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January 26, 2011


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I am 25 so I am just starting my career. If I could do it all over again, I would, with the same plan I have going forward.

That said, I don't plan to have my full career in my current industry. I don't think I will ever stop asking myself what I want to be when I grow up. It is really sad that some of my coworkers are just resigned to staying where they are and running out the clock to retirement.

hmmm... I probably would not. Even though I love what I do. That being said, i'm not sure what i would do... And I know my husband would not. He's a graphic designer and that whole sector has imploded recently with too many people and not enough jobs. Add on China and India, and most of those jobs have dropped to almost minimum wage.

Every career can have great periods and not so great periods in time - mine was one of those.
From the early 50's to the late 80's Defense and Aerospace was a great place to be. The Cold War was in full swing and America had made the decision to go to the Moon. This produced a huge demand for engineers that America itself could not satisfy. Anytime that demand is greater than supply qualified employees have the upper hand.

I had a fantastic career and worked on many exciting projects. As companies expanded their workforces, opportunities abounded for engineers. Job security was great and so were raises and promotions.

Fast foward fifty years and ask if I would want to go into engineering today, the answer would still be "Yes", but I would choose a different segment. I would either choose Internet related companies or opportunities with local, state, or federal governments where there is still much to be done on projects involving the construction of infrastructure, rapid transit, and green energy, with the added plus that government entities still have pensions and the benefits are often better.

I was just reading today's newspaper and was shocked to read the low test scores of a national exam that education leaders called alarming. Only 1% of 4th. & 12th. grade students and 2% of 8th. graders scored in the highest group on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal test known as the Nation's Report Card. Less than half were considered proficient with many more showing minimal science knowledge. The results also showed a stark achievement gap with only 10% of black students proficient in Science in the 4th. grade compared with 46% of whites. At the high school level, results were even more bleak with 71% of black students scoring below the basic knowledge level and just 4% proficient. 58% of Hispanic 12th. grade students scored below basic knowledge, as did 21% of whites.

This doesn't augur well for the future and is one reason that China is eating our lunch in so many areas and why America's K-12 educational rankings have dropped to #9 in the world. It has been my observation of my grandchildren that "Having Fun" has taken precedence over "Achieving Great Grades". There are also many distractions such as hand held electronic devices, video games, and social networking, that weren't around in my days. I grew up in a home that lacked a telephone, refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, central heating, and of course a computer. My only transportation was a bicycle right up until 1956, when at the age of 21, I left England to emigrate first to Canada and then to the USA two years later.

I would hire in at the same company I work for. However, I would not have stayed as long in my last position. Seemed like a wasted 5 years.

I have a feeling that a lot of the people who said they'd choose something different don't actually dislike their jobs, but their earning potential and would choose something more lucrative. That's certainly where I stand!

I chose a field that I like and am good at, but that will almost certainly never pay well (non-profit program implementation) unless I moved away from what I like about it (delivering programs) and into management or funding (which I don't like).

Although I have had a great career as a CPA in both private industry and public accounting, if i had to do it all over again I would be a science teacher. Little did i realize at the time, the gift and love i had for science. I wouldn't have made as much money but i think i would have had a lot more satisfaction.

Yes I would choose the same career.

If I had it to do again I might alter the path I took through college a little, but I'm happy with the career field I'm in.


While I agree that the lack of science knowledge among our students is a serious problem, I do not think that is the reason that China is "eating our lunch" as you put it. China's economy is doing well primarily because of $1 hourly wages. Not because of their science skills.

I definitely would, though I know I would avoid a couple of the steps I've made as well as refine my career path strategy as I've had a couple of missteps along the way that probably could have been avoided with some better planning.

All in all, though, I'd put myself in the 39% that I guess would say yes.

I would definitely pick the same field that I'm in. I studied Lit and Art History college and grad school. When I learned at 25 yo that I couldn't afford the lifestyle I wanted to become accustomed to with degrees in those areas, I switched into technology. The fact that it is always changing, keeps the job interesting and I'm always learning something new which keeps me engaged. I was lucky that I could make the transition and lucky that I had tuition reimbursement, so I wasn't saddled with any regrettable debt.

