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The Absolute Worst Reasons to Choose a Career

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oh no!

Deciding on a career is a lot like choosing a spouse. Pick the wrong one, and you could have years of frustration, bitterness and disappointment to look forward to. And while you’re not going to get into any agonizing custody battles over the kids with your job, you might have a few disputes over your “spare” time.

That’s right. The typical 40-hour work week has steadily crept up over the last few decades, and most people are actually working closer to 45 hours. And some work 50, 60 or even more hours each week. How’s that for work-life balance? Do you really want to spend that much of your life on a career path you despise?

The answer is absolutely not, which is why it seemed useful (and entertaining) to put together this list of no-nos when deciding on the career for you. These are the absolute worst reasons to choose a career:

1. Everyone says you’re good at it

Are you the person everyone comes to when their computer is on the fritz? Do your friends and family find it hard not to laugh at your jokes? Just because you have a particular skill doesn’t mean you have to do that as a career. You may find that talent-based jobs like telling jokes, playing sports or creating art are a lot harder to excel at than you think.

Beyond that, hobbies you enjoy can quickly become monotonous and annoying when you’re doing them full-time. You can actually turn something you love into something you hate.

2. It’s what you’re “supposed” to do

Did mom and dad raise you to be a lawyer or doctor? Do you come from a long line of police officers or have a family business? Even if you know it’s what everyone expects you to do, and you might’ve even thought you’d be doing it from a young age, that doesn’t mean you have to if you’re having second thoughts.

When you finally decide on a path, do so because it’s what you think you want.

3. You like the perks

Okay, so you know you shouldn’t decide on your life’s work in the hopes of picking up hot guys or girls, but what about other cool stuff that comes along with it? Maybe you get a company car, free travel or a pool table in the office. Whatever perks they have that impress you, don’t pick a career based on silly stuff like this.

It seems awesome, but how often are you going to be able to enjoy it? If you’re mostly driving that company car to and from a job you hate, it’s going to end up feeling like a prison. Free travel likely means you’re going to be jetting around the country—or world—for work. How much of that time do you think you’ll be able to appreciate?

And there’s a reason that pool table in the office is always free—because people are working. There are some perks that really make a difference, but you still shouldn’t base your decision on them.

4. Your friends are doing it

This happens a lot more than you think. We’re all influenced by the people we hang around, and if you end up befriending lots of people who want to be engineers, botanists or video game designers, it’s more likely that you’ll gravitate toward that path—even if it’s not right for you.

This can cause you to struggle in your work because you don’t have a natural talent for it or desire to do it. And you may even end up finding yourself alone, because jobs are so hard to come by these days you’re probably not going to be working with your friends.

What should you do? Try new things. Diversify your interests and friend group as much as possible. Research what a job is really like on a site like CareerQA or the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Take the time to speak to someone in that career field to find out what it’s really like.

Imagine yourself in potential careers one, five or even 10 years down the line and think about what a regular day for you will be like. Ultimately, the most important thing is that you feel happy and fulfilled in your work.

Josh Weiss-Roessler is co-owner of Weiss-Roessler Writing and a professional resume writer who frequently offers job hunting advice and workplace tips. Along with his wife, baby son and two very excitable dogs, he lives in Austin, Texas.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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  • Steven Austin

    People go into careers because their friends are doing it?? That is news to me…wow…

    • Lynn Nguyen

      That’s a bit of a simplistic way to summarize but if you’ve ever gone to a banking or consulting target school you can understand this idea. When literally everyone is securing offers in the Fall it can be difficult not to ask, well maybe I should try it out. Not wise, but not uncommon.

  • dgonos

    Overall, it’s a good article, but I have to categorically disagree with #1. By a combination of “trial and error,” followed by desperation, I ended up doing what everyone said I was good at, “Telephony,” as it was known then. (Telecommunications wasn’t even a word!) Not only have I enjoyed it, but the financial rewards have been handsome. Had I chosen something else, I wouldn’t be nearly as happy, or I believe, as prosperous. You did leave something out, though. In addition to perks, money should also be way down the priority list. Don’t get me wrong. I’m well compensated, and I like it! However, I have worked a couple of jobs, where the money was so compelling that I didn’t think I could turn them down. It turned out that I should have. I learned, the hard way, that it’s more important to look forward to the job, than to look forward to the paycheck!

    • http://dolcebellabaker.blogspot.com/ Sarah Dallosto

      I agree on how #1 doesn’t seem right. My very first job (the only one I had in high school) was an office job and I liked it so much and learned so many different skills that when I started college, that’s pretty much the only type of position that I focused my student job search on. I had a completely different major in teaching and student teaching just solidified that I’m more of an office worker. So I changed my major to something that would benefit me in the office (not sure if my college has an administrative assistant-type but I had already completed about half of the required credits for the major I chose) and focused my job search on office jobs when I graduated a couple years ago. Still nothing yet but I’ve had a couple long-term temp jobs in office positions that again have solidified it’s what I want to do :)

  • Le Douce

    I want a job that’ll pay the most with the least amount of edu. (for ex. engineering) so I can support my hobbies.

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