A Young Person's Dilemma: Readers, Can You Advise Him?

At the Legacy Project, we sometimes receive questions from readers seeking wisdom about decisions they are making. Often, they are trying to apply the advice from the book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans to their own lives. But of course, that book can’t deal with every specific situation, and sometimes we take their questions to you, our readers – and you have always come through!

Do you have any advice for this student who is making a difficult career choice? Please let him know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Dear Legacy Project:

First off all, thank you for your book “30 Lessons for Living.”  It has helped me out as a 22 year old! If you do not mind, I have a question regarding that topic and would greatly appreciate a response!

I am curious as to one of the lessons in the book: choosing a career for intrinsic rather than financial rewards. I totally agree. However, I am in a dilemma. I am thinking of pursuing a field which many people around me (family, some friends) consider to be “not worth it” due to job outsourcing of industrial jobs, instability of job market (for example, lay-offs in the industry I would be working in), and rather low pay. Simply googling the field I’m considering will bring up many discouraging, negative posts talking about how it is not worth it and is a bad decision for both academia and industry!

 My reasons for pursuing that field are simply that I love it very much. The passion is there. Do you believe that the experts would still persuade me to follow such a path given the risks? Or would they say that one can develop new passions?

A career advice you do not mind giving me would be very greatly appreciated!

Okay readers: You thoughts?

4 thoughts on “A Young Person's Dilemma: Readers, Can You Advise Him?

  1. Dear Student,

    Firstly, my compliments on a very cogent and well-written letter. With today’s frenetic emails, twitters and tweets, thoughtful writing has quickly become a casualty of our times.

    I envy you in certain respects. My life’s passion began at a very young age and abruptly ended, not by my choice, when I was twenty-one. At your age, I was floundering, with no idea what to do with the rest of my life. I was lucky and by several random coincidences, proceeded to have a very successful life by most standards.

    I never did quite regain that “fire-in-the-belly” that you appear to possess. Without knowing the specifics of your chosen path – such as industry, environment, logistics, economics, geography etc – it’s difficult to give you much concrete advice.

    However, I would say, if you are relatively free of responsibilities and financial burdens, that you give it a shot. Follow your dream because now is perhaps not just the best but only time you can “afford” to do so. Yes, it is possible to develop a new passion but, if you’re already lucky enough to have one, why not pursue it? It would seem that you should be able to assess your future potential within a relatively reasonable period of time – perhaps a year or so.

    There are few things more unsettling and self-defeating than a lifetime of wondering, regretting, and second-guessing if one made a mistake rather that taking the bull by the horns and finding out. I realize this is much more easily said than done but I can speak from a fair degree of personal experience. It seems like only a few years ago that I was where you are now. Time goes really fast; to paraphrase an old maxim – ” …Better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all”.

    I also feel somewhat unqualified to advise a young person in today’s economy which is so vastly different than in 1963 when I was your age. However I am more than happy to discuss this with you in more detail if you would like.

    Good luck and my very best wishes for success in whatever path you decide to pursue.

    Bob Abate

    Yonkers, NY


  2. Perhaps considering related fields of work might help.

    I painted as a hobby, and enjoyed reading about home

    design. In my very late working career, I was assigned

    the task of drawing houses on a computer program.

    Somehow, it all came together, and I really enjoyed it.

    I hope you find your way.

  3. I am in my mid-fifties. I have a brother in his late fifties. I have friends between 35 and 75. I often hearthe expression “I STILL don’t know what I want to do when I grow up”.

    Reality is, if you knew all you wanted to do or be at 22 I would be shocked, and sad for you.

    At this point in my life I can tell you that in H.S. I wanted to be a veterinarian, and truck driver because I loved animals, wanted to travel, and wanted my own business. My plan was to open a large animal mobile pet hospital.

    I got my truck driving license. My stomach let me know I wasn’t going to be a veterinarian or a doctor early on.

    My next desire was to be a lawyer, not so I could practice, but so I understood the law well enough to use it in business. The business of animal care. People told me I was nuts to spend all that money and time on law school and not practice. They were wrong.

    Today I still want very much to attend law school. I realize now that the law is so much a part of everything and its a “ticket” to just about anything you want to do in life. I became very discouraged with the law along my path, and discovered mediation. I love it. I believe in it. You can practice mediation without a law degree, but your career options are very limited as is the compensation. If you want to make money in mediation, you best also have a law degree.

    My place to comfort has always been my bicycle. Now later in life…I find that I have become very involved in the world of health and wellness. I actually have thought about going back to school for chiropractic medicine. Only a few years ago, I became a personal trainer.

    Earlier this month (June 1st) I lost my father at the age of 89. I recall my father in the midst of his life contemplating career changes including opening an ice cream shop, or a movie theater. He actually started college intent on being a doctor. Went into the service and came out and went to Journalism school. Later he became involved in Public Relations.

    At twenty two you have time, not as much as some might suggest, not as little as you feel. I would say this….you are wise to ask questions, and you should be concerned about compensation in a field you are looking to work in. Its easier to change careers when you can “afford to”. But it should not be the deciding factor.

    At the same time, I would also advise you to follow your passion, but caution you not to be lost in that passion. Its nice to eat and have a roof over your head, and work in a chosen field, not just look for work in it.

    So…Veterinarian, truck driver, lawyer, personal trainer…. Around twenty five years of age, I became intrigued with the business of hot air ballooning. Everyone thought I was nuts. I wasn’t sure they weren’t right. But I had reached a point of not caring….so I launched into it. I scraped up the money to get my license, and eventually a balloon. Within a few short years I had built a sizable business that was not only supporting me, but others as well. It was wonderful and it afforded me the option to consider what next.

    That would be my point….whatever you do at twenty two or beyond: Be passionate about it, but also be sure it will enable you to do whatever is going to be next in your life.

    Good luck. Good life.

    Regardless of what you do, always be consciously open to as much that is around you as possible. Passions change, people change, careers change.

  4. Some fields are not worth pursuing at a university if the career path doesn’t pay a reasonable living wage or offer enough possibilities of employment.. Our society demands very specific knowledge or training now, mostly in business or the sciences. A passion can be satisfied via other means–as an avocation. Prime examples of such fields of “passion” would be painting, music or other “arts.” Graduates in these fields face years of regrouping and/or further education at some point–most must settle for jobs outside their passion. They are often disappointed upon graduation that there is no job availability in the areas of their passion. We know this because my husband is an art professor at a major university. He has witnessed such disappointments for many years.

    My advice to to obtain training in an acceptable field that will pay the bills and then to pursue your passion in other ways.

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