Rather than chaning professions the thing I would have changed is starting my own business when I was in my 20s.

A good way to answer this question is to count the number/types of blogs that you follow regularly. If the blogs unrelated to your career field outnumber the ones that do relate, then there's your answer.

I'm a 44 year old software developer who follows ZERO tech blogs but about 8 financial ones (including FMF). So there ya go.

Once I get my time-machine working I will pop back to my 20-year-old-college-self, cancel my Cobol and Pascal classes and enroll in business and finance classes instead.

Nope... Id become a fire fighter. Great people, great income, great benefits, great time off, low stress, and chicks dig you.

Probably not. I'm in software development now. Given the chance for a do-over, I would have to go with Applied Math, Mechanical Engineering, or Biomedical Engineering.

I think a more interesting question is, if you could have been born in a different time period (past or future), would you choose differently.

Many times I wish I was born decades earlier. A lot of technology today is just distracting and a waste of time and money.

Most definitely yes! :)

I would not. But I would choose it as a side job though.

I would like to be more in league with the financial side of business, perhaps a broker or (ideally), a mutual fund manager.

I don't hate my job in computer services, but finance is where my heart resides...

I think a lot of folks who think they would want to change careers are engaging in 'grass is always greenerism' here. Maybe lots of people with low-status or low-paying jobs would prefer to do something else, because preferring to have taken a different path doesn't really cost anything.

As for me, I'm happy with my career, and would not change.

Tom: I follow zero aerospace engineering blogs, but that doesn't mean I don't find my work interesting. It just means I have varied interests. I follow lots of finance & political blogs, but I don't want to work in finance or politics - yuck.

Grass is always greener...

I've noticed there's always tons of people wanting to "change the past" but very few forging new paths in the now, whether it is career, finances, or even relationships. Of course, magically altering the past allows the person in the now to get the potential benefits without reliving the work/risks/sacrifice that led to those benefits.

@Jon - I must agree with you on too many distractions today. It would be nice to go back just to slow the pace of life down. However, maybe a career change could do the trick. If you figure that out let me know... the wheels are about to roll off this bus!

I love what I do. Would I do it again? Probably not.
Now it is too much schooling, too much work, too may hoops to jump through, too much of just about everything and not enough pay for what you have to do.

I tell my wife I was to stupid not to know when to quit when I was in college 30 years ago.

I am a commercial lender and I can't think of much else I would prefer to do (other than perhaps running my own company, but who's to say I won't have that opportunity down the line?). Each and every day I am involved with business owners as they make critical financial decisions for their company. In a lot of ways, I am a trusted financial advisor to these small businesses.

I am also involved with all different types of companies, so even though I work in banking, I get experience across all types of industries.

Could it be better? Sure. But it's pretty darn good.

Do you find it rather interesting that if Chinese workers are only making $1/hour wages how come General Motors sold more cars in China in 2010 than it did in the USA.

Another interesting fact is that the city with the highest educational ranking in the world at the high school level is Shanghai, China.

I would not choose to be a teacher again. I don't even suggest it as a profession. I loved what I did- but the pay is terrible, and criticism is worse. It is a dumping ground.
I have many other interests, but I came from a conservative household. Become a nun, stay at home wife or teach. I don't remember being offered other options.

You are correct on two counts Old Limey.
Yes, there are wealthy in China (about 15% make a US salary- of course that is 200 million people- close to half the population of the US).
Then again, CIA World Factbook estimates the average annual gross domestic per-capita income for the People's Republic of China is $6,600 as of 2009. The World Health Organization's 2006 estimate of the same figure was roughly $4,600.

And Shanghai High school did produce the best grades
Of course the interview with headmaster was interesting. He stated that his students could memorize anything but had to come to the US to learn to think.

I have lived in both countries. That we returned to the US after living there (as well as several other countries) is a vote for "no matter how bad we think it is- there is always someplace worse." At least in the US we have a choice!

