To Avoid Career Hell, Consider Your Strengths and Passions

Posted by The Editors on July 22, 2011
To Avoid Career Hell, Consider Your Strengths and Passions

From “My First Day in Hell” by Jack Handey:

A malaise set in within a couple hours of my arriving. I thought getting a job might    help. It turns out I have a lot of relatives in Hell, and, using connections, I became the assistant to a demon who pulls people’s teeth out. It wasn’t actually a job, more of an internship. But I was eager. And at first it was kind of interesting. After a while, though, you start asking yourself: Is this what I came to Hell for, to hand different kinds of pliers to a demon?

I had a laugh when I first came across this essay imagining life in the netherworld, especially when the narrator lands an “internship.” (There’s really no escaping them!) After reading closer, though, the work he does in hell stood out to me as a kind of torture even worse than the endless lines, senseless whippings, and forced sing-alongs he encounters.

How sad it must be to land a job or internship through family connections, only to end up hating it. It can seem like the easy way out to follow in your parents’ footsteps, but what if Mom and Dad are in a field you have no interest in or aptitude for? Career coach Allison Cheston told me about a student who took three unpaid internships in finance—her father’s field—before entering her senior year in a panic because she’d sunk so much time and energy into working in an industry she didn’t want to enter. She changed her major and had to do a complete 180 in her career search. To get that far without knowing what you really want to do sounds like, well, hell.

As you assess your skills and interests, whether in preparation to find an internship or a full-time job, think about the path you’re on, and don’t be afraid to branch out. If you find you’re on a path toward a career for which you lack passion and interest, it’s best to change course before you end up handing dental instruments to a demon. Kidding—but you may get stuck in a similar rut. Even if you’re worried about straying from a familiar path or about disappointing your parents, you have to go with where your strengths and passions lie.

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