How to prepare for a successful career?

by | Oct 2, 2009 | 3 comments

Twelve years of school. This is where most of us really start our careers and prepare to enter the job market.

In theory, twelve years of basic education prepares us for our career or entrepreneurial ventures – but in most instances all it does is prepare us for college – or yet another four plus years of education geared at career preparation.

In both k-12 and college (or other type of advanced education) we are told how the world works and how we are to work in the world to succeed. The end goal of it all – minus the broadened education to survive in society – is a job. Ok, sometimes we call it a career, a business, or even an entrepreneurial endeavor, but lets be clear – they (the teachers and those who in their infinite wisdom counsel you whether you ask for it or not) always talk in terms of getting a job and going to work.

  • But work for who?
  • To what end?

To get a good paying job of course! That is success as defined by these institutions of higher learning.


Yes, this educational system is the path to success. But zoom out if you will and take a bigger look. You are born, grow, attend twelve years of school, attend four years of college, perform a mission in a career (usually someone else’s mission), work at it for thirty years, and then retire.

Yes – I have just described what many people believe and sell as the American Dream. This is what most of our parents have told us …

“get a good job, work hard, and live the good life.”

Here is the equation we have been sold ….
12 yrs of school + 4 yrs college + 30 yrs work = Happy Retirement

I think most of us realize that this system of doing things is broken. You see that this is a problem and that the formula is somewhat flawed. But do you really see? Consider these facts related to this American Dream…..

  • 87% of Americans dislike their jobs.
  • 33% of Americans HATE their jobs.
  • More heart attacks occur on Monday than any other day.
  • About 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year.
  • 41% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
  • 70% of Americans are not motivated to perform the basics of their jobs.
  • 43% of employees feel angry toward their employers because of being overworked.
  • The average worker spends 60,000 hours of their life at work. This does not include commuting, overtime, and thinking about work.
  • Average American job lasts 3.2 years.
  • The average American spends more than ½ of their “awake” time during the week at work.
  • 70% and 80% of all visits to physicians are for stress-related disorders.
  • The Centers for Disease Control predicts depression, a type of stress reaction, to be the leading occupational disease of the 21st century.
  • 67% of Americans labor in the wrong career field!

What does all this mean?

For a great many people the American Dream has become a nightmare.

The average American is not happy and not healthy. They dread getting up in the morning and going to work. They dread Sunday since it is followed by Monday. They have children that they dearly wanted, yet rarely have time for them beyond feeding them – and much of that is done in the drive-through window.

Success, Really?

The system we have been sold has serious problems. The key problem is that the system does not deliver the promised objectives. I will not bother with dealing with the weaknesses of the educational system itself right now – we can read that daily in the newspaper.

The sad thing is most people start their careers with energy and eagerness to change the world. And, years later, most still want to do that. Now there is more talent, more skill, and more energy – if they could only find the right outlet for THEIR energy that fits THEIR life.

Ever deal with a spirited racehorse? They are full of tension and quick to spook. They have been bred for action, to play in the race and make something happen. They cannot wait for the gate to open and burst forward. Now can you imagine all that energy tied up giving pony rides to kids? The horse would be a bundle of nerves, and since it is placed in the WRONG JOB, it would be dangerous.

Yet, that is how many of us lead our lives – like racehorses giving pony rides.

What about you? How you found your race and been rescued from pony rides? Let us know how!

About the Author

Dale Callahan

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  1. Suman

    Great thoughts!

    I am trying to live my life like a racehorse.

  2. Jason

    Yes, that is so true. I’m not too happy with my job, that’s the same way I’ve felt with my previous jobs as well.

    Thanks for those points Dale.

  3. George Barckley

    Great points. However, too often we focus on the “expectation” and very little on the “passion”. We all just need to find our passion (yes I know, we hear that every day). But, have you ever sat at the kitchen table and wrote down those do’s in your life that you truley enjoy, that get you out of bed before the alarm goes off; that’s passion. Will your passion’s change? Sure it will. Can you make money with your passion? A father/son team discovered a way to make rubber worms out of fishfood a few years ago. Ask someone who is passionate about fishing if they can make money with it and they will answer NO. Not this father/son team, they do.

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