Finding 'The One'


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Finding 'The One'

Published in the remarker
By Rachit Mohan

Who are you?

When you think of someone, you might think of their dark hair, their passion for the piano, or their bubbly, outgoing personality.

A newlywed might say he's a husband. In the delivery room, an expectant woman will identify herself as a mother. Throughout the halls of 10600 Preston Road, ask the students who they are and they'll say, “I’m a student.”

But the most common response? Nearly always, it will be career-oriented. I'm a plastic surgeon. I work as a defense attorney in a firm downtown. I'm a marketing executive.

With more and more people joining the workforce and spending hours of their days on their jobs, career paths have grown to become a fundamental definition of oneself - and not just professionally.

With careers and their accompanying choices playing such a vital role in the creation and operation of an independent young adult's life, pursuing the right career path has become more important than ever before. To have a successful life, young professionals must consider many factors to find the right career - a job which will often determine the satisfaction they glean from their lives.

"lf you choose a career that you don't really enjoy, it affects all parts of your lives," life and career coach Michele Wahdler said. "lt affects your relationships with your wife, family or parents. There's all these undercurrents that go on if you're not happy with your job. l think it happens more commonly in affluent families."

Wahlder, who is married to Michael Kerber '77, works as a career counselor for her company Life Possibilities LLC, a business dedicated to creating meaningful personal and professional direction. In her experience, she has noticed a trend of careers burning out because of people's rigid plans and early-life dedication to a career that may not be the best fit for them.

"l think having the wrong career leads to a great deal of unhappiness, even though sometimes it takes a while;” she said. "You can only do it for so long. I normally see people burn out in some sort of job that they didn't choose, but it's more like what their parents think they should do. They get pegged into thinking they have to be something specific, and they don't think outside the box. You can only last in that for a certain amount of time."

Many students choose their career paths based on the exposure they have received to certain professions, often reflecting those of their parents according to Casey Gendason, associate Director of college counseling.

"When faced with that question,” he said. "I think you go with what you know. lf you have a parent who works in those fields, has been successful, many people want to follow in those footsteps. Many people don't know much about careers.”

Some students like senior Rajat Mittal also contend that parents tend to influence their children to follow in their footsteps.

"Growing up, I've definitely felt pressure from my parents, who are both doctors, to become a doctor," Mittal said. "They want what's best for me, so they've always suggested I enter the medical field, saying that serving as a doctor is an incredibly rewarding profession. They've stressed that doctors live lives of financial stability and genuine service.”

But rather than being influenced by the pressure, Mittal feels that the exposure his parents have given him to the medical field has confirmed that medicine is, in fact, not the field for him.

''After explaining my decision, they've accepted it," he said. "Ultimately, they want me to be happy, no matter which field I enter. My decision to reject my parents' suggestion isn't an act of rebellion, but I simply do not want to be a doctor.”

Mittal is still undecided on his career path and int ends to explore fully all his options prior to making his final decision.

"I have no idea as to what I want to do with my life, and l prefer it this way," he said. "If l committed to a single profession now, I'd regret not fully exploring all my other academic interests. I take it step by step. As of right now, I'm applying to universities that specialize in engineering, but even then, I'm not fully committed to becoming an engineer."

Other students, however, are more decided about their career paths. Senior Sam Libby felt he experienced an "epiphany" following the Affordable Care Act debates, after which he began personal investigation about legal arguments surrounding the case. This exposure prompted his desire to pursue a career in law.

"Working in that area, particularly the political sector, is where I would like to end up," Libby said. "I have no idea beyond that, but the bottom line for me is that there are multiple paths, multiple places and hopefully multiple jobs available to me, so I don’t feel like I’m stuck on one path in one profession for the rest of my life.”

Libby feels the school has played a vital role in presenting him with the skills to explore any career option. “St. Mark’s has given me a set of skills both general and specific in nature,” Libby said, “so that not only do I have a firm grasp in the major disciplinary areas, such as English, history, science, math, and foreign language, but I also have the specific knowledge to strengthen my overall focus.”

Headmaster Arnie Holtberg stresses that St. Mark’s is a college preparatory school, but not necessarily a career preparatory school. Much of the career preparation here is implied in the focus on developing skills that can be useful across the board and honed specifically to individual career paths.

“We have a liberal arts and sciences focus that means students are exposed to a variety of disciplines: languages, the study of English and literature, mathematics, fine arts, and sciences,” he said. “We are in the business of providing students with a strong foundation so that they’re well educated for the next step into their careers but also so that they can develop foundations for life too.”

But with all the concern over finding “right career,” how does a young adult find a profession that fits his wants and interests? What factors should be taken into consideration?

“The type of lifestyle you want to lead is important,” Wahlder said. “Career choices are a balance between earning potential, family life, interests and what you have an aptitude for. I think it’s really important when you’re thinking about a career not only to let your conscious and logical mind play a part, but also let your subconscious, your dreams and the stuff you find interesting to play a part.”

Wahlder employs what she calls the “Three E Method” to answer these questions, a method that consists of exploration, evaluation and execution. By exploring a person's strengths and interests, she can help him or her evaluate potential careers and execute the right decisions to reach his or her goals.

"I think a career should be a basic container, with a hunch of different options within that container," Wahlder said. "Say for example you want entrepreneurship. If you say, I am going to be a jewelry store entrepreneur for the rest of my life, that's way too specific. But if you know you have an entrepreneurial spirit, and leave yourself room to adapt, I think that's the only way you can approach your career.”

With a changing global economy and constantly shifting career trends, the question of choosing a career is further complicated by the need to look to a career's future when beginning to pursue it.

This question is so large, in fact, that it lends itself to a branch of study called futurology, which is dedicated to predicting all kinds of trends that will impact the world. Jim Carroll, a futurist, author and columnist, is known for his keynote presentations and consultations with corporations to help them benefit from complex change and opportunities in the future. He contends that one trend that will be important going into the future is participation in technical fields.

"Quite clearly, the US is going to fall behind if it is doesn't graduate more with math and science degrees; I believe in that assessment," Carroll said. "Science is at the root of many discoveries that change the world; math is a skill set that is coming to provide the foundation for many leading industries, including computer technology. This is a huge challenge.”

Another potential consideration for the future in an increasingly global world, will be to consider career options across the world, not just in the United States. Currently, American students often limit their possibilities, not approaching the world openly. This, Carroll says, has to change.

"I find it appalling that so few Americans have passports and travel the world," he said. "This leads to insularity, a narrow world view, a sense of us-and-them. If the US worked harder to understand the rest of the world, it would find that it would see the rest of the world as full of opportunity rather than a potential threat,"

Wahlder stresses the importance of highlighting specific strengths and interests when choosing a career. A person without a well-fitting career, much like a fish out of water, can easily find himself floundering in uncertainty.

"You need to be self-aware and know what your strengths and talents are and how to develop those talents into strengths," she said. "People who know how to do that are much better than people who try to do everything and end up only being mediocre at a lot of things."

In an everchanging world, professionals must also be able to adapt. While a career plan can be helpful to keep a person on track and focused, deviations from the plan are not always a negative thing.

"Don't be afraid to explore," Wahlder said. "If you find something that's interesting but not in your plan, don't be scared by enjoyment. Just flow with it and see what comes. You might just meet new people, you might just find a new hobby or you might have a whole career transition. Careers are like life. You have to be able to be flexible and change to the things that come your way."

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