Your career – the good, the bad and the ugly (a bit of a read but worth it)

Had your head in your hands out of career frustration? Welcome, we’ve been expecting you! What you probably don’t know is that it’s more common than you think. But don’t be fooled into thinking that only university graduates and 20 somethings find themselves in the abyss of ambivalence.

Sociology studies show that people between the ages of 20 and 40 fall into an age group category, dubbed the “young adults”. During early adulthood (around the 20 to 30), much focus is involuntarily spent on establishing an identity and career development takes a backseat. And while you think you’re working on a career in something you like, you might just be going through the motions. This, in turn, leaves their 30-something-year-old-self with a level of regret.

Lynn* (27) is a 1st grade teacher who hates her job. She admitted once that she only thought teaching to be an appealing job because of the extended holidays. She’s even gone to therapy to resolve her career woes, but the problem isn’t that she hates her job, it’s that she doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

emotionThe one major stress that Lynn* is faced with is her parents’ old school train of thought. She thinks that she’s trapped forever in a snot nosed hell and if she ever does manage to change careers that her skills will go to waste. False! False on both accounts! No, you’re not stuck and no, your skills won’t go to waste. Remember Algebra? Think you don’t use it anymore? Maybe not, but you do use the area of the brain which was developed thanks to Algebra – the part of the brain that solves problems!

After reading a very enlightening post on “Wait, but why?”, it became very clear why so many people today are unhappy and ambivalent in their careers. Basically, the Greatest Generation – aka the Great depression survivors – raised Generation X to work hard towards a financially stable career. Generation X worked very hard and EXCEEDED their career expectations. Being filled with hope and optimism, Generation X raised Generation Y (those born between 1970 and 1990) to believe that they could be whatever they wanted to be.

selenacheering“Wait, but why?” also describes another group called the GYPSY’s (Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies) – which makes up a large part of Generation Y.

“The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a “nice green lawn of prosperity and security”.  The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY.  Where the Baby Boomers (Generation X) wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.”

specialAdel (25) works at BMW Tyger Valley and has been in their employ for 7 years. What started out as temp job in the filing room, ended in a very satisfying job as a Mini Service adviser – the only one at her branch. Like most people, she fluctuates emotionally and at the worst of days she works 12 hour shifts to make sure her work is up to date. But, being such a key part of a very prestigious brand like Mini, means that she gets to rub shoulders with SA celebs like Schalk Burger and Euphonic, yet, she admits that she often resents her “more successful” friends for unjustly jumping up their career ladder.


GYPSY’s are delusional. They have an inflated perception of themselves and thanks to social media, all the GYPSY’s in the world can now show everyone else just how special they are. Cue the Selfies song…

selfieThis is where Adel’s “peer envy” ignites. She is constantly made aware of her peers’ achievements and because everyone thinks that they’re special, their social media pictures are wildly exaggerated. This makes Adel (and millions of other people) feel inadequate – as if her life and her career (and even her friends and boyfriend) aren’t enough.

Experts suggest considering the possibility that eager Facebook posters might have hidden agendas for their inflated “happy posts”. I.e. a girl who is still Facebook friends with her ex-boyfriend who hopes to get the better of him with her posts. Once you “get over” the object of your envy’s puffed up posts, you’re on your way to Facebook/Peer Envy recovery.

Lisa-Jade (25) is a Securities and Legal Assistant at Rand Trust Financiers (Pty) Ltd. “my key function is to draw up all legal documents, mostly when there are new clients entering into agreements with the company (we offer invoice discounting to small to medium businesses) but I also do a lot of admin work,” she explains. Like most of us, Lisa-Jade hadn’t planned on the road taken and had been offered the job after the birth of her daughter, Libby. Lisa-Jade, however, is very fortunate in that she enjoys her job and that her only worry in the mornings is about the trains being on time. But, she explains that, even though she likes her job, she still sees herself doing treatments at her own little spa someday.

When I asked Lisa-Jade how she would try to make her daughter’s, career choice an easier one, she said “I’ll nurture the things she loves to do, her talents and her passions (Just like my momma still does). Make sure she knows that she’s not limited. Teach her professional etiquette. And just, overall, let her know how amazing her brain is and how beautiful her soul is and that no matter what, she can be anything she puts her mind to.”

momThis brings us back to Generation X’s way of raising their kids. A clear line needs to be drawn between instilling a false sense of entitlement and raising hard working visionaries. Libby can be a hard working visionary (and taking into account that not all kids are the same), if Lisa-Jade makes sure that Libby is free to pursue her dreams without fear but knows that success is equally proportional to the work she puts in.

Elizabeth (28) always knew she wanted to be a health and fitness guru, but settled for accounting because it’s a stable career. Not too long ago, she and her husband started their own part-time health and fitness business which generates in excess of R10 000 pm (a lovely income supplement) and even though she is working her fingers to the bone working two jobs, she knows it’s worth the late nights when she can finally (in the next 4 years) quit her accounting job and pursue her passion full-time.

Whether you’re caught in a career that makes you unhappy or whether you are just in a rut, you need to evaluate your life and see where things are going. If finding a career that makes you happy is high on your priorities list, you have to take action and find the right career. Test the waters – it’s easy to think you might like bookkeeping when you haven’t tried it. If you’re happy to go on with the career path you’ve chosen/ended up in, you may want to kick it up a notch – take on the title of self-appointed manager and see where it brings you.

Whether you jump right in or take cautious steps towards a happier career, it can be done. Something inspiring I heard the other day:

Take money out of the equation. Find the thing that you would happily do for free – anything at all – without fear of judgement. Then do that, because one day, you’ll become so good at it, that people will pay you to do it.

No… watching TV doesn’t count.

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