My career on a winding road

January 15, 2008 10:16 PM

Detour sign
Shannon K @ flickr

  • Age 18: aimless, knew I wanted to do the sciences in university but didn’t know what to choose. Elected to do Electrical Engineering because my dad was one. Chose to do an additional degree in Commerce because it was only one extra year if I combined it. Bargain!
  • Age 18-23: Struggled through the hardcore maths and physics units because I could not visualise the theories. Did ok in the Commerce units because it was more “real world” to me and so I understood it better. Got depressed towards the end because I was an above average student at best and wondered how was I suppose to compete with all the smart people around me.
  • Age 23: graduated with double degrees. Immediately took a month off in Europe to not think about finding a job (thanks mom and dad). Landed back into reality and it took me 3 desperate months to land a job.
  • Age 23-24: toiled in a monotonous job in an industrial area. Primary task: plugged numbers into formulas that I never understood. When I asked, the Senior Engineer couldn’t be bothered with my questions. And I was made to feel little when technicians who are non-degree holders had to show this university educated person how and why. But they were nice about it, unlike the Senior Engineer who was a prick. Ended up playing around with their computers and network more than what I was paid to do.
  • Age 24: Realise that I can be good at this computer thing and I loved it. Uni friend asked if I had wanted a career change – no more electrical engineering, and working in IT. I said yes. Within a month, I was out of the industrial area and working in the city. Hurray for better food and better looking women!
  • Age 24-27: working in the city, living it up and coasting on the IT boom. Was paid a hefty bonus for standing by for Y2K – easiest money that I have ever earned because nothing happened! Within those 4 years my salary jumped $40,000 and with some of my stock options I bought a second car. Yeah I know – how decadent. But the good times had to end some time …
  • Age 27-28: the big IT crash and the company decided to scale down their Australian operations and the Perth office was closed down. I was made redundant along with 60 other people. Got half a year’s salary as a payout. I kept looking for work while studying for an IT certification. I got the certification but I never got a job. Then one day whilst walking to one of a few interviews that I managed to get, I saw this little eatery but it was closed. Asked my mother if she wanted to move her restaurant there. She said, “Why don’t you do it?”
  • Age 28: after almost 10 months moping around feeling sorry for myself, it wasn’t hard to convince me to make yet another career change even if it meant dumping all my savings into it. This time I was going to be a restaurateur.
  • Age 28-30: Running a restaurant was incredibly tiring and my emotions followed the business of the day: if it was good, I felt good; if it was shit, I felt like shit. It was a good living but I was never going to get rich from it and my social life was suffering. I did learn many life and people skills. My staff were always a great bunch and the loyal customers kept me upbeat.
  • Age 30: same uni friend offered me an IT job at his startup. I didn’t want to abandon my restaurant but my mother and brother offered to take it over. So it was another no-brainer – I took the IT job.
  • Age 30-33: felt great to get back into IT though I was very rusty in the beginning. An office job felt so cushy in comparison to the restaurant. Being in a customer service role, the benefits of having been in the hospitality industry cannot be overstated – the experience was tremendously useful.
  • Age 33: feeling proud of what I have achieved and have contributed to the company but also feeling that I have reached the glass ceiling at the current job. I’m ready for new challenges and bigger and better things. Have started my job search and am having my first interview tomorrow.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? Did you study what you really wanted to do in university? Ultimately, was university necessary? Have you ever questioned your career path? Has it ever took multiple detours like mine did?

19 thoughts on “My career on a winding road

  1. herman

    I managed a restaurant for about a year, now, I’m in the IT industry.

    At the moment, considering a career change. I want to do something else. Like starting my own business ! and I’m only 25

  2. Om

    The subjects I took in uni were purely for the sake of getting a degree. Needless to say, it was a lukewarm affair. After four years in the working world and much introspection, I finally found my calling. Last year at age 29, I signed up for a part-time grad dip relevant to the career path I wanted. I am so happy to say I am enjoying every moment of my lessons even though I am dragging my ass there after work 2 evenings a week.

  3. Dabido

    I’m going to be back doing the sort of work I was doing 20 years ago. lol
    I still have no idea what I want to do with my life … but, I’ll figure it out in 20 year I figure, when I’m 62. 🙂

  4. mf

    I wanted to be in the police force when i was young…more like a kid thing who whoa at uniforms….i joined the uniformed grp in sec sch…wif the same tots in mind.
    Now I am not even close to tat, but i am still considering to sign on as a police officer haha…….

    Anyway that aside I am working towards career in FMCG mkgt…..i hv a passion for the industry.

    Gd luck for ur intvw 🙂

  5. jl

    Good luck with the job search, mooiness! I have finally decided to embark on a job change/search of my own so it should be interesting. In answer to your question about the necessity of uni, in my view, it’s not for everyone. It’s just a tool to get us where we want to go and not everyone needs the same tool(s).

  6. mooiness Post author

    herman: if you got the entrepreneurial bug, better to indulge in it now rather than later. If it does not work out, you can always go back to IT. So go for it!

    Om: I’m sure it felt really good when the light-bulb moment hit you. And when you are enthusiastic about something, it definitely more enjoyable.

