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What if I don’t want to work in the field I went to school for?

Everybody wants to graduate from school, clap their hands together, and say, Welp, now that I’ve put in all that work I guess I can just follow the yellow brick road to success and fulfillment. Where are my ruby slippers, anyway? Instead, a lot of people get out of school and panic because they start noticing that what they want now isn’t the same as what they wanted back then. Gulp.

This is more common than you might think. Only 7% of 25-year-olds have the same career goals as they did when they were 17. (Which you might remember is exactly when you had to choose your education path. Oy.)

I graduated from my undergrad with two things: a Bachelor of Journalism, and a strong desire to not work as a journalist. CUE THE PANIC. I did not see that coming back when I chose my educational path. But there I was with a shiny new degree and no plan. Sticking to my original plan would have meant pursuing a career I knew I’d hate, so even though my inner control freak haaaaated the idea of winging it and coming up with a new plan, it’s what I had to do. (You know, if I wanted to actually enjoy my life.)

A client of mine went to school for rec and leisure, but it turned out to not be at all what she wanted. So she had to ditch her original plan. Another client tried doing freelance work in an area he loved but he couldn’t make enough money to support himself. So he had to ditch his original plan. Another client hated living in the city and uprooted her entire life — including her home, her job, and her relationships — to go live in the woods. Talk about ditching your original plan.

You may have to ditch your original plan too if you went to school for something you don’t actually enjoy (like me with journalism school), or if you took a job that sounded awesome but actually feels shitty now that you’re in it, or if you find yourself working in a city you hate. There are approximately one hundred bazillion things that might force you off a path you thought you were going to stay on.

All I can say is welcome to the club. It’s totally normal. Here’s why: you’re an evolving, ever-changing human, so it’s natural that your career desires will change over time. Which makes long-term planning insanely tricky, if not impossible. Impossible in terms of guarantees, anyway. The best a person can do is follow their gut and adjust accordingly when and if your desires change. That’s excruciating but necessary. Again, only if you want to have a happy life. Feel free to stay the course when things feel bad, but I don’t recommend it. Better to throw away the map, adjust your sails, and move in a direction that feels better.

What to do when what you want now isn’t the same as what you wanted back then

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