way I could have predicted what I would be doing at work while I was in school. Even if I had taken accounting positions in high school or college, by the nature of the profession, it would be highly unlikely that I would have discovered or practiced my particular niche in those days. I would not have even known that my niche were available back then, even.

    (p.s., am I missing a way to subscribe to comments for a particular thread?)

    Reply
  2. admin Post author

    I agree that, typically, most high school students don’t get enough experience in the fields they are thinking they might want to make their professions. But, that’s my point.

    Instead of waiting until university, get started much sooner doing the sorts of things that are done in those professions.

    In your example, want to become an accountant? Start doing accountant work for family. Start reading books on how to be an accountant. And so on. No need to wait until university to do those things. It’s true that one might not discover a particular niche right away, but I don’t see how that’s an argument against it.

    In this particular case, there’s little reason (except societal prejudice) for someone to not be a professional accountant at the age of, say, 16. All the math, understanding of rules, and so on, is readily comprehensible by most teenagers.

    Reply
  3. admin Post author

    The site has subscription to comments through RSS, on the right side. It requires something with an RSS reader. I might add a way to subscribe through e-mail.

    Reply
  4. Andrew S.

    In your example, want to become an accountant? Start doing accountant work for family. Start reading books on how to be an accountant. And so on. No need to wait until university to do those things. It’s true that one might not discover a particular niche right away, but I don’t see how that’s an argument against it.

    I agree with the concept of getting more experience with their fields sooner, but in my case (and the argument against doing such), that probably would have been very detrimental to my pursuit of accounting. The way that the field works, I would likely be involved with work that is very far separated from what I currently am doing, so by getting started earlier, I would be acquiring a limited perspective of what the profession entails (and most likely, I would not have stayed in the field if I had done the sorts of jobs that are available at that early level)

    In high school and even college, I wouldn’t have even known about my particular niche, much less been able to seek experience in it first before practicing it.

    In this particular case, there’s little reason (except societal prejudice) for someone to not be a professional accountant at the age of, say, 16. All the math, understanding of rules, and so on, is readily comprehensible by most teenagers.

    I agree with this. But given that various pressures (or even societal prejudices) *do* exist, 16-year-olds generally do not have all the opportunities that a college junior or senior going on internship might have. As a result, while a 16-year-old may be able to get some sort of experience in accounting, that would be a limited/narrow view of other aspects of the profession.

    re: subscribing through RSS…that looks like it would subscribe me to all comments for all discussions, rather than just the comments to just this one post. Am I mistaken?

    Reply
  5. Andrew S.

    I think it’s mostly related to how the industry is set up — and I can see how this would be true for similarly well-regulated professions. So, I concede that, in a world without limitations, I probably could have gotten started at my work niche at 16 as per your post. But I’m just saying that that’s not how the world, industry, regulatory environment actually works.

    To illustrate further: my company (and similarly sized companies) typically doesn’t hire (even for internships) people in high school. There are a few exceptions, but those exceptional interns typically don’t do client-facing work (so there’s that.) They may hire interns early in college, but again, that’s not the norm.

    The norm is to hire folks soon within a year or so of their eligibility to sit for the CPA exam (which, for a lot of regulatory reasons, will typically require 5 years’ worth of university credits in most states…so the internship usually is senior year or so). So, that would have been the “earliest” I would have gotten into the sort of work that I do now. Any time earlier would have been much different work (or I could have maybe worked for different types or scopes of accounting companies, but then…still…it would be different work.).

    To make a different point, your post implies a sort of autodidactism that may apply to some truly gifted individuals, but wouldn’t apply to a lot of people, and wouldn’t apply to a lot of professions. I accept that maybe I am not the smartest tool in the shed, but for me, I know that I learned accounting more effectively through my teachers, and even on the job, I learn more effectively from working with industry leaders and subject matter professionals.

    University will typically be the first time that many people will have access to the people and the tools needed to even *begin* the prerequisite dive into the profession of their choice…e.g., for the hypothetical biologist of the opening post, they typically wouldn’t have access to the research facilities or the mentors until university.

    Reply
  6. admin Post author

    Thanks for this – you make some important points.

    I work in a very unregulated field, where teenagers could do cutting edge work (and sometimes do).

    I agree that sometimes it’s quite difficult to know exactly what work is available. Having said that, what’s the alternative? Perhaps spending a significant amount of time trying to figure out what work options are actually available (in your case, talking to real live accountants, trying to figure out if what they are actually doing sounds appealing), before embarking on a 4 (5) year degree that costs tens of thousands of dollars?

    To add to your point, I have had the experience of not liking a kind of work, then figuring out *how* to do it in such a way that I find it enjoyable. It’s tricky, sometimes, and these things are sometimes difficult to predict.

    The focus of this post is intended to be on people who think they can’t do anything until they x (get a degree, get into a certain program, and so on). It is to those that I’m saying, you don’t have to wait to get started.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *