There are seven reasons people choose their jobs, says Alvin Hall, personal finance expert and author of You and Your Money: It’s More Than Just the Numbers. See which ones influenced your decision and if they still apply today, because when you do work that reflects your deepest inclinations and interests, you are likely to be more successful in every sense, including financially.
Are you perfectly happy with your work? If you are, congratulations. But if you’re like most people, you probably wonder from time to time whether there isn’t something better out there for you. If so, one way to start thinking about better options is to trace the path that led you to the work you currently do.
What made you choose (or fall into) your current occupation? For most people, the answer is likely to be some combination of the following seven factors. Read the list, and decide which factors were most important in choosing your present job and which were least important at the time you made your job choice. Rank them in order from 1 (most important) to 7 (least important).
- Family expectations. Many people feel they were “steered” by their parents or other relatives into a particular line of work. Maybe your parents pushed you toward the same career they followed, or toward some career they perceived as prestigious, important, or lucrative (physician, lawyer, executive…). Or maybe you gravitated toward a certain job simply because, from an early age, you were told repeatedly that you were suited to that work (“Look at Tommy with those toy bricks! He’s sure to be a builder someday”).
- Social pressures. Careers go in and out of fashion. In the 1970s, when crusading journalists became famous for exposing government scandals, young people by the thousands gravitated toward work in the news media. In the 1980s, computer programming and systems development were the rage. In the 1990s, everybody seemed to be pursuing an MBA degree. Maybe you chose a particular line of work, in part, because so many of your friends were headed that way.
- Education. Many people study a subject in school that leads naturally toward a career path. And they may wind up following that path despite the fact that their deepest inclinations, interests, and abilities lie elsewhere. (After all, the educational choices you made in your late teens or early twenties may have been ill-informed, or you may simply have changed in the years since then.)
- Desire for income. Money, of course, is an important motivating factor in almost every career choice. So when the press, school counselors, and career “experts” periodically trumpet particular industries or lines of work as being “hot,” “in demand,” “sure to grow,” and especially “the most lucrative,” many young people with no fixed plans or strong desires drift toward them. (Of course, predictions about which careers will be most lucrative tend to be self defeating, since anytime a flood of people enters an industry, competition for jobs is likely to depress salaries.)
- Desire for security. People who are not very ambitious may opt for careers they perceive as “secure” — that is, not competitive, slow-to-change, undemanding, and offering lifetime employment (though at a relatively modest salary). Many people view government work and jobs in staid industries like insurance and utilities in this light.
- “Fire in the belly.” Some people choose careers because of a deep-seated personal interest, a passion that makes everything about the particular line of work seem interesting, important, and rewarding. And because human beings are so varied in their intellects and temperaments, it seems that almost every occupation holds this kind of attraction for someone. We all know people who are passionately devoted to careers in the arts: aspiring musicians, actors, dancers, writers, and painters. But there are other people who feel just as strongly about their jobs as accountants, pharmacists, schoolteachers, bus drivers, hotel managers, and carpenters. Thank heaven! Since, as the saying goes, it takes all kinds to make a world.
- Sheer chance. Finally, some people drift into jobs by sheer chance. A friend from school offers them a job; they spot a “Help Wanted” flyer posted in a store window; desperate for money, they respond to the first advertisement they find in the newspaper. In many cases, jobs chosen on this basis last just a few months; occasionally, people end up sticking with them for life, just as one sometimes encounters happily married couples who met on a blind date.
What does your 1 to 7 ranking say about your work history? What combination of motives underlies your current career choice? None of the factors listed above is necessarily good or bad in itself; a job you chose, in part, because of parental guidance or social pressure may lead to a perfectly satisfying career. But as time passes, motivations that once seemed important may lose their significance, while other factors gain meaning. What is your current evaluation of the job decisions you made in the past? Did you choose your career for strong and compelling reasons, or largely by accident?
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s important to understand why you are where you are, and to decide whether the underlying reasons for your present career path seem adequate and sensible to you today. This understanding can help you prepare to base your next career decision on factors that truly reflect the things that matter most to you. And as experience and observation show, when you do work that reflects your deepest inclinations and interests, you are likely to be more successful in every sense, including financially.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alvin Hall, author of You and Your Money: It’s More Than Just the Numbers (Copyright © 2008 by Alvin Hall), has been training and counseling a wide range of financial service companies and institutions in the United States and around the world for the last twenty years. He lives in New York City.
MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
- 7 Steps to Owning Your Money Decisions — Even When Others Think You’re Being Cheap
- What Is Your Relationship to Cash? 3 Money Scenarios That Are Crucial to Getting Your Financial House in Order
- Read Chapter 1 of You and Your Money
- See the book’s Table of Contents
- Watch the video: Alvin Hall talks about art, walking in New York, and his book