By Christine Mulenda
Most of us, if not all of us, have at some point or another sat down and thought about what exactly we would be when we grow up. Choice of a career starts as early as pre-school for some, and others after secondary education depending on the points on the grade twelve certificate one gets. A lot of us are aware that a career means a job associated with paid employment in a single occupation. However, a career is more than a paying job; it can be parenting, volunteering, part time work or self-employment.
Here are some of the factors that influence one’s choice of a career and the wisdom of being flexible when things don’t go your way.
Change is constant
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea.” ~C. JoyBell. C
We change constantly and so does the working world around us, thus it is important to adapt to the changes and be resilient. Every change, good or bad, brings new opportunities. It is wise to be aware of the changes around you and make proactive choices rather than resisting or complaining about the change.
In my first year at the University of Zambia, I had my career life all planned out. I knew that in the next seven years to come, I would become a medical doctor and later on become a surgeon. Lo, and behold, the sciences hit me really bad, especially Mathematics 1100. I became so devastated because at that point I knew that my career of becoming a medical doctor was going down the drain and if I didn’t react soon enough, I would also lose my sponsorship and go back home.
Looking at my grades, it was at this point that I realized change is constant and holding on to the dream of becoming a medical doctor at this point would not do me any good. First and foremost, I made deliberate actions to better my grades at all costs, but according to the academic calendar, these interventions came in a bit late. I thought hard about the choices at hand and chose to do something that was close enough to medicine, since my drive for medicine all along was to serve people. The option closest to that was Nursing.
I looked down at the number of options I had and what helped me go for nursing apart from the passion of serving people was the ‘opportunity awareness’. I looked at the career opportunities around me now and those that would still be there in the future to come. This is important because nobody wants to spend four/five/seven years in school and let their degree rot because a career they chose is out of season or market, choose something that you know will be of value even in the next decades to come.
I had a choice, whether to sit back, complain and let everything go down the drain or to welcome the thought of a career change at that point and soldier on. This point was tricky because I knew that I had not only betrayed myself but my family and everyone around me who had faith in me that I would become a medical doctor. But as the saying goes; “you cannot live your entire life pleasing others.” I had to make a choice that would benefit me in all angles.
During this trying moment of trying to figure out what was best for me, I faced criticism, mainly from my friends whom I was at the same school with and some of my relatives. They discouraged me from pursuing a degree in nursing because they believed, a young lady with 08 points in the school of natural sciences should just study hard enough and earn points to be quartered into school of medicine. My former classmates in high school even mocked me to say ”why should someone come all the way to the University of Zambia just to come and do nursing?” That really had me thinking and pushed me to believe in myself more and not the negativity around me. Yes, I was not even aware that there was a degree programme in Nursing at the University of Zambia until it was time to sign for quotas at the end of the academic year.
Despite the negativity around me, I knew myself very well. I knew my interests, skills, abilities, aspirations and above all my personality. This helped me to look for something that suits who I am. My father was very supportive at this time, he was the last person I told about my decision to do nursing instead of medicine. I was afraid of his reaction and disappointing him, but to my surprise, he was not disappointed in me. Instead, he encouraged me to work extra hard and defend my place and sponsorship at the university. He encouraged me to go for what I thought I would excel in and enjoy doing, and that’s how I made up my mind completely to do nursing with the support of my father.
Thus, self-awareness is important at each stage of life that demands major decision-making moments. Know your strengths and weaknesses and choose something that will suit your personality to avoid living or doing frustrating work because it is the opposite of your beliefs, skills, abilities and personality. Trust me, there is nothing as frustrating as waking up every day to do something that you do not like. Your input will be less and you are most likely to be fired.
Clearing your vision
My journey so far has been exciting; I have discovered other aspects of nursing that I didn’t know existed. As I finish my five-year degree programme in nursing at the University of Zambia, school of nursing sciences in 2020, I wish to advance my studies up to PhD level in nursing. My interest has shifted from working in the ward to actually becoming a lecturer in order to impart knowledge, skills and hope to those who might be facing the same challenge I went through.
Nothing is constant in this world apart from God. Therefore, when situations around you change, be flexible and look out for the best alternative to better yourself. No one changed anything by crying, being depressed or being angry at the world. The world really does not owe anyone anything, be bold and step out into the unknown and make it your mission to succeed in the new horizon that you step into. Life is a journey, do not get fixed on a single destination, even as you soar into the unknown, keep your vision clear and well defined because it will give you the energy you need to go after what you want. Some careers are a stepping stone into something greater, the fact that you started on a lower level does not mean that you will remain there till eternity, you can still go back to your initial career choice and accomplish and become all that you ever wanted to be as long as you do no not lose focus of your vision.