When I first started working, I pursued jobs that forced me to deal with the public. First I worked in a town inspection department where the public came in for building permits, home inspections, and to ask questions about zoning regulations and town projects. After that, I worked in a marketing department where I had to take calls from clients, schmooze potential clients at dinners, and give presentations. Then there was a stint in retail. It didn’t take long to realize that I am just not cut out for jobs that require interaction with a lot of other people. I don’t hate other people, but I’m an introvert by nature and too much interaction with people leaves me exhausted and annoyed. That’s not how I wanted to live.
Of course, I’d been a bit brainwashed to think that the only “great” careers were those where you were in the thick of things. If you weren’t seen and being seen, you weren’t going to end up on a great career path. (This was the go-go nineties and a time when the yuppies were still running much of the corporate show. My college professors also stressed the importance of a “public-facing career.”) I should have ignored all of this advice and skipped those years of working with the public and done what I really wanted to do all along. I would have been a lot less stressed.
The only career that has ever made sense for me is freelance writing. I don’t have to deal with a lot of people, I can set my own hours, and I get to use my creativity. I might have been happy in academia (which I briefly pursued) had it not been for the teaching aspect. My student teaching experience was unpleasant, to say the least. Parts of the academic track suited me, teaching did not. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more aware of the types of work that will suit my personality and I navigate my career path accordingly.
If you’re an extrovert, you might find the things I didn’t like to be enjoyable. If you’re somewhere in between, you might have to find a job that gives you a little public interaction but which also lets you be alone sometimes. They key is to know yourself. If you don’t like kids, don’t try to become a teacher or day care worker. If you don’t like dealing with the public, stay out of customer service positions. If you’re the sort of person who just wants to hole up and think, look into careers that will allow you to do that. If you love people, don’t try to work from home. If you’re always looking for adventure, maybe you need to join the military or become a stunt person. Think about the types of things you love and the things that make you crazy, then choose your career accordingly.
It’s not just about getting a job, it’s about finding work that suits your personality and your strengths. You’ll not only be happier, you’ll probably be more successful, too. A job that looks great to other people or on paper isn’t great if it leaves you miserable and stressed because it goes against your natural personality.
(Photo courtesy of City of Marietta, GA)