Choosing a career is one of the most stressful things in life. Not only are you expected to have your whole future mapped out ahead of you, you’re supposed to have all of this together by 5th Year so you know how many points you need to be aiming for in Leaving Cert. No pressure.
Often you’re faced with the task of being realistic. A career in the arts may sound like a dream, but as the banks so helpfully remind us; we cannot always live off of our dreams. So, when it comes to choosing a career path it can sometimes come down to a decision between your passion and your purse. How do you make that decision though?
PASSION OR PURSE
You are probably familiar with the career aptitude tests you can complete, designed to steer you down a particular path. Shortly before the end of the school year I filled one of these out in a career guidance class. The test, once completed, was supposed to identify the three career sectors most suited to you. To the surprise of absolutely nobody my top result was a profession in the journalism and media sector. This was followed by charity work and social work.
My next job was to investigate these areas to find out what they entailed. The breakdown of each career stood out as being professions I would be extremely interested in. What also stood out was that careers within these areas tended to be lower paid or – as detailed in the charity work sector- unpaid.
Neither the results of the test nor the results of the pay surprised me. I had always sought to pursue a career in journalism, even though I was aware of the lower pay in this sector. This had never really bothered me. I was hoping for a career that offered personal pride and recognition instead of one that garnered financial rewards. It did, however, get me thinking. At some point I will be completely dependent on myself. A profession in the arts has the potential to make this a great deal harder.
An arts career may sound glamorous and exciting but can I really sign myself up to a life of potentially living to pay-check to pay-check? A possible unreliable and irregular form of income. As someone who is academically capable in areas such as business should I not take the sensible approach and sign myself up for a far more stable career within the business sector?
MAKING A DECISION
The answer for me was always an easy one. It might be the romantic view of someone not yet weathered by years in the labour force, but I value my work over my wage. Other people may struggle to comprehend this but in the end, you must decide whether it is your interest or income that appeals to you the most.
If it is your interest, then continuously push yourself and seek out ways to build a career from it without worrying over what others believe. If it is your income, then work on achieving those results that will propel you to high flying jobs and salaries.
Financial reward has always been an afterthought for me (which gives you some idea as to my bank balance currently!) and it is for that reason that I will choose my dream job over dream lifestyle. However, if money is truly your biggest motivator then go for it. Find what fulfils you. For some people that is gaining wealth. For others fulfilment wears a very different appearance. Find the path that suits you and make your mark because no one else can do it quite like you.
CHOOSE FOR YOURSELF
Choosing a career is hard enough as it is. Between well-intentioned guidance websites, teachers, parents and friends it can sometimes feel as if everyone has an opinion regarding your future. But truthfully, it’s your career. It’s you that will have to work it for as long as you need. It will be you that has to find a way to survive off of your income. So, while I will leave the final decision up to you, I will offer this advice.
Be careful, not cynical.
Research your thoughts and plans but don’t let doubt or uncertainty prevent you from achieving your potential. Easier said than done, I know!
Think long and hard about all of the different sides to your career before making YOUR decision, but remember that this is not the only chance you have to pave your future. Yes, this stage in your life is one of the best times to decide on the approximate area you want to work in, but people change careers and jobs all the time.
Whether it is your passion or your purse that you ultimately decide on, focus on trying your best and see where it takes you