We’ve all been asked that question from time to time.
When I was a kid, I can remember telling everyone that I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player. And if that didn’t work out, I wanted to be a singing cowboy like Gene Autry.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that those career choices weren’t realistic for me. I found out that my baseball skills were limited after playing Little League baseball. And being a cowboy wasn’t going to work because I couldn’t carry a tune.
I had to set my sights on more realistic goals. The problem was that I was conflicted with too many choices.
As many of you are aware, I worked 37 years in the newspaper business. But I can’t say that was my first career choice. Although I was sports editor of my high school newspaper, I wasn’t convinced that working on a newspaper was I wanted to do the rest of my life.
My high school aptitude test did reveal that I was best suited to be a printer, a newspaper-related occupation. I’m not sure how I scored so well in that occupation. I suppose it had something to do with working on the high school newspaper.
Unsure of what I wanted to do following high school graduation, I joined the Navy, looking for adventure — and even a possible career. It didn’t take very long to figure out that a career in the military wouldn’t work for someone with a rebellious attitude.
After my discharge (honorable, of course) , I chose to work for Ford Motor Co. on the assembly line, building Mustangs. It was hard work, but it paid well. My mother wanted me to make a career of working for Ford.
But the yearning to find the right career choice still gnawed at me. After three years — and at the age of 24 — I decided to go to college. Even then, I was torn between a career as a journalist and a career as a social worker.
I finally settled on being a journalist. The rest is history.
Many of us have gone through similar career paths. We may have dreams as kids, but we have to be realistic about our goals.
Some, though, have their career chosen by circumstances. My father worked in the coal mines and steel mills. He had a family to support and needed the money. It also turned out that he was good at what he did.
My wife, Marilyn, whose parents were teachers, went to college to become a teacher. She did teach for a few years in Texas, but she became a stay-at-home mom after the birth of our first child.
Later, when she decided to re-enter the workforce, Marilyn ended up working at Loutit District Library, a job she thoroughly enjoys.
I know of several people who had career changes at middle age. One person decided he wanted to become an attorney after his children graduated from high school.
Yes, there are kids who are destined to follow their parents’ careers, especially if it is a family-owned business. Parents want their sons and daughters to continue their businesses.
Career choices are more complicated these days for young people. The job market has changed dramatically. Blue collar jobs are going by the wayside. More technical skills are required. Computer knowledge, of course, is imperative.
Even my profession has changed quite a bit. Journalism students have become better-rounded in their skills. Not only do students need to be able to write and report, they must know how to take photographs and videos, and be able to design pages.
Today’s students indeed face different market needs. Employers are seeking young workers with specialized skills that meet their needs.
Yes, choosing a career is a lot different now. But young workers shouldn’t be afraid to pursue their dreams — even though those dreams may change at any time.
— BY LEN PAINTER