We Need To Normalize Career Changes, Especially Later In Life.
For most, if not all of my life, I have always switched up and changed my mind about what I wanted to do as a career. A lot of my friends and family members seemed to have it figured out: doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, etc. A lot of people at least have an idea of what they’d want to be or do for a living. But my path wasn’t that simple. In our society we’re expected to have it all figured out before high school graduation and I thought I did. When I was young, I was set on being a pediatrician. But I eventually realized that I wasn’t built for a career in the medical field. I knew I would come home with a heavy heart whenever I cared for someone who was ill or dying. Also, I’m not quite sure if it was ever really my choice to begin with, at least not organically.
My mom’s opinion and approval heavily influenced what I wanted to do. She had a dream of her son being a doctor, like most parents especially in my culture and as a child of immigrants, it was the first choice. But unfortunately being a doctor just wasn’t for me. Sadly, it took a long time for me to come to terms with that and to face the truth. And so my path began to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
After I just scraped by and graduated high school, I was blessed with a job in a pharmacy and became a certified pharmacy technician. People told me it was a great job and everyone seemed impressed. I may not have become the doctor my mother dreamed of, but this seemed to make her happy. I held on for as long as I could. But it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I hated it. Not the work necessarily but the corporate bullshit that was a pharmacy/convenient store. It was not about taking care of people or properly informing patients. I felt like a overpaid yet undervalued cashier.
While I was working in the pharmacy (my soul slowing dying) I was also in college learning business. This peaked my interest a lot and I had amazing professors. I learned about accounting, marketing, economics and business law. I was really excited and wanted to learn more. I actually went from a D student to an A student. After getting my associate’s degree in business I went on to try and get my bachelors in it. The next college I attended required a lot of math for the bachelor’s degree in business and I wasn’t in the right mindset to pursue that. So, I let that go.
I changed my major again. I had become a fairly decent writer so I choose political science. I also found this field interesting. I learned about racism, redlining and all of the systemic injustices of the world. I wanted to make change in the world and I thought I found my calling…again. Sadly, again this was not the case. After diving into political science I interned at a congressman’s office and found it to be nothing I thought government work would be. It wasn’t inspiring. We mostly did immigration paper work, which honestly was just getting status updates. The congressman was never in his office and the staff seemed to only be around to get yelled at by angry consituants. Also a lot of the office politics made me realize it was not that much better than the pharmacy I was still working at. I ended my internship and didn’t feel like pursuing a career in this field anymore.
Unfortunately at the time, I saw all of these changes as failures. I changed majors, career paths, and jobs all while everyone else around me seemed to be settling into their careers. I felt like I was behind. That’s because changing careers, especially as we get older, has a stigma attached to it. We don’t see it as changes or growing but rather as failure. We’re expected to have it figured out, the earlier the better.
But my life didn’t work out that way. I went from a pharmacy tech to congressional worker and I didn’t know it at the time but I would eventually become a barber. And yet the story doesn’t end there. Some would say I was indecisive, jumping around aimlessly, or that I was wasting time but I say it was a God working in mysterious ways. Let me explain how I became a barber.
My pharmacy manager started dating a retired correctional officer who was now a barber and barbershop owner. My pharmacy manager knew my personality and thought being a barber matched with my lifestyle. I got all the info from her boyfriend and signed up for barber school. I fell in love with all things about barber life: the culture, the tools, the services, the styles. Everyone told me I was crazy. People would say, “But Kevin, you have a college degree you’re going backwards.” It may seem like that for many but for me I was the happiest I had ever been at a job. Still to this day some of my closest friends were clients I met as a barber over the years. I was content for a long time. I finally figured out my career path. Or did I?
Although barbering made me happy I often dabbled with the idea of having a secondary career but felt pressure to just choose one path or stick to the path already chosen. After all, I had been down so many paths already.
Be open to unlimited possibilities:
Secretly, I have always wanted to pursue a career in computers and I.T. but I just didn’t think I was smart enough. Thankfully, a friend of mine mentioned coding while I was giving him a haircut. I looked into it and found out that they had a lot of free resources which I took advantage. I wanted to see if it was something I wanted to pursue.
After messing around with some online classes that were free I made the decision to sign up for E-Cornell’s web development certificate program. It was a 3-months course with a new class every two weeks. It was challenging. I spent most nights after work dedicated to classwork. This was on top of running my own private barbershop and being a father to a crazy 3-year-old. I pushed through even though it was tough at times and finished the course. I then found that I enjoyed coding so much that I signed up for 4 other courses on Udemy.
In life, we resist change. Because it’s scary. It can be hard. Even if you are someone who invested time into one career, like with me with barbering, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to that one thing or that you can’t move on from it. You owe it to yourself to explore everything that interests you. They say that variety is the spice of life!
The pressure to have it all figured out and to stick to one path is suffocating. As the years pass we develop new opinions, learn more about ourselves and the world, we gain wisdom, we change because of things we experience and people we meet. I’m really happy that I got to try different jobs and careers in completely different fields. I feel like all of those experiences opened my mind and made me a more well-rounded person. All of those paths lead me exactly where I needed to be. So if you feel like you haven’t gotten it all figured out, it’s normal contrary to popular opinion.
You can reinvent yourself at any stage of your life and we need to normalize individuals growing into themselves and changing their minds as they do.