My nephew will be graduating from high school soon. His father asked me to take him out to lunch and give him some advice about success, careers and options. I feel a little overwhelmed. Can you share with me some advice that you would offer in this circumstance?
Answers from Edward T. Creagan, M.D.
This is a challenging opportunity. Here's some guidance that you might consider sharing with your nephew.
"Death of a Salesman," a classic play by Arthur Miller that premiered in 1949, is more appropriate today than ever. Willy Loman, the hero, was a salesman. He got by on a "shoeshine and a smile," which meant that the strength of his personality, his appearance and his relationships sealed the sale deal.
However, Willy became obsolete in part because he wasn't highly valued by his company enough to transition to a desk job. More broadly, he may have been in the wrong profession for the talents he possessed. Sales didn't fit his natural talents and his dreams of building things with his hands.
So, when considering a future career, you may need to consider your talents and anticipate what sort of skill set you may need, regardless of your profession. For example, consider if an advanced degree or education in new skills may help you to professionally advance in a given field, depending on your professional focus.
I would also share with you three suggestions:
- If you don't have a passion and a joy for what you're doing, it can become absolute drudgery. No one would likely last 30 years.
- It's a good idea to have some element of service in your life, such as giving back or somehow trying to make the world better. Having a career with a salary and benefits can be great, but it might not be enough.
- Consider if the demands of the job, profession or trade are in alignment with your personal goals. For example, professional, executive-level positions in certain professions might require many hours of overtime a week. If that's not in alignment with your goals, you might consider looking elsewhere.
- A young student may need to know where the economy is heading and where the action is in the future. Some college degrees may not be good investments for the few positions available in certain careers.
So aim to be smart and savvy, understand where the economy is heading, and have the appropriate skills and education to be able to be successful in the future.
Oct. 06, 2017
- Creagan ET (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 8, 2017.
- Miller A. Death of a salesman. Lexington, Ky.: CreateSpace; 2017.
- Death of a Salesman (Sparks Notes). New York, N.Y.: Spark Publishing; 2007.