Accidental vs. Intentional Careers
By
Bill Cottringer

“Our strongest gifts are usually those we are barely aware of possessing. They are a part of our God-given nature, with us from the moment we drew first breath, and we are no more conscious of having them than we are of breathing.” ~Parker J. Palmer.

Maybe I should have retitled this article as “Confessions of a Career Junky.” I have been a victim of stumbling accidentally into nine different professional careers (actually up to 11 if you consider my photography and writing hobbies as careers). This was partly because vocational counseling wasn’t that big at the time I went to high school and college back in the sixties. The other blame goes to being a natural wonderer and wanderer with ADHD, and of course, the illusory chases of ladder-climbing and greener pastures, that rarely seem to come true as hoped for.

Now being a “victim” of playing musical chairs with careers hasn’t necessarily cheated me out of valuable knowledge and experiences which I can use in all of these expanded 10 careers, as a writer in the 11th, so not all is lost. I remember reading in one book with this wisdom—by reading one book ten times or reading ten different books once each, you generally end up landing in the same spot with what you know and can apply.

Before we get too far off the track, we probably shouldn’t lose sight of the long-term value of carefully selecting a career that fits you like a glove and brings maximum job satisfaction and success. Intentional careers can probably do this easier and quicker than accidental ones. If anyone should know this, it is me!

So, in the interest of taking a little of the accidental nature out of and putting more planned intention into vocational counseling advice, I’d like to offer the following suggestions:

1. Rick Warren, in his earlier book “A Purpose-drive Life,” has some applicable advice on aligning your chosen work and your life’s purpose. He recommends finding the right work purpose by exploring four different paths: (a) knowing what you like to do most and have the most fun doing (b) accurately evaluating what skills you have and what you are best at doing (c) asking trusted others as to what they think you do best (d) uncovering the things that are most difficult for you to do, but knowing they need to be done and that you are willing and able to do them better than others. When your work and life values both support the same unique purpose, you were born to fulfill, much happiness and success are sure to come. And of course, the sooner you discover this the better off for all.

2. At least consider accepting the reality that the pasture on the other side of the fence is not necessarily greener, but sometimes just a different shade of brown. All careers and jobs have enjoyable advantages and annoying disadvantages that come with the whole package. The goal should be to end up enjoying more satisfaction from the advantages and less disappointments from the disadvantages. For example, public service generally offers greater job security, better benefits and a stable retirement system, whereas the private sector can offer better financial opportunities, more perks and increased lateral and upward mobility. If it is variety you want, the compromise may be to pick a career that has the most opportunities in a variety of different settings such as a nurse working in a prison, hospital ER. private practice, business, sports, overseas clinic, politics or entertainment setting, just to mention a few possibilities of many.

3. Seek vocational guidance testing and counseling to see which career(s) your perspectives, preferences, knowledge, personality, and abilities line up closest with, in predicting better success and more job satisfaction. I accidentally stumbled into careers in the military, mental health, education, law enforcement, corrections, security, sports psychology, business consulting, and building maintenance, plus serious photography and writing hobbies. But all the vocational tests that I later discovered, told me I would be happiest and most successful at being either a forest ranger, veterinarian, lawyer, or brain surgeon. A little late in the game for this revelation, but maybe I can do those things in a later life, if there is such a thing. If not, I have enough fond memories of my accomplishments in these many careers and certainly will have a lot to write about for a long time to come. Maybe that was the whole purpose of my fascination with playing career musical careers. Whoever knows except when you look at your feet because you are usually already two-thirds to where you are going before you know it.

Let me leave you with this grand purpose a smart friend of mine posed for me to become a thread to weave through all my careers—“Leave every situation you come upon in a little better condition than when you arrived.”

“You owe it to all of us to get on with what you're good at.” ~W.H. Auden

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or ckuretdoc.comcast.net.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or ckuretdoc.comcast.net.