This story was originally published on the Career & Professional Development Center’s blog, Peaks & Valleys.
Figuring out what career options may be right for you is an intimidating part of the journey. Asking for advice can be scary and overwhelming—sometimes you don’t know where to start—but opening conversations at home about career and professional journeys can be an enlightening and bonding experience.
Informational interviews about career paths can start at home with people who have already journeyed far and their advice may surprise you. Career advice from family may not always be up to date, applicable to you, or even accurate, but I think you can still glean some powerful lessons from them. When I sat down with my family I had an opportunity to grow closer to them and discovered more about them and myself, and because of that, I feel more supported and more confident in my path.
Here are some takeaways from my conversation with my family:
1. Take the Chance to Explore Before Choosing a Career
My mom has always believed in education as a gateway to opportunities. I watched her raise my brothers while pursuing her education and working full time. It took a lot of determination and late nights, but I saw what going to school did for her as her confidence and circumstances grew. Since, she has been able to provide for herself and our family better and was empowered by her education and training. My mom discovered that school is a place for discovery in newfound confidence and skills. She encourages me and other students to:
“Take the classes that sound interesting to you. Take that time to explore and decide if that is something you want to pursue… The cost of a class is cheap compared to a lifetime spent in a career you don’t enjoy.”
This advice can be extended to internships, informational interviews, study abroad programs, and other avenues which you might begin to delve into. This is our time to discover possible paths that we enjoy, and it is okay to choose a different route later down the road. It is also okay to investigate and embrace change, though it may be scary.
2. The Beaten Path is Not Always the Best Route
I’ve watched my oldest brother transition through a few different careers over the last couple of years, and I’ve admired his resolve to choose what is best for him and his family every time. He moved up in management at a company he spent almost a decade at, and he chose to step down when it wasn’t a good fit for him anymore. He was empowered by his choice, and I’ve marveled as he started a couple of small businesses and flourished in his endeavors and continued to network all the while, opening up even more opportunities he could pursue. The people he’s met and his ability to keep his best interests in mind has led him to success fueled by passion. His advice to us is to:
“Go for it! The career right for you may not look like the traditional 9 to 5 job. And if you can find a way to be your own boss, do it.”
Your path may be radical compared to some, but if it feels right, then embrace it.
Build a Life of Stability that Supports You as you Follow Your Dreams
My other brother (the younger of the two) has created a life for himself where he works to enjoy his life. Through his career, he has found stability and the means to indulge in his dreams, celebrate himself, and live in comfort. One of his passions is cars; he has bought and sold many nice sports cars, always trading in for another one to try out (and always has time to take his little sister for rides in them). I admire how hard he works to have the things he wants, and his advice is to:
“Create a career that is stable and supports your life and the things you want to do… Invest in a career that invests in you too.”
Life is more than our careers, so take time to foster your hobbies and passions. I think he gets some of this mentality from my dad.
My dad has been the picture of stability for me my whole life. He has worked at the same job for 20 years, he has a level head, and he gives good advice. I’ve listened to him talk about life lessons through the years, and even still, his career advice surprised me. He asked me:
“Do you have a passion? A dream? That is where you start… Money is not everything –don’t let that be your guide… Follow your heart. It will never let you down.”
If you ever needed a sign to go after what you want, regardless of what nay-sayers might be whispering, here it is:
Follow your dreams and your heart. Explore what options are there, especially the ones that scare you a little or options you never considered before. Enjoy the journey and learn more about yourself as you build a career and life that support one another. Invest in it and in yourself. Find what works for you.
And if you’re looking for someone to have a career conversation, try out your family members this holiday season. Take the chance to get closer to them and the life you want.