Pre-college planning

Long time readers know–OK, I realize that there are no long term readers in this echo chamber–I made a big mistake in my career early on and suffered a shitty career trajectory ever since.

This should be one of the better articles because rather than just whining about my lack of career focus/success, I’m going to outline the first step to a perfect career path.

I know that there’s no one perfect path for all people. Therefore, I’m going to make a few assumptions about the reader. If you don’t fit the assumptions, then you won’t get that much help from this article, but you can help the next generation. Pass it on.

I assume that you are 18 and below, and are not going to drop out of school. If you are going to drop out, then I’ll write something to help you, too. Dropping out of high school is not a great idea, but this is the real world so we need to be realistic. In fact, I’d say that as far as getting people into good careers, this world really sucks.

In fact, your first job stands a good chance at really sucking. It will be less challenging than high school, guaranteed. At best, your job will be a massive disappointment and an insult to your abilities. Don’t be shocked when this happens, realize that there are no perfect jobs. Even millionaire childhood stars have their off years.

Despite all this, you should still plan for the future. A lot. You are going to spend the rest of your life there. Planning will not ensure perfect happiness, but it will make your future career suck less than mine did. I promise.

Start planning your career when in middle school. Be honest. Brutally honest. Money will not make you happy. Working for nothing will also not make you happy. Therefore, you should avoid extremes.

When researching jobs, ask yourself, what’s the worst aspect of this job? If you can’t find anything then you need to do some more research. You’ll find something really crappy abou this job. The goal isn’t to find the best job, but rather one that is less crappy than all the others.

For example, doctors get over $100 an hour. If you like school, you may think that this is a great career because you can stay in school for a really long time. Fun! Then when you are done, you will get a lot of money and respect.

True, but you will also deal with blood and cutting up dead bodies. Also, the hours are really long. Something that’s a great time for a single hour can become a real drag if you have to do it everyday for long hours for years.

I suggest that whatever you pick, you should find someone who all ready does the job and interview them. I know that this sounds really difficult, but if you aren’t jazzed enough to do this about a certain position, then you probably don’t want that job. Also, I suggest volunteering to work around the particular job you want to do. Also, read about the topic. Subscribe to a trade journal and try to read the articles. If all these things don’t fill you with ecstacy, then you’re barking up the wrong career.

Once you have the ideal career, find out to get there as quickly as possible. Write down a year by year plan. This is going to be really tough, and it’s going to vary from career to career.

Note that the best way to get into a career is probably going to look a lot different than what your college advisor is going to suggest.

For example, the best route to becoming an accountant is NOT to start in college. Get a government job as a book keeper (yes you can do this with a HS diploma) and work under a CPA while the government pays for your education at night.

A scientist can take a similar path. You can get a technician job right away. You may need to leave your town to do this if you don’t live in a big city. Do it. Apply to all the technician jobs you are qualified for in the closest big city as soon as possible. Then you can see if you like it, and work your way through school.

A potential doctor can even do this. You should start working in a hospital right away. I suggest taking a job like an orderly which requires a college degree and working your way up to a nurse aid which is usually a 6 week program you can save up for.

Note all these examples have one commonality. They don’t suggest going to college right out of high school. Please don’t do this even if you have a scholarship. College is a BIG investment. Like all investments, it carries a lot of risk. Unlike other investments, the risk is iron clad. That is, the time and money you waste in college is gone forever. For other investments, if you get deep into debt, you can get out of it via bankruptcy. College is different. With college you will take that debt to your grave. So treat college like the riskiest investment you can possibly imagine like junk bonds or something.

Also, if you start working right out of high school, you get four years work experience ahead of the other smucks who go to college right out of high school. This experience is rewarded by higher pay. Also, you have four years to invest while other people are wasting their time studying the pottery of ancient Peru. You can always take out a book on South America from the library and read it, if you wish.

Also, you can still attend all the college parties, but you don’t have so much homework. So you don’t miss out on the stupidity that is the “college experience”.

If you go the “traditional route”, you spend 4 years studying something completely different from your job. When you get out you will be the same place as you were when you are 18, only with a lot more delusions and pride.


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