Imagine completing a 4 year degree, landing a great job with a great starting salary, and realizing, after a year or so of working, that you do not like the profession that your degree prepared you for.
This happened to me.
Imagine switching to a new profession, earning a master’s degree in that profession while working during the day and attending school at night, and earning great money in the new profession. Then imagine that you come to the conclusion that you did not like the profession that your master’s degree prepared you for either.
This happened to me too.
I repeated this a few times more, going into a new job and new industry for a few years at a time, only to find myself bored, exhausted, and needing to switch careers again. And keep in mind I was lucky at this time to be fully employed and making money while I tried to figure it out.
Why Was I So Directionless?
After so many years of this I began to feel that perhaps I was crazy or maybe looking for something that didn't exist. My journey reminded me of a passage of text from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
The Cheshire Cat replies:
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where--"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go."
I realized what I had been doing was simply distracting myself running down different career paths without taking the time to find out what it was I was really good at and actually enjoyed doing.
Realization At Last
By the time I was 38 years old, I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” It only took me 16 years in the work place after college to get there. At that point, I realized I could have bypassed many years of trial, error and frustration if I had understood my natural strengths in the first place. Focusing on my strengths would have allowed me to get on my path much sooner.
I Am Not the Only One
What I've realized through the years is that there are plenty of Alices and Mad Hatters running around wonderland clueless about where we should be going. Taking many years to “figure it out” is more the norm rather than the exception.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Gaining an understanding of your strengths and interests early on in life can change everything! Students will get better grades both in high school and in college, they'll be able to graduate on time and with purpose, and best of all, they'll wake up every morning with the satisfying knowledge that they are doing exactly what it is they most want to be doing.
There is no question that interests and career paths may continue to change as students develop and grow. But picking a direction early means less time wandering around in the dark wasting their time becoming "less worse" at things they don't even enjoy. They will free up more time to their energy at pursuits they are good at and excited about.
Or they could follow the standard path of wandering around wonderland trying to "find themselves" while racking up tons of student debt.
I like to think of a future career as the “destination” and the choices we make in terms of colleges and majors is “the journey.” If a student starts by figuring out their strengths, they already begin to know what their “destination” might look like. And just as important, what their “destination” will not look like.
Want to try it yourself? Learn about our Advisor Tools.
In the words of Lewis Carroll, get "curiouser and curiouser!"