Your Future Career: Consider Now What Will Make You Happy Later

What is important to you when considering your future career?  Here are some points that you may want to consider.

Money – Not the First Consideration

Surveys show that people believe intrinsic goals are the most meaningful. But in practice, people in nearly all nations actually pursue extrinsic goals in their life choices.

Students often make the mistake of seeking the job with the highest possible compensation.  Yet, money does not buy happiness.  An introverted person who needs substantial “me” time to think and unwind will be miserable working eighty hours per week.  The key is getting paid adequately to do what you enjoy doing in a position where your own gifts and skills can shine.

Your Passion

You might put in more hours than the average person, but it doesn’t seem difficult to you because your work hours just zoom right by. You are often in that state of mind often referred to as “flow,” where you can lose track of the world and time, losing yourself in the task at hand.

Consider what makes you tick.  Are you of one accord with your parents, or do you want to do something else?  Following your parents’ wishes rather than your own can set all of you up for future disappointment.   Being a doctor, lawyer, or investment banker grants your parents bragging rights, but is that what will make you happy?  Further, are you willing to spend the time that it takes to finish the required education and then devote a large part of your daily life to your career? 

Time – A Precious Commodity

“Work cannot be everything…People who have their lives are far better workers.”

Life is short.  So take a moment to consider what you want in life.  Do you want to reach the top of the corporate ladder?   Do you have a hobby that consumes your time outside work and school?  Do you want to get married and have a family?

Despite the fact that we often bite off more than we can possibly chew, there are only twenty-four hours in a day.  If you want both a family and to reach the top of the career ladder, chances are that you will have to make some major choices down the road.  If you still want time to pursue your hobbies, you will need a career field that allows you to do so.  It’s all about being realistic and planning ahead.  What kind of work / life balance will you need to be happy in the long term?

Environmental Concerns

Some 68% of U.S. offices have an “open plan” or “open seating” design, with the desks separated by low or no walls…

One thing that many people often do not consider when seeking a job is the actual work environment.  Nowadays, cubicles are a popular choice for businesses.  The thought is that cubicles allow for increased collaboration within teams.  While this is true, they often have a downside.  They can be noisy.

Collaboration can become aggravation when you are trying to complete an assignment.  In addition, cubicles can leave you feeling like you must be engaged with others at all times during the day, which can become an issue for more introverted types.  Finally, there is a lack of personal space and privacy.  Can you deal with that?  If not, it is best to investigate the corporate work environment in advance.

Culture Club

All music is made from the same 12 notes. All culture is made from the same five components: behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values and environment.

It always amazes me how corporate cultures vary.  Some cultures are warm, open and inviting.  In this type of environment, employees become like family to each other.  Other cultures foster competitiveness and create an atmosphere of individual competition where sharing is never really complete and trust might be lacking.  What type of culture are you seeking?  Are you a driven type who is put off by too much openness at work?  Are you more laid back and need a more nurturing team environment?

The Autonomy / Micromanagement Continuum

People thrive on trust. As every professional I’ve ever asked has said, when a leader trusts them more than they expected, they step up to show the leader that they were worthy of his or her trust.

People vary in the type and amount of direction required.  Still, it is not rare for employees to crave a certain amount of autonomy.  The space to create something that benefits the company and others can be a strong motivator.  Most of us want to feel valued and a significant part of an organization.   Conversely, an environment where every move is managed can feel stifling.   What is your sweet spot on the autonomy / micromanagement continuum?

Blast Off

Most of us want an avenue to achieve success.  The proverbial “dead end job” is neither fun nor inspiring.   It also sets us up for career changing later in life.  Does the position that you are pursuing have a career path that will allow you to grow over time?

Take time to consider all these issues.  Write down what is important to you.  Then, visit your career center – sooner, not later – to find your fit in the world of work.  If you discover what you value now, you will be better set for personal success in the future.

Good luck!


As Associate Director of Employer Experience for Wake Forest University, Lisa’s passion is connecting employers with student talent and creating a positive experience for both. She leads a university-wide Employer Experience team which is responsible for all aspects of recruiting, retention, and systems for the graduate business school.  Her strengths include relationship management, networking, social media engagement, information aggregation, process facilitation and communication. Lisa has been employed at Wake Forest since the fall of 2002.  She has over 20 years of work experience in various roles.  Prior to arriving at Wake Forest, she was an entrepreneur, venturing into web-based international sales and marketing of salvage automotive parts and accessories.  Before that, she was a trust officer in the Employee Benefit Trust area of Wachovia Bank.  Lisa is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. Lisa earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Rollins College and a Masters in Liberal Arts from Wake Forest.  Visit Lisa’s blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect via LinkedIn.

Related posts:

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  3. MY FAVORITE QUESTION: “How much does a _________ make?”

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