How Did You Choose Your Career?

I’ve been involved in a couple of job searches recently (not looking for one personally, but on hiring committees), and it got me thinking: how do people end up doing what they do for work? How do you go from high school to a 40 hour/week job?

For me, it all came down to a fairly random set of circumstances. I had come back from my mission, and I was back at BYU. I needed a job, because money. My sister had gotten a job at the BYU library, and she suggested I work in her department, because it was a good job and paid well. I applied and was hired.

Up until that point, it wasn’t like I’d had this life long urge to be a librarian. The “paid well” part of what my sister told me appealed to me far more than the “good job” part. The BYU Periodicals Department paid something like $8.30/hour, which at the time was one of the best paying jobs on campus.

That job got me a job at Orem Public Library while I was getting my Masters in English. I enjoyed it, but I still didn’t really view it as a Career until my plans for going to get a PhD in English grew shaky. So when the outlook became precarious, I began reevaluating things I had been doing. Lo and behold, I discovered plenty of people don’t just work at libraries as a stop gap. They work there as a Career. I applied to a Library Science program at Florida State and got my degree.

Even then, I wasn’t sure what kind of librarian I wanted to be: academic or public. I double majored to prep for both. I’d worked in both types, and I liked both types. I applied for Young Adult librarian positions and Academic librarian positions. I got offers in academia before I got offers in the public area.

And here I am.

So as I take a step back and look at things, a lot of different factors had to come together for me to end up where I am. That could lead me to think this whole Career thing is pretty random. Except I had done other things before I became a librarian. I had worked at McDonalds, read gas meters, been a writing tutor, taught Freshman English, been a missionary for two years, and interned in Public Relations. I’d dabbled in computer programming, tried writing books, played instruments, done drama, worked at the school paper, and taken a slew of classes in different subjects. I’d majored in linguistics and English.

At any point in time, any one of those other paths could have sparked an interest in me. If I hadn’t enjoyed working at the library, I would have quit. Money only gets you so far when it comes to a job. If you’re miserable, you start looking elsewhere. What I mean to say is that it’s easy to look at the path I took and think it was a series of happenstance, but I think once you take into account all the different ways I could have done something else, it comes more into focus.

Choosing a career (for me, at least) boiled down to being drawn to a particular area over time. Deciding to major in English instead of physics (my second choice, believe it or not). Quitting reading gas meters to return to the BYU Periodicals Department, even though it meant a substantial cut in pay. Over time, I eventually honed in on something I enjoyed and excelled at. If libraries hadn’t worked out, I would have kept on searching.

Taken in that light, I think it makes sense to dabble as much as you can in your early years. Try a wide variety of things. Ditch what you don’t like, and stick to what you do.

But that’s just my path. I’m curious: how did you arrive in your current career?

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