Career Compatibility

Matching careers to lifestyles, not the other way around.

Something quite profound occurred to me today after having one of those ‘what are we doing with our lives’ conversations with two of my colleagues whilst paddle boarding after work. What was interesting to discover was that we’ve all decided on the kind of lifestyle we want to lead. Now we just need to find the career to match.

It’s taken me almost 33 years to realise I’ve approached this the other way around. Choosing a career or a job and then discovering the lifestyle my profession allowed me once I was in it (and that’s after spending years at university and thousands of dollars on a degree). Shouldn’t we be looking at this in reverse?

I read a great article by Mark Manson recently (who I discovered a year ago after Googling ‘the meaning of life’), called Screw Finding Your Passion. It pointed out some very obvious yet original ideas about determining what the hell we like doing, and at the same time not expecting that every aspect of our dream job will be enjoyable or satisfying. He makes a good point that our generation feels entitled to find meaning and satisfaction in absolutely everything we do, paid or not, and from my own personal experience I tend to agree. But I also believe that when it comes to choosing a career, we assess the merits of the work involved, without always considering the realities of the lifestyle attached.

No one ever told me back at my career day in high school that I could make a very decent living doing freelance event work. I didn’t even know planning events was considered a profession or what a freelancer actually was. But if someone had told me freelance event work would mean working 15 hour days plus weekends, a reduction in personal fitness, possible stress on relationships or no relationships at all, eating badly and burning out after 10 years in addition to the experience of travelling to multiple countries, dining with world leaders or carrying the Olympic Flame; I would have been able to make a better assessment of how long I could see the perks of that profession working for me.

It occurred to me today that kids should be studying lifestyles in school. Finding examples or case studies of the people who are living the kind of life they wish to lead, and then learning how they got there. I’m not just talking about the 50-year-old retired founder of something-or-other who owns a sailing boat, multiple houses and a small island in the Gulf of Mexico (unless you’re prepared to put in as much work as they did). I’m talking about the 50-year-old who lives a humble lifestyle working three days a week, is happily married, in impeccable shape, takes the kids on camping trips and sells beeswax candles at a local market every second Saturday during the summer.

What kind of lifestyle can one expect if they decide to become a civil rights lawyer, a surgeon or an architect? What sorts of lifestyles are on offer? Instead of dissecting mice in biology, we should be picking apart peoples lives and deciding which parts we want to mimic and which aspects to discard. Students should be given class time to search for their lifestyle idols (outside of their sporting or musical heroes). People who are living in the manner they want to live, to learn real lessons about how to make that reality theirs.

I can remember at a career session in year 10 sitting in front of an old desktop computer filling in a lengthy questionnaire about things I liked doing and what I was good at. The software then ran the answers through a basic algorithm and spat out my recommended career path. I’m pretty sure it suggested advertising, but I guess the test didn’t uncover that I despise consumerism, only shop at Thrift Stores and don’t own a TV. It’s funny though because I did end up making commercials after studying TV production at university, and I completed that degree because I’d auditioned for an acting school and got denied and figured the next best thing was working on the other side of the camera.

It’s amazing the career tangents I’ve found myself on since then, because either the offer was there, the pay was good, or I had the right skills for the job. Despite having one of the most exciting careers by the age of 30, it’s terrifying to think how many times I’ve avoided doing what I wanted to because it either seemed too hard, I was scared of success, or because something else distracted me. It’s also true that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I needed to live and experience many things before I really figured it out. But I’ve also known for a long time that I wanted to work for myself, be able to travel for work or work while I travel, write, take videos and explore. None of the jobs I’ve worked up until this point have really steered me in that direction, and it’s only now that I’ve started working part time to gain a better understanding of what makes me happy, that I’ve had the time to spend doing those things that I love.

When I finished high school no one told me that, A: I’d be completely overwhelmed as though I’d just left my mother’s womb. B: I’d want to quit my university degree at least once. And C: I’d likely discover that my university degree had nothing to do with what I’d actually be doing. I guess I should have asked myself some very basic questions when deciding on a career path. Do I want a profession that is conducive to spending time with family, allows me to go surfing on weekends and maintain my organic vegetable garden? Or do I want a job that’s going to take me to a new country every 30 days, allowing me to fly business class and eat the free food in the airport lounges? Most of us want both; the later option when we’re young and single and have nothing tying us down, and the former option when we get a little older and start thinking about having a family. So shouldn’t we be preparing for both? If people knew before jumping into a profession that the burn out rate is 90% after 10 years, they could at least prepare for this before finding themselves worn out and unskilled at the age of 40.

