By MRG

Kids, this one is for you, coming from an old young lady.

I would have wished to tell myself these things 10 to 11 years ago, when I was just starting high school. But that is not possible, so if you are in high school (Lycée, Cycle Supérieur) you are probably getting questions about what you want to do in your life. Having to pick courses depending on what you want to do when you grow up. Most probably a whole bunch of people are telling you what you should do when you grow up.

Last week I got a random text from a friend of mine – a consultant – in the middle of the day saying: “We should have been historians or philosophers, finance and consulting are overrated”.

In my case, I knew I wanted to be in business since I was 13, and finance in particular around the age of 17; but it really got confirmed as soon as I took electives in Business school. After a bachelor and masters degree and a whole bunch of varied experiences in between, I am now a banker. I love my job – for now – but the path here is definitely not straightforward. And it never is.

However, if I had to give advice, here is how it goes.

Being rich does NOT and will NOT make you happy. But kids, being broke is a struggle. A struggle you want to avoid at all cost!
So when you pick professions, don’t necessarily look for what makes the most money, but I would advise to stir away from those chronically low paying careers. It will just burn you out.
The other thing is, you want to have work that is useful. Most jobs are, otherwise there would not be a demand for them; but we do agree that in terms of tangible usefulness, we can all see a difference between a doctor and an administrator at the museum of rat history. Usefulness ensures the length and stability of your career… but more than anything, it makes you happier. I mean you want to spend your day something useful. Trust me, it boosts confidence.
Basically, you want to be useful and not broke.

To do that, you will have to stay in school and be comfortable with the fact that learning will and should never stop… or else you become irrelevant. Did I just disappoint you? What did you think? I would advise you to forget school and become a ball player? It doesn’t really work like that in life, and I am sure you know that already. Go to school… and if you can, do become a ball player with a degree. School is a mandatory insurance policy for any path in life. And if you have access to it, never turn your back on it.

So what should you study? What should you become when you grow up? I recommend two things: an engineer or a professor in the arts. Everything else is overrated!

An engineer because you go to school for four years, and know how to make useful stuff. You get paid better than most people out of school in four years, and I think it’s pretty hard to be bored with such jobs!
Think about it, you build a car, a bridge, turn oil into a plastic bag, make food never perish. You make things. And that is after just 4 years in school!!! If you don’t like school, this is the time you should start taking your science classes more seriously, they might be your quickest way out. And if you end up not liking it, you can always do something else. You should be young enough to easily make a switch.

The next option is what I call luxury professions. Very low in my usefulness barometer, but doing well in terms of pay and well-being on the job.
Join academia in the arts. Literature and philosophy being my top choices. Their lives sound so luxurious. You read books you like, and write what you think about them. That is how I see their job description. It doesn’t sound stressful, you enjoy what you read, and have great liberty on what you write about it. You are somehow independent, with no demanding client or boss that stops you from sleeping. All that is expected from you is to write what you think with many citations and teach grown people maybe twice a week for 3 hours. You can see it as updating your Facebook status… it just has to be 70 pages long. You love blaberring on Facebook anyway no? But for this path, there is a catch, you HAVE to get a PhD, otherwise brokenness is pretty much guaranteed.

There are many many other really nice careers out there in the world. As you grow up, you will find out more about them, and maybe switch to that. But for now, I would say aim for one of these two and see where it gets you.

What do the other grown ups think? Especially the ones older than me – I am in my mid 20s.

(Photo by Tchasmart Umwirabure)

MRG currently lives in Toronto, Canada. You can find her on Twitter at @msmiraiga

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