During yesterday's discussion about the value of a college education, several people noted that it's difficult to decide what to study when you don't know what you want to do with your life. This reminded me of a recent question from the Get Rich Slowly discussion forums. Shaun wants to know: How do you find work that you love?
It's been said, “If you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life.” But what happens when you can't figure out what you'd love to do?
I've been trying to figure out “what I wanna be when I grow up” for over ten years, and I still have no idea. I'm driving a delivery truck now. No offense, but any dummy can do my job. I feel like I'm wasting away doing this. I could be doing so much more, but I don't know what I want to do.
Going back to college for a four-year degree is not an option. I spent four years in college already, in which I tried three different majors. I have around $19,000 in student loans and no diploma to show for it.
Here's what I do know: I like dealing with people. I like working with numbers. I really enjoy sitting down and making budgets and things like that. I've always done very well in math in school. I liked the accounting and business classes I took while I was in college, but hated any type of English class.
Any advice? I'm stuck in a rut.
Some people are lucky and know what they want to do early. For example, my wife always loved science. Kris majored in chemistry, and then found a job teaching at a nearby high school. She liked the work, but after eight years she decided to try something else.
She'd always wanted to be a forensic chemist, so she researched the job and decided it might actually be a good fit. She took a couple of classes, from which she was able to learn that the job did indeed match her strengths. Now she works for the state police crime lab. She loves her work.
I wasn't so fortunate. I floundered in college, searching for something I truly enjoyed. I never found it. After working the worst job I ever had, I wound up selling boxes for the family business. This was safe, but it wasn't fulfilling, and it didn't call upon my strengths. Still, I stuck with the position for sixteen years. It was only when I realized that I could make a living through writing that I understood I'd been cheating myself. Now I, too, am moving toward meaningful work.
But how can you find meaningful work without spending sixteen years selling boxes? Or ten years driving truck? I don't know. I'm not sure anybody does. In a fantastic essay entitled “How to do what you love”, Paul Graham writes:
Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it's rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you'll be more likely to arrive at it. If you know you can love work, you're in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you're practically there.
Surely some of you have found fulfilling work. How did you do it? Like Kris, have you always known what you wanted to do? Did you sort of stumble into it, like I did? Or have you given up hope of ever finding a job that you love? More importantly, what advice do you have for Shaun?