In my experience, it’s highly unusual to find a young person just starting out who is able to recognize when his career is not going in a direction that will ultimately lead to work that is fulfilling, and who has the courage to change course early on. Josh Siegel is just such an exception.
Several years ago, my husband and I visited Gettysburg National Military Park. As we were making our way around the battlefield on bicycle, we came across a marker indicating the place where three divisions of General James Longstreet's corps set off on what has come to be known as Pickett's Charge.
There we noticed that a wide path had been mowed through the tall grass to allow people to trace on foot the route of that ill-fated attack. We got off our bikes and walked them up the hill in reverent silence.
It was hard to believe that this beautiful spot, where we were surrounded by cornfields and gently swaying wildflowers and the hum of summer insects, could have been the scene of so much carnage.
Like any other professional, as a career counselor, it's important for me to keep up with what's happening in my field. I do this by reading and studying and talking with thought leaders I respect.
I also periodically take a look at what the general public is reading by perusing the career shelves of bookstores.
I rarely buy these books because they tend to repeat things I already know and because, in the vast majority of cases, they present an approach I consider to be ineffective and outdated.
All of us—young, old, middle-aged—whether we like it or not, practice ageism, at least to some degree. It’s far less obvious than most other prejudices, but it is nevertheless there in how we think about others and, most importantly, how we think about ourselves. The idea that we’re too old (or even too young) to do something is rooted in our own prejudices about the limits that age imposes—limits that are reinforced by the broader ageism that permeates our culture.
Unlike sexism, racism, and other “isms”, ageism is not static: whether we're dishing it out or taking it depends on where we are in life. Take ,for example, the situation where an older person is waiting to see a physician:as soon as this “very” young doctor enters the examination room, the older patient begins to question his competence because he's “only a kid”, and he feels perfectly justified in doing so. Yet on the way home, when an impatient young driver behind him yells out the window, “The light's green, you old goat!” (or something worse), he is outraged.
We've become accustomed to hearing the story of a professional life told almost exclusively in terms of outstanding accomplishments.
Ask an athlete to reflect on his career and he'll tell you about the time he pitched a no-hitter. Ask an actress and she'll talk about landing the lead in a Tony-winning Broadway play. Ask a writer and he'll recall how it was his third novel that lifted him from obscurity and made him a best-selling author.
These public, universally acknowledged achievements, which everyone recognizes as peak moments, are what we've come to expect when someone looks back on their life.
We may not be to breadlines yet, but unless you've been in a coma or you're independently wealthy you probably can't help noticing that these are hard times. Job "insecurity" is affecting all but the highest rungs on the employment ladder.
The economic repercussions of 9/11, the ongoing replacement of people with technologies, the outsourcing of ever-growing numbers of manufacturing and service jobs to foreign countries, all are making it harder and harder to feel confident that America is still the land of opportunity. And this is true even for those of us with a good education and in-demand skills.