In this post, I’ll share some hints about picking a profession. This question has been asked me multiple times; therefore, I felt the urge to write a general guidance on the subject.
Basics of Trade
First, we need to focus on the basics. In a primitive community with no monetary system, people would trade goods and services. A hunter would give meat and pelt to a farmer in exchange of fruit and vegetables. Both provide something others need.
In such a community, a painter might find a hard time finding someone to trade because the houses might not have walls at all.
In order to be a part of the trade system and obtain things from others, one needs to provide something that others need.
Today, the same basic principles apply. Although money has become the main media of trading, the basic system of “provide to obtain” is still active. When you provide work, you get money as a symbol that you have provided something. Later on, you can give out this money to obtain another thing you need.
In the light of the basics of trade; one of the first questions that need to be asked is “What can I provide that my community needs?” . If you provide something that no one needs, you can’t expect to obtain anything in exchange.
This question can be broken into a few sub-questions.
What Does Your Community Need?
Analysing the country you plan to live in is an important step.
Different communities have different needs. A painter in an aboriginal tribe might be unemployed, but the same painter can make a living in a modern country. If you studied art history, good luck finding a job in in undeveloped country. You get the idea.
If you are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can easily relate to the idea that every community has an average place in the needs hierarchy.
An underdeveloped country struggling for nutrition and security has needs on the most basic levels. By default, you would need to focus on those levels.
On the other hand; a well developed country might have diverse needs covering academicians, artists and psychologists. In such a country, you could have a hard time finding a job as a blue collar worker (because production is automated) but might find a place as a shrink.
You need to consider the supply / demand balance of the need as well. You might think that the community needs yoga teachers, but if there are already thousands of yoga teachers seeking students, it means that the market is full and the need is satiated.
Future needs of the community is as important as the needs of today. If you foresee that a profession might be obsolete in 10 years (due to AI, for instance); it makes sense to stay away from it.
What Are You Good At?
Analysing your own strengths is another important step. In my opinion, one should focus on things that he/she does easily and others don’t.
Some tasks can be done easily by anyone because the task is easy. Those can be eliminated.
Some tasks can be done easily by certain people because the tasks comply with his/her strenghts. Those should be inspected as potential professions.
Many people tend to underrate their strenghts because they do it easily. If you do something easily which others don’t; this can lead to your future profession. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to work and sweat, but it means that putting the same energy as others will get you farther than others.
Here are some examples.
If you are naturally good at math, you might become an engineer or programmer.
If you feel comfortable with words and are an introvert, you might consider a career in writing or publishing.
If you are a naturally organized extrovert, project management or tourism might be your call.
If you have a strong natural compassion, becoming a social worker might be just the thing for you.
Those over-generalized examples should give you the basic idea.
The school system, or society overall, might have given you the impression that you need to be doing something you don’t like in order to gain something you like. While that might be true in some cases, it is not always true. Be mindful of your pre-learned patterns, and don’t let them make you unconsciously pick a profession where you would struggle for success because it’s requirements are your weaknesses (instead of strengths).
What Do You Love To Do?
Your profession will cover a significant part of your life. If you are not happy on your job, it is improbable to be happy in your overall life.
Confucius said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
Jessica Hische said “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life”.
If you enjoy doing something even without compensation, in your free time, like a game of hobby, turning that thing into a profession might lead you to a happy life.
If you play an instrument in your spare time, you might consider a career on music. If you really enjoy airplanes and heights, why not becoming a pilot? If you create websites and/or small games in your spare time, you might consider a career on programming. If you love animals a lot, how about being a vet? You get the idea.
Realistically consider the future of your beloved hobby though. It would be a good idea to talk to professionals of the field in question to get a better insight about what is involved and expected if your hobby turned into a job.
For example; if you like to drive around and eat donuts in your free time, being a cop may seem appealing to you. However; after talking to a professional and understanding the dynamics of the job, you may start to consider if dealing with criminals is suitable for you or not. So, early reality checks are healthy.
Bringing It All Together
The answer is to find something that the community needs, which you love doing and have a natural ability for. Those are the basic ingredients you should be looking for.
The community always needs doctors and you may love the idea of healing people. But if you are unable to tolerate blood, you would have a hard time keeping up. You may enjoy playing an instrument a lot, but if you fear airplanes and can’t travel, you might not be fit for touring. You may love animals a lot, but you can’t be a competent vet if you have a hard time operating on them. You may be in love with abstract art, but if your community doesn’t care about it, maybe you should keep it as a personal interest and look for a profession somewhere else.
If your missing ingredient is the need of the community, you could end up being poor. If your missing ingredient is ability, you could be pigeonholed into a mediocre position. If your missing ingredient is love, you could end up lacking enjoyment and life satisfaction.
Find the profession that combines all three ingredients, and you are one step closer to ikigai.
Hint: Early internship is a great way to understand if a potential job works for you or not.