How to choose a career

Strategy #1: Take whatever you can find

This is far too common. By definition, whatever you can find typically means a job that you can be quickly trained to do. This generally ends up being at a nonskilled job at a restaurant or a retail store or something like that. Any job that you can be quickly trained to do is a job that someone else can be quickly trained to do. If it is easy to get a replacement for you, this means that you have zero leverage. You don’t get much say in how much you’re paid, where you work, or when you work.

Many who take this route end up believing that its the government’s responsibility to force their employer to pay them more money instead of their responsibility to learn skills that are worth more money. 🙁

Strategy #2: Running on Passion

Look for the things that you are really good at, and the things that you are passionate about, and then try to figure out how you can use these things to meet a need that society has. The goal is to turn your hobby into a jobby. This strategy sounds great in theory, but in practice, people generally end up working multiple jobs to make ends meet. For example, many people are passionate about art or music, and they are really good at it, and it is their dream job. Unfortunately though, society is not willing to pay much money for art or music, because millions of people do these things. Since the market for them is flooded – people can buy art or music at any store or online – this causes the price that society is willing to pay for them to crash. Many people don’t even pay ANYTHING for these items – they download art off the internet for free, or they listen to music for free. As such, it is extremely hard for artists and musicians to make money. So many of them end up getting desperate for money.

This causes them to take on a second job out of desperation. Unfortunately at this point, they take whatever job they can get, so they are back to strategy #1. Only this time, its worse, because they are working full-time because they are only making around minimum wage, and then they are trying to do the work that they are really passionate about on top of that. So they end up working themselves to death, and they often are unable to find enough time to actually have a good shot at succeeding at what they are passionate about.

In order to be successful as an artist, musician, athlete, etc. you often have to be in the top 0.01% of people. You have to be RIDICULOUSLY good.

Strategy #3: The Capitalist

Look for the things that society needs most, and then figure out how you can fill a need. You don’t have to be passionate about it, you don’t have to be good at it. You just have to be willing to put in the time to learn how to fill that need, and you have to have the mindset that you will love what you do because its what you do. If it is something that society really needs, you don’t have to be good at it – an average or even mediocre web developer is going to have more money and flexibility than an outstanding artist who has loved what they do with a burning passion since they were 5 years old. This strategy is how you make money or give yourself the flexibility to do the things you’re passionate about.

But how do you find what society really needs?

  1. Look at how much money society is willing to pay for that job to be done. The highest paying jobs.
  2. Look at the fastest growing jobs.
  3. Look for jobs that not enough people are doing – this creates scarcity, the foundation of capitalism.
  4. Potential for entrepreneurship. Can you take this job and start your own business with it one day? Being your own boss means flexibility and potential for much more income.
  5. Look for jobs that don’t take too long for you to start making money and that you can get a return on your investment rapidly. For a doctor, he needs to pay $200,000+ and go to school for 8+ years before he starts getting paid to do work. After he starts making money, it will probably take him 4+ years to pay off his loans. This means that it is going to take over 10 years before he is seeing a return on his investment. Contrast this with a web developer who spends $5,000-$10,000 to go to a 4 month bootcamp. Although she still doesn’t know a lot about web development, employers are so desperate for developers that they are willing to pay her to learn how to do this job. She can start seeing a return on this investment within about 7 months!

Check out The Bureau of Labor Statistics for answers to some of these questions. My wife is a nurse, and I am a web developer. We are in our mid-twenties, and each of us get about 1 job offer a week. Employers and recruiters are coming to us and asking us to consider working for them. If you find a way to meet a burning need in society, employers will find you, and you will have leverage. Leverage allows you to dictate the terms of your employment with an employer – your salary, when you work, where you work from, when you take vacation, etc. When you get to dictate these terms, that allows you to do the non-work things you’re passionate about. The greatest strength of this strategy is that it is possible for you to do much less work than other strategies. If you only have to work 25-30 hours a week, and you get to work when and where you want to, and you have plenty of money, this gives you tremendous freedom.