Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Tangled Webs We Weave

I had an interesting conversation with Brit a little while ago about careers, and how things are different for our generation compared to those before. For our parents, your education led to a career, which was a straight shot and unlikely to change after that. There were doctors and teachers and lawyers and accountants, and paths were unlikely to weave or overlap. For the baby boomer generation, it's a big deal to change careers, and doing so is almost looked down upon as a frivolous or impulsive decision - something that may happen with a mid-life crisis. To them, jobs all look like parallel train tracks. Once you get on a track, you have one destination, and it's hard as hell to change lines or divert your course. They simply don't cross - lawyers don't just decide to become doctors, and people don't go from teaching to accounting. To do so would mean having to metaphorically derail. Sure, there are some exceptions, but it just doesn't happen for the most part.

I'm realizing that our generation is different, and our parents are concerned about it. Nowadays, there are many more shades of gray in jobs - for instance, Brit's current job straddles the line between politics and journalism, and I'm looking toward a career that combines psychology and education. And not only do these jobs combine different aspects, but they require us to bounce between different careers in the beginning, which seems to scare the shit out of our parents. They see it as instability or indecisiveness, but in reality, it may just be a strategic move. It wouldn't be at all unusual for me to take a job in teaching before I began work in counseling, and Brit is keeping her options open by considering future jobs in sports information directing or being involved with communications in a school.

The fact is, we now have to look at jobs as more of complex, intertwining branches on a tree. To continue with the analogy for a second (bear with me), we now have the opportunity to grow, rather than chugging along on the same train tracks (pun intended). It's now ok to jump from one branch to another, and doing so will not derail your life, so to speak. It's becoming expected for our generation to do this in order to work our way up the ladder. I mean, look at Michael Bennet - he was the superintendent for Denver public schools, and was just chosen to replace Ken Salazar in the senate. That's a pretty big change of pace, and one that seems to be becoming more accepted.

I think that especially with the recession, our parents are freaked out about our decisions to change things up. After all, they look at this as being frivolous and picky in a time of serious financial hardship. But the thing is, we're going to be ok. We've got good educations under our belts, and even if they aren't exactly related to what we end up pursuing, it's alright. As Brit said to me yesterday, she may have gotten her degree in journalism and just started out, but it the boat is sinking, it's time to get off. We're all learning to roll with the punches in a changing job market and economy. And it might not always be a bad thing. After all, Brit was let go from her last job, but hit the ground running (or sprinting, some may say), getting a new, and perhaps better, job 10 days later.

So I guess my point is, don't look at changing career paths as indecision or immaturity - look at it as growth and change for the better. There are becoming more and more ways to get to where you want to go, giving us the opportunity to have lots of different experiences that may make us more well rounded and all-around more prepared for what life may throw at us.

[Thanks to James Cridland and Jus' fi for the railroad and tree pictures (respectively).]

No comments: