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So Whose Life Is It?

Don't listen to your parents (one of the few times you shouldn't) -- pick your own career.

Barbara Reinhold

March 19, 2009

So Whose Life Is It?

Parents pay a lot for their children's college educations, and so they often feel they ought to help select their children's occupations. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it's in-your-face coercion.

In my experience, arranged careers almost never work out. If you're going into accounting, consulting or law school because your folks think that would be great for you rather than because you would love to do it, watch out: You're planting seeds for a mega midlife crisis!

There's no taking the path of least resistance for a good long-term result. You need to be getting experience now testing out various career options based on what feels right to you. And you'd better get good at that sorting-out process, because you'll do it many times during your adult life.

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Here's a quick quiz you can take to help you figure out whether the career(s) you're considering are really your own idea and well matched to the kinds of things you love to do. For each of the questions below, give a numerical response (1= no, not much; 5= yes, a great deal) that indicates how well this statement describes you and your thought processes. Just keep a running score on a separate piece of paper and then you can check back over the questions when you're finished.


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______ (1) The tasks required for this field really match what I love to do.

______ (2) My parents and I have talked about it, and they're willing to let me do whatever work I think I'd really like.

______ (3) I've tried an internship in this field, and I really liked it.

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______ (4) I've had several informational interviews with people in this field, and I like what they've told me about it.

______ (5) I've told my folks about this field or job, and they agree I'd be good at it.

______ (6) I found this career field by researching various possibilities.

______ (7) I can tell you several bad things about the field or job I'm considering, but I still think it would work for me because the good fit outweighs the problems.

______ (8) I've made it clear in discussions with family members and other advisors that this is a decision I need to make for myself.

______ (9) When I think about the things I love to do now and the things I dreamed about doing as a kid, it's obvious how this kind of work fits me.

______ (10) When I think of actually doing this work, I really get excited.

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Between 45 and 50: You're in great shape! Chances are you'll make terrific choices for yourself, this time and again throughout your working life.

35 to 44: Maybe you're not thinking for yourself enough, or maybe you're not doing your homework. Or you might not be having enough independent communication with family members about your choices. This career exploration thing doesn't just happen by itself.

Below 35: You're in trouble. Get yourself over to your career center as fast as possible, and sign on for whatever self-assessment activities they offer and a few counseling sessions to help you debrief them.

It's your life, so get busy planning it!

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