Sunday 21 April 2013

Career woes (and a solution)

Grad season is almost upon us, and it got me thinking about career choices. A lot of high school students (most of them?) have a hard time figuring out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. And how can it not be? Too many choices out there!
To go to university or not? Student loan, debt, years of more homework and studying - doesn't sound that tempting after 12 years of school.
To start work right away or not? Minimum wage, not many advancement options - doesn't sound very appealing either.

I always envied the people who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grow up. Who knew since elementary school what they would do with the rest of their lives career-wise. I wasn't one of them. At all.

I blame it all on the lack of internet back when I was young (this statement makes me fell ancient, geez).
You might have noticed that I have a distinct love for the internet and google - online shopping, online learning, blogging, or Pinterest are amongst the great pleasures in my life.

Growing up we didn't have a computer. The horror! My parents bought our first computer when I was 18 years old. It had dial-up internet connection. Do any of you still remember dial-up? That distinct sound it makes when it's trying to make a connection? The slooooow build-up when it is dialing... And then your phone line is busy as long as you're using the web? Which of course meant you were never allowed to used it for very long. Aaahhh, the good old days.

Speaking from own experience, it is one of the toughest decisions in life. You are trying to find your dream job, make enough money, be fulfilled.
When I entered grade 12 I was totally clueless. Was kinda fed up with school, just wanted to work for a while before having to make this big decision. But my parents pushed me towards college. Up to that point I had worked in retail (grocery store and farm market) and played the organ at church on Sundays. Both options were out of the question for me to pursue as future careers.
Going through a pretty big bout of depression at the time I decided that I didn't want to work with people. So what did I come up with?

Going into the forest.

This is me, cutting down a tree. With a chainsaw. I can barely believe it myself.

My criteria for deciding this was the job for me were the following:

1. Lots of trees and nature around me = soothing. Not many people. I like it.
2. There will be lots of guys in the program. Many boyfriend and hopefully future husband prospects. (I was single at the time.)
3. I love dogs. I can bring my dog to work every day. Sold.

Questions about salary, how hard it might be to actually find a job after graduation, the future prospects - didn't occur to me. I applied, they accepted me, done deal.
One thing you should know is that back then college and university education was free in Germany - the only fees were very a small administrative fee each semester and then some books, and that was it. So this little adventure didn't break the bank.

Do I look annoyed? Not a coincidence. This job was definitely not for me.

Needless to say, this particular way of choosing a future career is not very successful. I really didn't like forestry, could never remember the Latin tree names, got all the different bird species mixed up, found the practicum part of it hard (felling trees, eeks), cold (it was in the winter) and surprisingly boring to me (too many trees, not enough people. Be careful what you wish for). Plus I never did find a boyfriend, despite there being way more guys than girls.

Meeting Richard, my future husband (our story is here) rescued me from that mistake.
After spending a summer working with him in his landscaping business (another resounding NO) I decided to give hospitality a go. I felt like a tourist in Canada in the first few months and loved how amiable and welcoming Canadians were to visitors. I felt like wanting to reciprocate that friendly gesture.
That particular idea led to a 6-month stint at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales as a Food&Beverage Associate in the convention center. Great times where I met many interesting people from all over the world, but again, not the right career choice.
Excuse the bad photo quality. And strange hair. Oh my, these pictures are real gems. 

By this time I was 25 years old. Still no idea what to do, so I kept on working in retail (grocery store and farm market) and playing the organ at church on Sundays. Hmm, sounds familiar? That's because I did the same thing 10 years ago when I was 15! New life on a new continent as a married woman and I was still doing the same old thing? It had to change!

So I tackled it differently this time and made another list of what I was looking for in a career:

1. Something I don't have to take home. I like to be "done" at the end of the work day and not having to worry about work-related issues at home.
2. Work to live, not live to work. At the hotel I worked 10-hour shifts (or more) 5-6 days a week, and it was too much for me.
3. I actually like people and would enjoy working with them in a team. Maybe even help people? Who would have thought!
4. My goal in life isn't to get rich, I want something that I find rewarding and fun.
5. Job security (I was clearly grown up by then).
6. Pension and health benefits (really grown up).

This new and improved list was my guide. And the hunt for a career was a full-time job. I was sitting on my computer (seriously, I love the internet!) for hours every day, googling, researching, checking out colleges.

And then two things happened:
Richard got his yearly physical check-up and was sent to get a chest x-ray. He came home and mentioned in passing: "That would be a good job for you."
Shortly after that, our friend Keith (who we had known for years and who was retired at that point) came for dinner and we happened to talk about his pension (which was very decent in my opinion) and what he had done for a living: First, being an x-ray technologist, and later, managing the imaging department.

Kismet! That was it. I asked Keith a ton of questions, found out more later (you know where!) and was super-excited: That felt right! I could do this! The universe had given me the answer!

A lot of upgrading, one year on the waiting list, and two-and-a-half years of hard work (and a big 3-0 birthday) later I was a Registered Technologist in Radiological Technology.

And I love it. It ticked all the boxes on my second list. It's rewarding, fun, challenging at times, and doesn't take over my life. I got so lucky to get a rotation where I work 4 days, then are off 4 days - that's total perfection for me.

What about you guys? How did you find the "right" career for you? Have you had similar struggles?
I would love to hear your stories!

xo Miriam


  1. Hey! I love your blog and was wondering if you wanted to follow eachother? Well, let me know! :)


    1. Hi Kristin! I will definitely check yours out, I love finding new blogs. Thanks for being my first (!) GFC follower!

  2. i'm glad you found your dream job in the end! great story :)
    you have a really nice blog. it's fun to read about your adventures, because they are so different from mine.
    have a nice day!

  3. Thanks for linking up @ The Owl's Skull today:)! I totally know how you felt here. Have a great week! J

    1. You too! I love your blog hop, so fun!


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