“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
― John Lennon
Semantics, semantics. Obviously, the question should have been “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Or maybe John Lennon’s elementary school teachers did identify themselves as “being” their profession — I guess it all goes back to the question that bedevils me from time to time: do I want a job or do I want a career? I think that you do the former, while you are more likely to become the job in the latter. Like Lennon, I want to be happy. He was lucky enough to discover at an early age what he could do to make himself happy — and to be good enough at it that he could turn it into a paying gig. For others, that connection is more problematic — it’s almost seen as a luxury to have a job/career that pays enough to live on that also hits all of the pleasure points in your brain.
I know that I’m not alone in wondering what I really want to be when I grow up. Sometimes I think having a joe job that costs me little in mental energy at work — so that I can go home with my creative faculties intact, the better to produce the Great Canadian Novel — is exactly what I’m looking for. But man, joe jobs are boring. I have written before about my perennial search for a job that will use my transferable skills outside of media. One of the things I did was talk (very informally) to a guidance counsellor who took me through some of her tests to determine possible fields where I could find work — it was an interesting exercise, but many of the jobs available would have required further education to earn the credentials. I don’t particularly want to return to school right now (and when I do, for once I want to study something that interests me outside of its ability to help me find a job); there are others doing the same soul-searching as I am who don’t have the financial security to take that kind of time to study — and who find the idea of hitting the job market as an inexperienced newbie at the age of 50 somewhat daunting.
So, what is to be done? I think the key here is to focus, to do a thorough, honest inventory of your skills. If you’re like me, you’ll find this impossible to do on your own — some abilities I take for granted are amazing to other people. Going through a third party is really helpful here; a trained counsellor knows how to push you to get to the nub of the matter. If there’s an employment office nearby, I’d advise you to go there, use them and their tools to narrow down the areas where you should be looking.
There are also a kazillion websites offering some of the tests a guidance counsellor would (if not the one-on-one guidance), including this one at about.com, and Service Canada also has a number of tools on this website, as well as these links to help you find career counsellors. Check with the reference librarian at your local library to find more.
If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for as a career, it’s worth it to talk to a counsellor, or take some of these tests to come up with an honest snapshot of what you can do and where you’re willing to do it. It’ll be a heckuva lot easier to find what you’re looking for if you know what it looks like.