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Don't Let Money Lead

Don't Let Money Lead

Following the money isn't always the best approach when picking a career.

By Peter Vogt, MonsterTRAK Career Coach

March 19, 2009

One MonsterTRAK member writes: “I’m just wondering: What is a good field to go into after college? I’m in my first year of college and have changed my major twice. I want to make at least $90,000 a year and will do just about anything that doesn’t involve a lot of math. Could you give me some options?”

These words are troubling. The person who wrote them seems intent on choosing his future career based entirely on one variable: Money. Sadly, if he goes ahead with this strategy, he’ll almost certainly wind up disappointed.

The issue isn’t the moral one: “Money is the root of all evil.” It’s actually a very practical one: There’s much more to your career choice than money, and what seems like a high-paying career path now may not turn out that way.

Slippery Salaries

The salary numbers you see online are median figures, meaning half of the people working in the field earn less than that figure. And of course, whenever you’re reading about the financial future of a particular career, you’re dealing with predictions, not known facts. Just ask one of the thousands of newly disenchanted recent grads who decided to major in an information technology-related field when they began school in 1999 or 2000, thinking it would lead to instant, high-paying jobs when they graduated in 2003 or 2004.

But forget about the money for a moment. What about:

Your Interests?

Many of those 1999 and 2000 IT majors mentioned above had little or no true interest in information technology. They simply saw dollar signs when they made their initial career decisions, not to mention what seemed like boundless opportunity.

Now many are struggling to find jobs and doing so with an additional burden: They’re not all that excited about the prospect of actually succeeding in their IT-related job search.

Don’t make the same mistake. Choosing a career because you think the money will be great, even though you are not really interested in the field, is a recipe for boredom or worse — clinical depression, for example. Making a choice this way will cost you a great deal in the long run.

Your Abilities and Skills?

It doesn’t get any more practical than this: If you choose a career for the money but don’t have the abilities and skills to do the job, you won’t hold that job for very long, assuming you even land one in the first place.

Good-bye, money. And hello to lots of wasted time and effort spent on your too-short career or too-long job search.

Your Values?

You may discover that your high-paying career requires you do things you’d rather not be doing, things that even keep you awake at night. Will an 80-hour-a-week job clash with your home life? Will your job force you to compromise your integrity, self-respect or even play games with the law? The courts are filled with highly paid executive defendants and less highly paid witnesses to their transgressions. Is being in either role worth it to you?

Your Personality?

If you’re a shy, introverted person who needs a lot of peaceful alone time, money won’t buy you peace and quiet when your job forces you to schmooze with strangers for 50 or 60 hours a week. If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type and your job calls for excruciating attention to detail plus outstanding organizational skills, how long will your paycheck sustain your psychological health, assuming you can keep performing the tasks?

There was a TV commercial a while back featuring an auto mechanic trying to convince a customer to invest in a small, inexpensive repair now to avoid a much more costly one down the road. “You can pay me now, or pay me later,” the mechanic says.

Consider the long-term implications of your career choices. Selecting a career based solely on the promise of big money now may be a short-term decision that can lead to a lengthy and costly career change later.

This article originally appeared on MonsterTRAK.


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