Today’s Topic: How careers have changed – hopefully for the better
Many have been taught since they were children the correct way their lives should go: go to school, get educated, work for a business, stay in that business for forty years or longer, and finally enjoy retirement. For better or worse, things have changed.
Not only are students changing their majors midway through college after realizing what they actually want to do with their lives, but they’re also taking out sizable loans to make it through to their graduation day (which are costly and a huge burden on students in the U.S.). Due to these large loans that have to be paid back over the course of many years, students don’t have the luxury of entering an industry they’re interested in working in, and instead have to take whatever they can get to pay their debts.
Less than 20 years ago, students out of high school could find a fulfilling career. In modern day society, many companies scoff at the idea of hiring someone who hasn’t already done at least a year of internships, has a college degree (or two, or a masters), and is willing to work for lower pay because even if they fit the requirements they’re still only offered entry-level positions.
Students that once dreamed of becoming a doctor to help people now feel chained to their jobs because of debt. The job that they spent well over a decade preparing for brings them no joy because of the amount of time it took to reach their position, and any happiness they once felt is overshadowed by the sinking feeling of owing more than they can pay off in a reasonable amount of time. Those that were lucky enough to not need a loan or worked full-time to get through college generally find that they would have an easier time finding a job if they did free internships instead of paying their way through college with a (generally minimum wage) job.
I won’t lie, dear readers; I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was four-years-old. It was my dream growing up. I thought about working with animals on a daily basis with a warm feeling in my heart, and never let go of that love no matter what people told me. Then came my second year of high school. They were already asking students what they wanted to be, where they would apply, and what extra resources they should be doing in school in order to get into certain colleges.
I learned that I would have to spend at least 16 hours a day on school-related activities (such as doing clubs, community service, youth internships, and other extracurriculars on top of my already packed school schedule) to even be accepted by the colleges that offered a veterinary program in my area. On top of that, I would have to take out sizable loans and go through a minimum of eight years at one such college to receive my degree.
Even then, after taking out a huge debt, going through eight more years of schooling after high school, and working myself ragged, I’d still only be able to apply to work as an intern at vet clinics until I had a few years of doing so under my belt. Then, over a decade after graduating college, I might be able to be a fully fledged veterinarian.
It crushed my soul. To be told when you’re younger, “You can be whatever you want to be!” only to have your face slammed in the door of opportunity because you don’t have the funds and don’t want to spend half your life paying for your eduction is a horrible, nightmarish experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet my experience is mirrored by many. Others had the same wake up call as I did, and even worse a great deal of people actually took the loans and went through the grueling process that led to unsatisfying lives and huge debts.
I couldn’t be sure that I wouldn’t come to resent my job in the future if I never saw a full paycheck until I was in my 50’s. The thought of a looming debt plaguing my every action was too much. Instead, I paid my own way through college by working full-time while taking on a full course load (which I don’t suggest to anyone, yet it’s becoming more of a necessity nowadays), found an entry-level job that I worked at while slowly moving up the internal ladder, and perched myself near the top of the company in a relatively short amount of time because of the skills and knowledge I brought to the table. I had achieved what many dream of: I had a career I could keep working at until retirement.
Even with a secure career, which everyone had told me since I was a child was the dream, I didn’t feel complete. It took moving to another country and starting my life over again to truly feel happy. If I had gone through vet school and started working as a veterinarian, what would I have done if I still didn’t feel complete even while working in a career position? Run away from my debts? Unlikely. In the end, I’m glad I chose the an option that gave me such freedoms, and I’m disheartened to know there are others who might not have the same choice.
The idea of choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’ve barely lived a quarter of your life can sometimes be a crazy notion. Thankfully, today’s society is changing for the better to allow easier movement from job to job, and the notion of career positions is changing. In a world where finding a career has so much weight and important, it should be an easier decision to make that isn’t based on finances.