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Your self-directed employment assistant

Choosing a career is the hardest and least critical choice of your professional life. Let me explain. Undoubtedly, we have all been asked from a young age “what do you want to be when you grow up?” This is likely even a question you are struggling with today. Whether you are in high school taking personality tests to find your career match, being hounded by your career services advisor to declare a major or even if you are a seasoned professional, you probably still wrestle with how to approach and distinguish your individual career goals. There are two approaches to these decisions that I will provide you with: “plan” or “just do stuff.” Oddly enough, I argue that the best thing you can do for your career is to be proactive, or in other words, just do stuff! Let me explain the two approaches.

The planning approach can be best summarized by Benjamin Todd in this lecture. I found this video in my own search for “what to do with my life.” It probably appealed to me because I too was a philosophy major, which, in case you don’t know, is not a ticket to a booming employment industry. In Todd’s career quest he ended up founding a business that helps people find their careers. He argues that we often choose our careers by our interests but that we should instead “do what is valuable.” In other words, he finds our interests do not fulfill us and that we should instead focus on becoming good at something that is meaningful, and that this altruistic goal will then seamlessly become our interest over time. He gives the advice that one should go out and explore the world, develop skills and focus on addressing pressing social problems. This is sound advice, but to put this much emphasis on planning makes the choice itself even less attainable.

The second approach is best summarized by another video I came across in my career quest where Daniel Pink compares career choices to writing an essay. For me, the hardest part of writing is putting the first words on a blank page, but once I get going I am able to adjust, improve on ideas that did not work, and eventually come to a point where I am satisfied with the finished product. In writing we oftentimes take an approach of defining the thesis, constructing an outline and finally execution. He argues sometimes it is best to just “write until you figure it out,” and in your career it is best to act even if your choices do not instantly put you in your ideal career. This is preferable to being stricken by a fear of failure that prevents you from beginning or falsely believing your first choice is your last. By taking the pressure off ourselves to make the perfect first step, we make it easier on ourselves to actually begin figuring it out.

As people with disabilities, we have even more to factor in with our career choices. You might argue that this necessitates a plan to navigate the complexities that your particular condition presents, such as the setting of your work or the reputation your industry has for accommodating disabilities. These questions must undoubtedly be addressed on top of questions pertaining to what will fulfill you personally. However, this should not distract you from the simple fact that none of these questions will matter if you are too afraid of mistakes to act. So, I ask you to dare to make your life easier and just do stuff! You’ll figure it out.

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Tags: Career, advice, choices, failure, fear, fulfillment, interests, planning, success, writing

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Comment by Erika J. Kluge on June 7, 2018 at 12:48am

Great information Joel! There are so many choices and youth often don't have any idea by the time they approach graduation from high school. I also find schools are not uniform in the information they provide for transition plans. Many promote the college only path, yet there are great options for technical training and jobs as well. 

Comment by Adrienne Kleinman on May 16, 2018 at 12:40am

I can relate to all of THIS. As an individual with a disability myself, I often will get hung up on the details of applying to a job, including but not limited to: the bathroom situation, the accessibility of my potential workspace, the company culture in regards to flexibility, the workload, and the list keeps going on. I have the utmost faith in myself, but when I'm faced with a new work venture I am known to spiral out of sheer panic from the unknown. Thank you for reminding me, and all of us, that the best way to find out what works is to just try. I needed to hear that!

Comment by Great Lakes ADA Center on May 15, 2018 at 7:44am

Great advice Joel and I agree.  I once had a professor say just keep doing stuff you like and it will lead you the direction of a career.  We have a employment tip video on Punch-In on "analysis paralysis"  which I think sums up your view point. It's great to think and plan, but at some point action is required.  And mistakes happen, not everything may turn out perfectly, but it's all information you can use for the next project.  Thanks for the great post!

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