Why You Can't Judge Your Own Career Choices By Other People's Ideals
Just a couple of years ago, I was attempting to decide between staying in my safe, predictable, and somewhat monotonous full-time job or hitting the road in favor of pursuing a career as a freelance writer.
I’ve talked about that experience numerous times before. But, to summarize: It wasn’t an easy choice for me. As a matter of fact, it was something that I went back and forth on for months before finally gathering my courage and putting in my two weeks’ notice.
If you’re anything like me, when you’re weighing the pros and cons between two vastly different choices, you feel the overwhelming urge to talk everything to death. I’m one of those people who needs to verbalize my thoughts in order to adequately process them—which, as I’m sure you can imagine, meant I talked literally everybody’s ear off about my big, looming career decision.
It didn’t matter if you were one of my nearest and dearest friends or my cashier at Target. You were going to hear about the earth-shattering and life-altering leap I was debating making.
What did this result in (aside from a lot of confused stares from unsuspecting cashiers)? Well, a lot of advice and judgments. And, to be honest, a lot of it wasn’t great.
“I don’t know if I could work from home all day. I’d go crazy!” said one of my college friends who was so structured she had her morning routine timed down to the minute. “Ugh, just the thought of not having a steady paycheck and a predictable workload is enough to make me nauseous,” said another.
Of course, their concerns made perfect sense. But, this struck me as odd: The parts that they pointed out as the most cringe-worthy were actually two of the pieces I was looking forward to the most. Constantly chasing new projects and opportunities, all while wearing my pajamas? It was a dream for me, but apparently a nightmare for them.
Yes, sharing my potential plans with all sorts of different people taught me something important (aside from the fact that people are typically much more willing to offer criticism than compliments): Absolutely everybody has a completely different idea of what makes an awesome career. And, as a result, you need to take everybody else’s advice with a serious grain of salt.
We all get so wrapped up in the things we want, that it becomes almost impossible to imagine that anybody else could possibly ever want anything different. But, it happens—particularly when it comes to careers. We’re all unique.
For example, my husband heads into his office job day in and day out in order to stare at spreadsheets and run a bunch of complicated equations. To me? Well, that sounds like my own personalized slice of hell. But, to him? It’s his dream job—and I mean that completely seriously. He loves it.
That’s right—there’s no one-size-fits-all perfect career. And, as to be expected, we all let our own hopes, desires, dreams, and opinions color the advice and guidance that we give to others.
Maybe someone’s telling you that you shouldn’t chase that promotion, because it’ll only mean working longer hours—and who wants that? Perhaps a loved one is encouraging you to look for jobs closer to home, because there’s no way she could imagine moving that far away. Or, maybe a well-meaning cashier is giving you a judgmental look that says, “Hey, crazy lady. You really shouldn’t take the security of your full-time gig for granted.”
Whatever advice you’re on the receiving end of, it’s important to remember this: Those people undoubtedly have pure intentions when sharing their recommendations, but their guidance is always going to come tinged with just a little bit of personal bias. They’re seeing your life and your career through their lens. And, you? Well, you might have a totally different pair of glasses. You can’t judge your own career solely based on somebody else’s ideals.
So, while it’s definitely advisable to listen to—and even seriously consider—other people’s thoughts and opinions, don’t let those be the deciding factor when you’re making choices for yourself. In the end, everybody has varying career goals and completely different dream jobs. And—when it comes to finding yours—you’re the only one who will truly know what’s best.
Photo of person looking at city courtesy of d3sign/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author