I believe the next generation could make better-informed choices if they focus more on career compatibility with the lifestyles they desire. For example, if they want to become a host on a daytime breakfast show they should consider:

  • What time they’re waking up every day.
  • How it’s potentially going to affect their partner, children and their health.
  • If they have a good run, how many years they can actually expect to be working in that role.
  • And what the potential career choices are afterwards.

If that lifestyle doesn’t match what they’re after, then they may need to consider other options. If we look at it from the other perspective, what was the 50-year-old who went camping with their kids or the person who has time to go surfing on the weekends doing for a living? And does that person make the funds to go on as many trips a year as they envisaged, or live in the kind of house and community they desire? There are many facets to consider.

Wouldn’t you have loved school more if part of the curriculum allowed you time to discover a lifestyle that appealed to you? Where you could study peoples lives and learn from their success and failures before heading down that path yourself? I don’t know about you, but I’d be happy to go back to that school any day!


23 thoughts on “Career Compatibility”

  1. A lot of younger people diss me for having an office job, and tell me they could never ever do that, but it does fund my ability to section hike the PCT, fly to wherever I want really, and have a flexible schedule. I loved my years of seasonal work outdoors, but not the stressing over health insurance and being one car breakdown from poverty. What I’ve learned is that it’s all a tradeoff, you have to decide what the non negotiables are to you.

    1. I couldn’t agree more! Our careers often change with our desired lifestyles. You don’t always need to earn money doing what you love if the money you earn allows you to do those things.

  2. Right on, Rozanne….I went to Pepperdine University ….. got a BA Degree in Education….it wasn’t what I wanted…but it meant I could probably get a job….and as it turned out to be a really intense job….I had 4 children and took off for a month to be with my new baby….very stressful….

    BUT, the wonderful thing about teaching was getting done at the school, picking up my kids to go surfing for the rest of the day….(daylight savings time)…..AND, Christmas and Easter weeks were for camping at the beach and surfing …. And the ten weeks of summer time….

    I have been told many times that that was too much free time for teachers….I can truthfully say that if I didn’t those times away from teaching I couldn’t have been able to go back into the classroom for very many years…..I did try to teach summer school and when school started in September….I just stood in the classroom and cried….I learned never to try teaching during my time off….It was impossible because of how much I had to give….love, compassion, emotional support, and so much more…and the kids I taught loved me and I loved them….

    So, what I am getting to is that I seemed to be “forced” into that as a career…But, my own children have thanked so much for all those times we had together….I taught them all to surf….and my youngest daughter became 4th in the nation for winning so many surfing contests ( United States Surfing Organization) one year when she was about 17 years old…

    I really think life just happens to us sometimes….and we learn later that might not have been the “right” this or that…and we wish we could have done better….or, or, or,……

    But, I can see that it is really greatly possible to do what you talked about…..having your own special job and being and doing it as you want to do…and being able to surf, hike and whatever you wish to do….I would love to do that….

    Long letter….not boring, I hope…..smiling….shoot, when your my age, there’s alot to share…. Love from your old Friend, Barbie (surfer girl

    1. Hi Barbie!! This is a perfect example of a life story that so many people can learn from. Your lifestyle dictated your career in a sense, but it gave you the freedom to do what you loved with your children. You didn’t need to be a pro surfer to enjoy surfing, and had you been it would have changed the course of your life dramatically (less surfing trips with the kids that’s for sure). I see so many people burned out from work. Unhappy, unfit and unsatisfied. They’ve been in their jobs so long they seem to think that’s just the reality of a 9-5. But it doesn’t have to be if you want a different lifestyle. That’s why it’s so important to learn these lessons while you’re young, so you can plan according to the future you desire. Thanks again for sharing with us!! 🙂

  3. Muk,

    This could be the Forward in your new book!

    “Happy Trails, The Choice Is Yours”

    Great suggestions for the young person or student. I think you are accurate in your assessment of schools preparing us for our living choices, but it takes an astute person (teacher) to see beyond their own choices and communicate what you have expressed.

    I have had many similar thoughts about my own choices. Good description and dialog regarding this subject.


    1. Thanks Tim and great to hear from you! It could well be the start of my new career as a guidance counselor! I’d have to look into the type of lifestyles those folks are living first! 😉

  4. As an aside, I’m 52 and a full time student, just started back at the university. Sort of reinventing myself. I don’t exactly know where I’m heading but I know I couldn’t be happier learning again. And it feels like great potential!

    1. New beginnings are always so exciting! What have you gone back to learn? Sounds like you’re another perfect case study!! Please tell us more!

