Know How To Find A Cool Career?
... Not Easily Discovered In School
"How do I find a cool career?" The question bubbled out of me like a spring that had finally started to flow, like a faucet under the Tuscan sun.
"Well, no pun intended, if you don't excel in one of the few things schools teach you these days ... academics, sports or an extracurricular activity – it may be hard to discover the right career for you ... one you will love."
"That I know," I replied. I had never stood out in school and nothing much had caught my interest.
"Even if it had," the Wise Woman said, "there is no guarantee that it would have been the right career long term for you. A career with longevity, great money and a cool factor that would make you not want to do anything else in the world."
"Heh, I'd settle for just something cool. No need to go overboard ... I am not sure there is anything out there like that for me, anyway." The hopefulness leaving my voice must have been obvious, because she looked up at me for a long moment.
"Okay, before you get any ideas, even if you had gotten labeled as the ... sports jock, math whiz, lead singer or actor, science nerd/genius, budding poet or artist, debate champ, foreign language star, history buff, chess club prodigy or spelling* bee champion
... you may not want to do it for a living. Just because it is the best thing out there, doesn't mean it has staying power. So don't get too caught up in labels ... having one or not having one and thinking that it defaults you into a loser."
"Why is it when life is just opening up for us, we look around for someone else to tell us what it would be cool to do .. what we would be great at. If you look at all the schools in the world, how many tell you they will help you find the perfect career, the one that is just right for you?"
"Huh?" I asked.
The Cool Factor
"No one knows what you think is cool except you. No one knows what keeps you up at night doing online research, fills your dreams or makes you excited to jump out of bed and start your day."
The look on my face must have spoke volumes.
"Okay, when was the last time you woke up excited about what lay ahead that day?"
"Really excited?" I asked, my voice sounding feeble even to me.
"Ummphh." The silence was stretching out like a TP roll thrown over a house rooftop. And then I remembered something. "Fourth grade. Soccer Match playoffs between the Hungry Tigers and the Reforming Rattlesnakes." My voice seemed to shout out the information until my memory caught up with it and I finished with "We lost .... Big time. 24 to zip."
"nothing since then?" she asked.
My mind was a blank.
Gently, after a while, she asked, "when did the world become so uncool?" The question shocked me. I hadn't realized that it had. But the reality was beginning to sink in. Maybe it was me, and not the world.
"Am I the one who is uncool?"
She ignored my question, if indeed it had managed to make it out of my head ... and asked instead, "What happened?"
That was the question that did it. That started to unravel something in my head ... or was it my heart? The blank stare reflected nothing of the quiet tumbling revolution going on in my head. Like an avalanche, the question had set off a train of events, and like a trained monkey, my head went in search of an answer. My mouth opened and I watched the words unfold, hearing them at the same time she did.
"Fifth grade. My teacher yelled at me to 'Shut up!' and the whole class froze. I was told 'I was hopeless, that I would never amount to anything, and it was useless wasting any more time trying to teach me anything'. Nobody laughed. Nobody moved. The moment just went on and on ... and I felt like a worm that had been stepped on and ground into the dust. What was worse, no one else in the class ever said a word about it."
My mind worked to understand what had happened. " I guess I figured everyone else agreed with him. And that I should just stop wasting everyone's time." My voice wasn't quite sure what register was its own, or how to do more than put a little wind behind the words.
The Wise Woman nodded and replied, "That sounds about right. Hope dies when we are at our most aloneness. What were doing to evoke such a comment?"
"I have no idea." My mind replayed the scene and I could not remember anything special about what I was doing. "It was just an ordinary day ... I got a C+ on a quiz, but so did half the class. We were doing math ..." my voice trailed off.
"The next year my teacher didn't seem to notice me much .. so I figured word had gotten around. And so here I am ...." again my voice trailed off.
"And where is that?" she asked.
"Lost." The one word came out and filled the room.
"Hmmm. And I would say you have found something." Her voice sounded much more positive than mine.
"What?" I asked.
"That it was your teacher who was uncool, not you."
Her words floated into my brain and another piece of the snow covered hill let go. It was the warmth of her words that had started to thaw me out. And I felt part of me that had been frozen .. start to melt.
