All across the nation and even in our fair county of Kildare, young people of a certain age are considering their college options, which if memory serves, need to be filled out and sent off by sometime in February.
I don’t envy them. At 17 you’re really not expected to know anything, and yet you’re supposed to sit down and fill out a form that declares what you want to do for the rest of your days.
Twenty six years later, I can tell you that if you haven’t a blind notion what you want to do with the rest of your life, that’s both fine and entirely reasonable.
If you do know, that’s fine too, but don’t for a moment believe it is unchangeable. As with everything, the only constant is change.
You may well get to retirement in the career you’re choosing now, but that’s increasingly unlikely.
The next big thing you need to understand is that over the course of the next 40 years, technological advancements will bring major change.
For instance, I’d be wary about getting involved in anything that has to do with engines that run on petrol and diesel right now.
They’re not going to disappear , but with the advancement of electric cars, they’re going to be far less dominant. On the other hand, electrical engineering sounds good.
When I left school, fax machines were big, and for a decade or so they were lots of people’s livelihoods, but it’s many years since I last used one.
Many industries and careers will change over the next 40 or 50 years, and while we can make educated guesses at the shape of the future, much of it will take us by surprise. The most important point to make is this: As a potential employee, you have a commodity to sell to a potential employer — your work.
You need to make that commodity as valuable as possible. (If you’re planning on being self-employed, your customers are your employers, so the same applies).
A simple example: the person who sells burgers gets paid a little over €10 an hour, whereas a person who carries out throat surgery gets €850 per surgery, which they can perform up to three or four times a day.
The surgeon has spent the better part of a decade stuck in the books to get to that point.
They invested hugely in the value they can offer to an employer, and are certainly seeing the benefit of their hard work.
These are two extreme examples, but they illustrate the point.
You need to ask yourself this: what can I offer that makes me worth more than minimum wage?
In bullshit corporate speak, it’s called ‘adding value’, which means adding value to the company.
I suggest you concentrate on adding value to your bank balance.
There are some enlightened employers out there but human greed and stupidity are ubiquitous so the enlightened employers will always be in a minority.
Assume that the mission of every company is to get as much out of you for as little reward as possible. It’s your mission to make sure that what you bring to the company doesn’t come cheap.
Sometimes that’s because you’re expert, and sometimes it’s because very few other people know the little extra bit that you know.
Finally, don’t ever imagine for a moment that any job will be amazing and fun every day for the rest of your working life.
There will be days of drudgery when you’ll view the job only as a way to enable you to live the life you want outside of work.
That’s an important progression in every human’s life — to realise that what you do outside work is the bit of your life that matters.