    Dabido: well, it’s a journey. Make sure to enjoy it.

    mf: passion counts for a lot – it will show through the work that you do. And thanks!

    jl: yeah I agree, it may open doors but you may not like what you walk into. Best of luck to you too!

    sourrain: thankew! I want the last two things only – not hot. I can’t stand hot. Warm will do. 😛

  7. Katie

    My undergraduate degree (the certificate for which just arrived via courier!) was purely for my mother’s benefit. I love music, I do, but within months of commencing the degree four years ago, I hated the uni and wanted to quit. I forced myself to stay, got the degree and now I’m thrilled I don’t ever have to set foot in that university again.

    It sounds like you’ve been through a lot of detours, but hey, that’s what makes life interesting and fun, right? You’ve not just lived, you’ve EXPERIENCED life – and there’s so much more to come. Gosh, I sound like some corny motivational speaker! But it’s true. 🙂

  8. girlstar7

    It’s interesting: 50 years ago when you left school/university, you found a job, and that was your job for life. If you were a man, you would stay there until you retired, whereas if you were a woman, you’d stay until you got married/had kids. Job prospects were limited and people didn’t change careers much.
    Nowadays things are totally different. New careers exist that hadn’t even been thought of as recently as 20 years ago (e.g. web designer)! Speak to most people in their 30s and they have changed careers a couple of times. People often do a degree and then get into a field that is totally differnet to what they have studied. People are more likely to travel and live overseas. Our generation have so many more options and thus are more likely to change careers/jobs.
    I think this is a good thing. As you mentioned, working in the hospitality industry gave you more experiences that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t chosen to take that path.
    I’m 23 and already on my second degree which is totally different from my first and still not sure what I really want to do with my life! All I do know is that I want to travel and have lots of life experiences. Who knows where I’ll be in ten years? As long as I’m happy, though, i don’t really care…

  9. blur ting

    Yours is a colourful life with lots of ups and downs. I was quite aimless at school and did all the wrong subject combinations. now I worry that my son will end up like me :-I

    I had been in business since I turned 21 and rode through the IT boom and crash too. I’ve never been in the food business but I once helped a friend man his coffee business in San Francisco for a couple of months. It was fun on most days but very tiring…so I can’t imagine doing this in the long run.

    In between, got married, divorced, 2 kids, closed old business, started new business…aiya too tired already for detour.

    You have a whole life ahead of you. The most exciting period is about to start for a man in his prime! Enjoy!

  10. Impetuousman

    I studied Logistics in Poly, and I thought it wasn’t for me.
    I went on to study Business in Uni but I still didn’t know what i wanted to do in life. I thought Business was rather general.
    Now that I’ve graduated, I find it too general when I want to enter into the financial sector.
    I’m in the midst of finding a job, and now that a month has gone by, I’m beginning to feel the crunch. Sianz!

  11. mooiness Post author

    Katie: yeah sometimes liking something and studying something can be two totally different things – but you pulled through! And yes the detours are what makes life interesting. How boring would it be if it was all planned out in one straight line for you.

    girlstar7: actually, although it may sound nice but I wouldn’t wanna be in the same job from graduation till I retire. That sounds very stifling. Yup, ultimately it’s what makes you happy that counts (provided you don’t starve) because we all got but one life to live.

    blur ting: you’ve definitely been through more detours than I have, and you turned out ok – kudos! As for your son, I know it can be worrying. You want him to do something that can get him a job, but also something that he likes. Good luck with it! And thanks for the well wishes!

    Impetuousman: if money is not a problem, then I’d get a entry level job in the industry that I want to grow in. One or two years is not much in the long term so it’s more important to get the foundation right. Best of luck man!

  12. Ivy

    I’m in my last few months of university. I’m not going to work for what I studied. As for whether university was necessary, I can’t really answer that yet. But I know in the board game “The Game of Life”, going to college just got me in lotsa debt.

  13. mooiness Post author

    Lupin: true, the paper may not mean much after but most places need that as a basic requirement.

    Ivy: hahah that’s a good point about the debt. I am not working in what I studied for either. In the end, the ideal job is one that keeps you fed AND happy.

  14. alyndabear

    You’ve had a lot of changes, but I think that makes for a really interesting personality. 😛

    I always wanted to be a vet. I love animals, I loved biology, and it seemed like a perfect combination. Sadly the university course was only offered at Sydney, and the course required higher grades than MEDICINE, so my plans changed.

    I studied Psychology and got my first degree in Social Science/Psych.
    Then I had a change of heart and went into a second degree for Teaching, and here I am.

    Do you know how tempting it would be to go back to uni and become a vet, even now? It would be hard work, but I’d LOVE to do it.

    Ah well…

  15. mooiness Post author

    alyndabear: so you’ve changed your mind twice and you are still holding on to this fantasy of being a vet. I don’t think that’s unusual. What we want may not always gel with the circumstances that we are in. And people change over time, that’s a given.

    Though I think you being a teacher to young kids makes logical sense, seeing as how you love animals. 🙂

  16. kachuaz

    while in elementary school, i wanted to be an engineer, ‘coz i thought it sounded cool. haha.

    very quickly thou, grew out of it and wanted to be a vet. haven waived since then.

    been through quite quite a few detours to finally get into the course in Sydney. 🙂

    going into my 2nd yr now.

    hopefully your interview went ok.


  17. mooiness Post author

    kachuaz: I think it’s normal to have doubts and to change our minds before we settle into university. Even then, some ppl would still be trying to find their direction.

    The interview went ok – thanks! 🙂


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