@Jan, Jim: Let's not forget that Chinese workers are more willing to work long hours and save and sacrifice than most Americans and Western Europeans. As we become richer and more spoiled, our work ethic declines and our quality of life rises. May not be sustainable in the long term, but great now. Ask Nero about Rome :)

I don't enjoy my career, but it has allowed me to work from home (when I did work) with the kids, so that has been great. Decent money, but I do not like the job at all.

If I took the kids out of the equation, never in a million years would I pursue my current career.

Wild horses couldn't couldn't get me to move anywhere else in the world from where I currently live in a nice, quiet, residential part of Silicon Valley in California. I just love the weather and the fact that I can hike up into some of the mountains surrounding the valley and not even be able to see a single home from some locations even though well over 1M people live within a 15 mile radius.
We had a 5 week vacation in China, travelling with the Smithsonian in 1987, soon after it opened to tourists. My how it has changed since we were there. I can remember how if I stopped on the street to put a new roll of film in my camera a crowd would gather around me just to watch. We travelled across the complete country by train, waved at peasants working in the rice paddies without any mechanization whatsoever, and climbed three of the Sacred Peaks as well as visiting many of the points of great historic interest. Outside of the main cities it was as if the internal combustion engine had not yet been invented, everything was done laboriously by hand and with the use of animals.
China is a great place to visit but not a great place to be a citizen. The only reason so many seem very content is that they don't know what they are missing and have never experienced a lifestyle remotely like the one we can all enjoy providing we have sufficient money.

First job is a disciple of Christ. Second is a nurse. I knew the first week of nurses' training that's what God made me to be. Love, love my job and employer.

Sarah: YES. Your comment is SO true. I'm a graphic designer too, and I already am switching careers.

Too many colleges tell kids "Do what you LOVE! Follow your passions and the money will follow!" Then, after they graduate, they realize their passions don't pay squat and they can't afford to even survive.

Old Limey really hit the nail on the head about careers having good and bad times. Any period before 1995 was a great time to be a graphic designer. Not any more. I wonder if there is any plausible way to figure out if a career will have a long period of "good times"? There are just so many factors involved. :/

Absolutely would change to a HS teacher instead of a Mechanical Engineer.

Schooling would have been WAY easier, the pay is practically the same if you get into a good district, you get tons of time off, and a pension!!!! What a joke.

I wouldn't change a thing about my professional career. There have been some bumps and bruises along the way, but all great learning experiences. I am very happy where I am now and would like to think this will continue throughout the entirety of my career.

I was one of the lucky ones that had the fun in college (parties, frats, etc), but was also able to pull good grades and got into engineering which is a labor of love. I say "labor" in terms of having to constantly keep up with the ever changing technology, which keeps it interesting and your brain sharp. I just wish there was a more active side to it; I'm not a HUGE fan of sitting behind the desk all day, but I guess that's what the gym is for...

If asked that question 10 years ago I would have given an enthusiastic yes. I am a graphic designer and I did mostly book covers but other collateral pieces as well. I worked hard, but loved what I did. Now I have all the same talents and ideas and continually work to hone my skills? But 10 years have pushed me into my mid 50's and being perceived as "old" for my field. I only get assigned to jobs where the demographic is senior citizens. It is very frustrating. I mostly setup computers and run a digital press now and just feel lucky to have a job.

It's an impossible question to answer. It would be like saying if you could be born again but as a different gender, would you do it?

I guess if I had the memory of my current career life then I would make a change just to experience something new. If in making the change I would not remember anything about my career and life, then no - I would choose the same thing.

Does this seem too philosophical an answer?


As a wise man said about regrets, "If you had taken the other road, what guarantee do you have that that would have worked out?"

I am retired now, but I hate it. I need outside stimulus to keep me going and active. But my husband needed me at home and not working & living 90 miles away. Now, at nearly 74, it is very hard to find a job I would like to do. I'm too old, according to some.

I love technology, but I would NEVER choose to start a career in IT all over again if I had another chance to choose while young.

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