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Your Career Path: Follow The Money Or Your Dreams?

Your Career Path: Follow The Money Or Your Dreams?

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Dear J.T. & DALE: I just turned 31, and I’m having a difficult time finding a career path. My mom says I should look into nursing, but I can’t see myself being a nurse. Another idea my mom presented is becoming a mechanic. I like cars, but I’d rather drive them than fix them! My true dream is to be an actor! But the entertainment industry is very competitive, and my folks suggest that I have a backup plan. My mom told me that if I don’t engage in something soon, then I have to move out. I could use some advice. – Tyler

DALE: There are two basic career strategies: “Follow the money” or “Follow your passion.” The second of these creates confusion, especially when stated as “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” In your case, this would suggest that you’re meant to be an actor. I’m not so sure. Do you love acting, or do you love the idea of being a successful actor? This is a critical question that applies to any career, not just the glamorous ones.

Being, say, a successful stockbroker, is a wonderful job, but before going into that field, you need to ask yourself if you love financial analysis and selling, or if you love the idea of nice paychecks and lunches with clients. My point is that many people confuse a passion with a daydream. That’s why we recommend a third path – what I think of as “Follow your gifts.”

J.T.: I agree, but I prefer the practical name “Leverage your skill set.” I have stopped telling my clients to think about “a career” – the average person today will change careers many times – and instead I ask them to identify things they do well that apply to multiple careers.

If you have acting skills, for instance, then that would be part of a skill set that includes speaking, performing and presenting. Which careers utilize those skills? Sales, customer service, training and so on. The key, Tyler, is to choose something that will let you start gaining experience, and then, over time, you can alter your path. I don’t think this is the answer you wanted, but I believe your parents are right – jump in and get started.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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J.T. & Dale “JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.