  5. I love the creative perspective. I plan to share this with my 22 yr old daughter. It’s interesting too how choices and desires can change over time. I neverwNtedto beanie se but somehow I got naturally drawn to it. As much as I cursed the job for years in the beginning I love it now and I appreciate the flexibility I have had since my kids were little. ImDenearly every track meet, karate completion basketball, soccer and little league game between 3 kids. I am one of those 50 ( ahem +) that has my life style choice well integrated and work too. But it took a long time and wasn’t easy. I was fortunate to support from hubby how different it would have been if it were a study in school. I like it!

    1. Hey Patti! Great to hear from you and to know that you’ve successfully integrated your lifestyle choice into your everyday! If it was easy to do we’d never appreciate it as much, right?! It amazes me just how many lives so similar to our own are existing all around us, though we sometimes feel completely isolated and alone in our confusion and struggles on this planet. If anyone wants to learn a lesson or two about life it would certainly be from a woman like you! All they need to do is read the book!! 🙂

      1. Oh good grief my proof reading skills suck.
        I meant to say I never meant to be a nurse and the 2nd goofy set of words was I rarely missed a track meet…etc.
        But yes, your’e right. I appreciate my days so much more. I love having time and enjoy doing little things like hanging clothes outside for example. I now it sounds mundane but its part of what is important to me, helping the environment little by little. Always good to hear from you!

      2. Haha! I dissected the jumbled letters and knew exactly what you meant! Sometimes autocorrect can make a mess of what you’re trying to type! Thanks for making me smile!

  6. At the moment, digital media arts for 3D modeling and design for prototyping. It’s fascinating to me and with school as a choice, that was most important: to enjoy what I study. I had forsaken a bioscience degree for the option to work in a trade that just kind of got ahold of me. I may end up back in biology/plant physiology, I’m feeling like I’m back on track and confidence and satisfaction are building at breakneck speed. It amazing when you love what you do.

    1. Understanding your passions and having the opportunity to chase your dreams is the ultimate! I hope it continues to fill you with satisfaction and happiness!

  7. Heia Roxy
    Interesting how you reflect on education and life. My experience tells me that after a degree you really know very little about the job you go into. Education is more a process to grow up and mature. In interviews with people I normally never look at their degree but more talk about what they want and their dreams.
    Also it is very important to know yourself and how you change and how other people see you. I am a totally different person at 30, 40 and 50 then when I studied at 20.
    In our world we live to have careers. For 90 percent of the people in this world they work to survive and have food tomorrow….
    As an old man I think the most important thing in life is to make friends and make colleagues and people happy.
    Follow your dream path Posie!!
    Voff voff from the cold warm North

    1. Beautifully spoken Old Dog as only you can do! I’d almost forgotten how much I’ve relied on your wisdom through so many impressionable years in my 20’s and still to this day! You’re absolutely right that we are the fortunate ones who can choose a career path, but are also sadly the generation and demographic suffering the most from anxiety and depression. There’s a balance missing somewhere for sure. I like your points about how people grow and change through each decade of their lives. This is absolutely true. I think the key is to never stop learning. Maintaining an open mind to the changes around us and the changes in ourselves. Warm hugs to you!

  8. Hey Muk! THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO IMPRESS UPON YOU SINCE WE MET! My career path is ALL ABOUT LIFESTYLE! It’s what we teach others. HELLO! And Canada is WIDE OPEN TERRITORY as is AUSTRALIA! YOU ARE PERFECT! Can I say it any louder or more clear? Love ya!

  9. This probably sounds a little jaded, but my dad said to me, “you work to make money to do what you REALLY want to do. If you happen to like your job, that’s the cherry on top”. I have always looked at it that way. I moved around a lot in my twenties and had lots of different kinds of jobs. I have done a little of a lot (can’t say everything) – I haven’t been a trash collector or an exotic dancer – and I have no regrets. No college degree, but I make a good salary with a good company and wonderful people.

    I think younger people put too much pressure on themselves to make lots of $$$. As sappy as it sounds, money is nice, but happiness does truly come from within.

    You going down a great path!

    1. I love this comment and I have to agree. If our future goal as a student was to make just enough money to get by so that we could pursue our other passions, we would have been told we weren’t trying hard enough! Kids are brought up with the fear of not finding work because there’s so much competition out there. They’re told they need to be the best, which means if they have a passion but don’t think they’re good enough, they’re going to head down the path of what they know they can do to make money. Those who take risks and step outside of the box are the ones who are prepared to lose out. Your dad’s comment made me think back to the ‘Playing the Game of Life’ video by Alan Watts when he says, “Work is something that everybody does, and you get paid to do it, because nobody could care less about doing it.”

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