How and why we end up working in orthogonal fields

DATE: Oct, 10   COMMENTS: 0   AUTHOR: Allan Azarola

Think back to when you were still in school and if you can remember, are you working in the field you wanted to be in? Are you what you said you wanted to be when they asked you “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Okay, so it’s highly likely that what you wanted to be changed every other week, from wanting to be part of the police force because you saw on the telly that cops get to shoot people, to perhaps wanting to emulate a neighbour or relative who is clearly in a career that earns them lots of money, like how doctors are universally known to earn well… Almost universally…

You don’t even have to go that far back. Merely going back to your Uni days, or just before you started Uni, if you were lucky enough to have that experience. Did you end up studying the academic course you always wanted to study, or were you in a sense forced to settle for your second or third choice? Or did circumstances perhaps force you to take a completely different course to one even remotely related to your apparent passion?

The irony of that is how we likely aren’t even in the fields we were forced to pursue academically, for some or other reason, so you could be as much as two whole steps removed from the field you were initially interested in…

“It’s just the way life is,” is the commonly accepted answer to any questions around why we tend to end up in orthogonal fields. We even go as far as making fun of youngsters who openly discuss their plans for the future, particularly discussing what career paths they want to take. You get memes asking things like “Should I tell him or leave him to find out for himself?”

The actual reason behind this, however, simply comes down to where we are as the human race in terms of economic development. It’s sadly not a very pretty picture, because pretty much everybody ends up in a career they clearly never intended to be in, which means that the absolute best person for every job out there isn’t the one doing it. You do tend to love something you’re good at, otherwise…

If you’re not adequately incentivised to think too deeply about it, you would fail to imagine that someone could effectively find their professional passion within a chemical plant and so they look forward to going to work every day, not just because of the job security and the salary, but because they actually enjoy their work. This is where passion meets career and we need more people better matched to their careers.

We’re partly all to blame for effectively taking what we can get and settling for any job, whereas we could collectively be actively working to match people’s aptitudes and passions to the jobs they go on to earn their living with. There are entire industries dedicated to this, as a branch of the human sciences, the results of which patronage will have you marvelling at just how pleasant it is dealing with a certain liquidator handling your specific case, for example.

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