Something Will Click
I could tell she knew I kneaded thyme*, so she went on gently, easing me back to my question. " a lot of people assume you will discover what you would love to do for a living in school. That something will click. But, there are thousands of cool career options you never see in school or read about between the pages of a textbook. Just think about it ... if you were meant to become ... a sky diving instructor, a celebrity chef, a meteorologist or a designer of world class roller coasters. What class would expose you to that? Is there any class or school that would help you explore the 100,000 career choices you have to chose from?"
I nodded and asked, "What else could I do?"
"Lots of stuff ... it all depends on what you feel inside is a cool career. You could become a scientist mapping the human genomes, a video game programmer, a manager of a wildlife preserve, a music composer for blockbuster movies, a master grower of orchids, a builder of custom hot rods, captain of a luxury liner, a restorer of million dollar works of art, a test pilot for experimental plane designs, a founder of a martial arts studio, the moving force in quantum physics or a dealer in antiques, rare coins, stamps, baseball cards, historical maps or other collectibles."
Something started to click. I could feel it.
"That's hope coming back to life inside of you," she said. "To find a cool career, first you have to know that you are cool ... and the world is a cool place. What you are looking for is a match made in heaven ... you and a career that allows you to be who you were meant to be and do the things you love."
I thought about that for a moment. "So what is school for?" I asked.
Using Schools To Explore
"Hmm. To answer that, we have to go back to why schools exist in the first place. For centuries, actually most of mankind, you were assigned and taught your livelihood by your tribe or family. Schools were for specialized training and the training of scholars who would go on to discover, document and disseminate more knowledge. For the most part, you knew what your profession was going to be before you chose the school. And in the case of noble sons and daughters ... a wide breath of education was required to rule wisely, so all the arts were covered ... giving you a background in all the liberal arts." She paused for a moment to see if I understood.
"Okay, but what about now?"
"Now, most modern schools are based on either the training of citizens and the basic skills of knowledge -- basically up through high school -- and then trade schools prep you for a livelihood, colleges prep you for basic specialized knowledge and universities prep you for becoming a scholar of knowledge."
"So I am supposed to know what I want to be before I get to college?" I asked.
"Basically, yes. If you make a mistake, there is enough room to transfer ... but shopping for a career or major once you are enrolled is a bit like sitting down in a French restaurant and then discussing what kind of food you want .. chinese, italian, greek, american ... "
"That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense," I replied.
"I agree, And yet thousands of students do it every year. And panic ensues across campuses across the world when the deadline arrives to declare a major." The Wise Woman spread her hands in a gesture of .... was it regret?
"And even then, your teachers have no idea what you will do for a living, so the classes they teach and the knowledge they impart is very general ... the basics. Few help you master the doing of any job ... the essential skills you will need. They expose you to the major facts, theories, formulas and survey the noteworthy work previous done in your chosen field. But few teachers have real work experience, and so they can only share what they have in abundance ... And with the world of knowledge changing so fast, what is captured in textbooks becomes obsolete in five years."
"So I can give up any hope of finding my career in school?" I asked.
"Hmm. I would say instead, school is a framework to discover your career and what you love to do .... but for most people that is not the academic subjects taught in the classroom. It is a place to explore what intrigues you, inspires you and captures your interest. It is a place where everything* can be a touchstone, a sign to follow. But your teacher has no idea who in the classroom is going to turn into a scientist, a dancer, a lifeguard, a doctor, a news anchor or a computer programmer. The destiny of each of their students is a mystery unless the teacher or career counselor is good at spotting potential in their classroom."
She could see the look on my face.
"That doesn't mean schools are a waste of time. Schools teach a broad range of subjects so you are prepared for whatever your future holds. For example ...
If you end up becoming a sky diving instructor or an experimental test pilot, science class will come in handy since you will constantly working with the forces of lift, drag, and gravity in your work.
If you end up restoring art masterpieces or become an archeologist, history class will give you the basic knowledge you need to understand culture and social movements during different historical periods.
If you end up working as an accountant or architect, math class will be essential because you will be working with numbers all day long. Even Albert Einstein needed to know how to add, subtract in order to do calculus and express his theory of the universe in an equation.
"Once you get an idea, even a tiny inkling of what inspires you, you can start choosing the assignments classes and after school activities which allow you to explore them and figure out what is most relevant to your life. Some things will wear out, but others will not. And each offers a clue to the work you will love, excel at and find meaningful."
The Wise Woman smiled at me. "Finding great work is a treasure hunt. And knowing that is your first clue."
* = green language