Would You Choose The Same Career Again?

would people choose the same career?Now that I’ve hit the big 4-0, having that birthday has given me a chance to reflect back over the last couple of decades, especially with career and financial choices. Career is topic of conversation with friends around my own age. Recently, I was talking with a teacher friend of mine who has about the same number of years in education as Jim, meaning about half way through to pension eligibility. At this point, it makes no sense to leave her job or move somewhere else, but she is very convinced that if she knew then what she knows now, she would have never gone into education and cannot encourage young people into that career choice. For me and optometry, it depends on the day of the week you ask. Whether you are just starting out or about to finish, it makes sense to continually evaluate your career choice to make sure you’re making the best use of your time. Would you choose the same career again?

Why Do People Choose a Certain Career Path?

I’m sure there are a ton of variables, but in my opinion I think career choice is due to one of three reasons.

1)Your family influenced you toward a certain path. Maybe they didn’t force you at gunpoint, but if both parents were engineers and you were always pointed in that direction, it makes sense that you’d choose to an engineer.

2)You do what you love. These are the people who wholeheartedly pursue a job that is close to their heart, regardless of wheter it might pay the bills. This type personality might also go to their dream college, even if if means racking up lots of debt to get there.

3)You are practical. You want to choose a career that will meet your needs whether those are financial, include benefits, or offers the promise of flexibility and time off.

I think in my case, it was a combination of #1 and #3. My family never told me to be an optometrist, but they required strongly encouraged me to go to college. I also wanted a job in health care that I knew would pay well without my having to be on call all the time. If I’d done what I loved at the time, I would have majored in English literature.

Why Do People Burn Out?

I think with just about any career, people start out thinking they are really going to make a difference. Over time, you realize that maybe you’re just a cog in the wheel. This is especially apparent when your employer doesn’t seem to value or even notice your efforts. Why try harder, when you can do the minimum and still get paid the same?

In my case, I think I tried to do too much for too long. I didn’t have a boss, but I tried very hard to make everyone happy while running myself into the ground along the way.

-Industries change. Perhaps the career you chose has had major changes since you started. There are jobs being outsourced all the time. You are expected to work harder for the same or less money. After the recession, we know that no job is 100% secure.

-Values change. At age 25, my career was more important. At age 35, my family was.

-You have too much debt. Working to make the minimum payments to fund a lifestyle you can’t afford will make anyone burn out eventually.

How Can I Be Happy With My Career?

In two words: CHOOSE WISELY

-If you know you’ll never make more than $35,000/year, you have to adjust your lifestyle to that amount of income. A private school education and leased BMW are not in your future.

-Find happiness elsewhere. If happiness is tied to your job, it’s rare that you’ll maintain that throughout your career. Even people who claim to love their job are often looking forward to the weekend. If you are happy otherwise, showing up for work is much more rewarding. If you work so much that you are missing out on what makes you happy, then it’s time for a change, or at least a plan to make the change at some point in the future. Happiness might mean working and saving really hard for ten years  and then doing something else entirely.

-Live within your means. Being in debt ties your hands.

Would I Choose The Same Career Again?

After talking to my friend who would in no way be a teacher again, I sat down and thought about what I would have chosen if I knew at age 18 what I know now.

Health care has changed dramatically from how it was when I started college. More and more, doctors choices are dictated by insurance plans and what they cover instead of what you think might work best for the patient.

School did not prepare me at all for running a business. All the medical knowledge and skill in the world does not pay the electric bill.

Lifestyle inflation is a black hole that seems bigger the more money you make. If I could have avoided that from the beginning, it would have been a lot easier.

So after weighing all those factors, I think I would pick an optometry career again. I would, however, work harder at paying off student loans quickly, and I would have maxed out my retirement from the beginning. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I spent 8 years in school to do what I do, so I have no desire to start over again in another career. After cutting back my work schedule and selling my practice, I’m starting to remember why I liked this job in the first place. It went missing for a while as the stress of debt and not being able to afford a future took over. I’m certainly not defined by my job, but it allows me to have the things I need and want, so I’m pretty grateful.

Would you pick the same career again? Why did you choose your profession?


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  1. My answer would be a huge “HELL NO!!” I chose my career because I kind of fell into it when I took a video production class in high school. I liked being creative, and since I failed at trying out for school plays I thought behind the scenes work would be a second best. So that just sort of carried on through college. I think I liked it well enough, but back then I could have never predicted that you can do this from your home as a hobby now (read my guest post at Frugal Rules on Friday). Back when I started it was still tape to tape editing in a huge room full of expensive equipment. My field is very often unsteady and can be unforgiving as far as hours and people you work with. You CAN make a ton of money, but I’m almost at the point I don’t care because I’m so over it. If I could go back I’d choose something like sports medicine or some kind of preventative health care or working with athletes. For me I have to be creative in my life, but I get that fix with glorified hobbies like blogging. I’m really happy to hear though that you would choose your career over again!

    1. As another creative, I am also a little conflicted. The practical answer for me would be a NO – higher earning potential and stability would certainly be nice – but I think I would still go with YES as my skills and passions lie in this field, and I just don’t know what else I would be suited to. If someone could come up with a more practical and marketable path for me, personally, I’d definitely consider it.

  2. It’s hard for me to think back that far and project into a hypothetical, what-if situation. So much of who I am today is based on the career path I chose. I’m not sure I would want my life to turn out any differently. However, knowing what my passions are now I would have probably gone into a finance related field – perhaps financial counselor or planner. That profession was not on my radar at age 18 (as weren’t a great many things.)

  3. Good question Kim! I look back at my college years and largely picked what I was interested in – history. While I enjoyed it, the job prospects…yea, not so much. I likely would go back and choose something business related or started working for myself earlier in life. That said, I believe that my experiences so far have helped bring some success and more willingness to roll with the punches, so it’s not all bad I guess. 🙂

  4. I don’t know what I’d choose if I’d get a do over. Probably a career like teaching now that I know I need pretty little to live, I chose the money making path and got an early exit which is pretty cool too but I enjoy teaching and could do it way longer than my years in big companies.

  5. I would NOT!
    I took Drama in school because it was easy… I never put any thought into what career it would lead to, and even worse I never had the “acting bug” that most theatre/arts people have. I just got good grades with minimal effort, and earned a Honours Bachelor of Arts without any stress. I ended up working at a live theatre company for 4 years and it only made me “hate” theatre more.
    Although I’m very happy with where my life is now, I do regret the 10+ years I spent under the Theatre Career umbrella.

  6. I’ve read that people in my generation can expect to have about 6 career in their lifetimes, so I’m not too concerned if I’ll want to re-invent myself in a decade. Even if you chose a very vocational education-into-career like your examples, there are ways to translate your experience elsewhere. You’ve run a business as well as been an optometrist so you could run another type of business if you wanted to.

  7. This is a tough question. I am an engineer and when I was trying to decide on a career I wanted to make lots of money. I was good at math and science so engineer or accountant sounded like a good idea. I chose engineering because it paid more and sounded better as a job title. So young and naive! Most days I like my job but when you work in a hazardous environment I think to myself that I should have gone into accounting. Also I think I would have like the financial side of things more but my current job has a lot of stability and pays well so I don’t regret my decision. I’m 50/50 on if I would choose a different career if I could to back in time.

  8. I choose finance because I had an interest in business and it seemed to be the most practical skill-set related to business. If I could go back and start all over again I would probably have pursued an accounting degree instead of finance or had gone down the entrepreneurship route earlier than I am now. Another option would have been to get a computer science degree because technical skills are really in-demand and I enjoy that side of the business. I guess my answer is I’m not 100% sure 😉

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