You’ve just finished school and you stand at the cross-roads of life. The employment choices before you seem endless.

You’ve been wrestling with the question of who you want to be when you grow up for years now, but answers like “a fire-fighter” or “an astronaut” seem either insufficient or unrealistic.

Or are they?

The difference between your career aspirations between when you were 10 years old and present day is largely due to a layer of social conditioning which has began to cloud your thinking.

While some of it may be useful, a lot of it is also going to set you on a path towards career dissatisfaction. Here are the top 7 motivations to look out for.

1. Status & Money.

Close your eyes and imagine being a lawyer or a banker. Do you see yourself wearing a pin-stripe suit, rolling in your new BMW to an office tower where your name is on the door?

Do you want people to say “wow!” when you tell them what you do? Be honest with yourself. Money, as great as it can be, is not enough to keep you interested feel fulfilled in your job.

2. Perks & Validation.

Closely related to status and money, a desire to feel important and approved of can easily cloud your judgement when choosing a career.

It’s true, the CEO might get treated differently than an entry level marketing intern, though it’s a mistake to think that a senior position is a permanent shield from disapproval.

To someone who is just starting out, it might seem that CEOs spend their days having their whims catered to, going to lunch meetings, travelling and doing exciting deals. In reality, the more senior the position, the more it requires facing disapproval and criticism.

Companies which adapt swiftly, grow quickly and solve real problems in the world often have people at the helm who spend very little time indulging in perks of their job and a lot of time making hard decisions and dealing with the damage which doing their job results in.

3. “But You’re So Good At It!”

Just because you’re good at something, that doesn’t mean it’s a wise career choice.

When you’re at the starting point of your career, employers don’t expect you to be overly skilled — they’re very much aware that your professional background isn’t very extensive.

Hiring managers look for culture fit first and skills second. During interviews, they’ll be testing you to see how aware you are of your core values and what motivates you to join their team.

They’ll assume that they’ll have to teach you most necessary skills during the first few years. In fact, you’ll have a better time at work if you feel like you’re pushing your own limits by being on a steep learning curve.

4. Following Your Friends.

So your buddies have already finished college and have gone into real estate. They say that they can pull some strings to get you an interview with the company.

What could be better than going to work with your circle of friends? It would be almost like College 2.0, except you’ll now be getting paid for it, right?

Wrong. If the job isn’t intrinsically meaningful to you, your friends will quickly become the people you gossip with about how bad the job is. Some of them might be in positions of leadership by that stage, which will mean that if you keep up that act, you’ll lose them as friends, too.

5. Making Your Parents Happy.

This is also often a quest for status and validation, except one that’s fuelled by your parents. Some parents want you to set off on a career path, just so that they can have bragging rights at the golf club.

“My little angel is now a neurosurgeon … we are so proud.”

‘Nuff said.

6. Job Security.

Some careers (medicine, law, management) have traditionally been viewed as more secure than, say, photography and graphic design.

That might be true to some extent, though the notion of job security is no longer a valid concept for you to base your career on.

Job security is no longer a right — it’s something that has to be earned and maintained, in any field. Only by contributing above and beyond what your role requires will you be able to guarantee not only job security, but demand for you, as well.

7. Because You’re Interested In It.

I’m interested in coffee. I love good coffee and I love asking baristas questions about origin of the beans, roasting processes and trying to figure out whether my espresso on a particular morning has more hints of spice or leather.

I sometimes get carried away in this little obsession and begin to think that one day I’d like to open a cafe.

That thought lasts only as long as I get myself present to the realities of such a job. Would I want to wake up at 4am every day to open the shop by 6am? Would I want to deal with broken fridges, leaking pipes, pest control regulations, permits, short-tempered customers and the roster of a small team of casual employees?

No, thank you. I admire people who do it and I know it’s not for me.

Similarly, as you set out to choose a career, I suggest you consider the everyday realities of your future job, regardless of how interesting it may look to you on the surface.

Featured photo credit: Phil Chambers via flickr.com

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