Every now and then, people ask me for career advice.  Or, you know.  They start complaining about their careers and I annoy them with unsolicited advice.  😉  Either way, my advice for choosing a career comes down to:

  1. Things you can do
  2. that people will pay you to do
  3. that don’t suck.

As a Venn Diagram, it looks like this:


(Sorry about the graphic. MS Paint FTW!)

You’d be surprised–or maybe you wouldn’t–by the resistance I get to this suggestion.  “Well, that’s fine for you because you’re in IT, but no one will pay me to sing opera/write poetry/play World of Warcraft/play ice hockey/go to Mars/etc.”

I didn’t specify that it had to be your lifelong dream.  I know that little children usually say they want to be an astronaut, or a ballerina, or write books, or be the President, and don’t generally say they want to be accountants or purchasers or write limericks about snack foods.  I just said a job that doesn’t suck.  Apparently, many people believe that if it doesn’t suck, no one will pay them to do it.  Not true!

Lots of people settle for two out of three.  (Things you can do that people will pay you to do is the only viable two out of three.  You can do things you can do that don’t suck for no money if you’re independently wealthy, or you can try to do things that don’t suck that pay well but that you’re ill-suited to doing.  For most people, neither of those will last long.)  Of course, you need to eat, but I always urge people to go for three out of three.

So, if you’re someone who’s considering a transition–like someone I know–think of the Venn diagram when you’re doing your research.  Don’t invest a lot of time and energy into moving into a high-paying direction you hate, or a high-unemployment and/or low-paying direction.  They pay some people to play ice hockey, but if you’re 45 and have bad knees it probably won’t be you.  That doesn’t mean your life has to suck.  There are alternatives.

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