Taking the First Step – Eric Stakebake

During my first year in High School, I heard a powerful saying: a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so watch your step. Looking back, I can see how those words are a great reminder to be mindful of our decisions, but at the time they filled me with an awful sense of self-doubt. What did I really want to study? How could I be sure? After many years of searching, I learned a lot about decision making. I also found a major that I love along the way. I hope that the lessons I learned can help you to take action and find some direction for your future.

One of the things I heard most while “career shopping” was that I needed to talk to people in the field I was researching. I strongly believe that if you want to know what a job or major is like, you should talk to people that do it! I would compare choosing a career or major to modern dating. You might find someone really attractive on social media, only to find out that you have no connection when you meet them. Talking with doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, or whomever else can help you find out if you have a connection with that occupation or area of study.

Once you have spoken with various mentors, perhaps you have found your calling in life. Or if you are like I was, you might have narrowed down your options, but still aren’t sure which path to take. The best advice that I can give you at this point in time is to take what you have learned so far and make an educated decision. When the time came for me to choose a major, I was almost paralyzed by the “what-if” factor. I was so worried about the opportunities that I might miss, that I was scared to choose at all. Which leads me to my next point.

Making a decision doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in one path. Sometimes we look around us and wonder what we’re doing wrong. Here I am second-guessing my second guesses while others seem to have their lives planned from preschool. Something that helped me to decide on a major was to realize that what I would study would not necessarily define what I would do in the future. That may be different for some specialty areas of study, but for most of us there is flexibility in our future.

When I picture a journey of a thousand miles, I imagine ups and downs. I picture beautiful mountains and breath-taking landscapes, along with a few hundred miles of maybe feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere. That has been my experience with life as well as with choosing my major. After gathering all of the relevant information, the most important thing we can do is to act. To slightly reword the quote that I heard when I was younger:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so take your step.

Elfas Chikanga

Choosing the actual lovely and reliable career is an extremely difficult assignment to effectively accomplish in everyone`s dear life. However, I carefully considered a number of factors. I confidently observed that a teaching career would mostly suit my circumstances which were nearly gloomy. Some of the salient considerations that undoubtedly won my averagely gifted mind were; employment opportunities after graduation, my financial status, training period, career`s benefits, personal desires and expected benefits for my future toddlers. It is the chief intention of the writer to critically elaborate on the above highlighted factors in detail.

Employment opportunities in Zimbabwe had become pitifully scarce. Industries had surely shut down. When my close crony updated me about the current teachers` college requirements for admission, I immensely considered the fact that soon after graduation I will be obviously employed as a permanent educator. I then decided to apply for admission at Hillside teachers` college, one of the famous institutions in Zimbabwe. I considered an essential merit that when I graduated I would freely select the province, district and even the school to work in. That freedom primarily motivated me to choose teaching as my convenient career. Numerous trained educators were needed in Zimbabwean secondary schools. Therefore, I was optimistic that I will surely acquire an occupation after graduation. The opposite is currently experienced by graduates in areas such as engineering, nursing and business studies.

The second factor that enormously affected my fairly wise decision was my family`s financial status. I came from a very impoverished family. My mother was unemployed and she survived with endurance through subsistence farming. My father had conked in 2003 and my young sisters also yearned to learn at a boarding school. A teaching career was the most reliable path for me to follow because of low tuition fees and the loans awarded to students. I knew that my mother would not be stressed up trying to search for my college fees. The student loans would greatly assist me. My mother would only source funds for transport costs, food and clothes. Considering the fact that my mother was unemployed and that no one would assist her, I realized that it was worthy for me to join the teaching career where college loans would rescue her from troublesome financial burdens.

The reasonable training period required for one to be a qualified teacher also vastly motivated me to pursue this career. As a high school graduate, I was confident that it would only take me two years to accomplish the training. Such a short and painless training career was really convenient for me considering the fact that my mother, a widowed old woman did not have the sufficient financial capabilities to send my sisters to high school. I greatly aspired to assist her paying school fees for them. With that desire in mind, I genuinely embraced the teaching career.

Furthermore, teaching has a copious of benefits that I observed from my humble neighbors and some arrogant distant relatives. I knew that I would not continuously labor till the end of the year. I was conscious that I would enjoy working five days per week and three lengthy holidays every year. I greatly anticipated enjoying these benefits. I also wanted to work in rural areas where there is free accommodation and water. Absence of transport costs incurred when travelling from school to my

abode also coerced me to pick up this humble career. I loathed a career where job opportunities would be strictly found in urban areas characterized by mercilessly expensive accommodation, transport, food and water. Teaching became the career that triumphed in my mind out of a plethora of options which were readily available for me.

Deep in the core of my sensitive heart, I really loved teaching. I wanted to play with children. Laughing and joking with young ones had successfully stolen my heart. I knew that the young minds would usually fail to perform excitedly at school due to lack of proper advice. I wanted to test the viability of my beliefs and ideas on the young ones` success. I wished to persuade the hearts of the innocent souls so that they would appreciate the importance of education. It is only at school where I will find children to educate not only the curriculum of the school, but the critical definition of life. Basing on the above explained personal wishes, I eventually decided to join teaching.

I chose teaching as a trustworthy career believing that one day I will have an immediate family to responsibly support. I despised the idea of watching my biological children travelling on foot very long and tiresome distances while going to school. I wanted to stay with my children. I was optimistic that one day my children will learn at my school. I wished to intimately monitor their academic performance and journey through working closely and persistently with their subject teachers. Nothing else would offer me such huge benefits except teaching.

Higher chances of getting a job after graduation, poor financial status, duration of the career`s training, benefits such as free accommodation, free weekends and three lengthy holidays every year, personal desires such as loving to play with innocent minds and other merits such as watching my children growing and learning were the essential factors that mostly affected my choice of a teaching career. Other career options would brutally stress up my old mother. I hated staying at a college for numerous years because I honestly wished to relieve my mother from the enormous burden of paying school fees for my young sisters. I loved the idea of enjoying three holidays every year. I personally wished to play with young ones. Finally, I knew that I will certainly get a job after graduation and because of that I eventually decided to join a teaching career.

Finally, I found it! – Chin Shuen

Back in primary school, being questioned about ambition by the teachers seemed to be very normal. Excited, every student would be so eager and proud to share his or her ambition to everybody in the class. Pilot, doctor, teacher, policeman and lawyer are the most popular ambitions and answers that could be expected by the teachers. These decisions were made mainly because of the influences by television programs that portray the professional looks of those people when they are working, and the attractive salary that they earn.

Moving on to secondary school, when everybody is being asked about his or her ambition again, most begin to doubt, some do not even have one (or most likely disappeared). These situations may be because they are confused of their own identity, that they are not sure about what kind of people they are. In this stage, they might be afraid of taking up responsibilities and accepting new challenges as they are unsure if they could handle those jobs well.

Now, in the university, some do not know what to study but are forced to study something just because they do not want to feel left out, as more and more of their friends begin studying something in the university. As in the case of some, in their final year of studying degree, they do not even know what job that they could do when they come out from the university later!

As for me, my doubts ended in secondary school, particularly in my last year of school before graduating. Of all the options I obtained from the website: pathologist, teacher, doctor, forensic scientist; and based on my secondary school results, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), or the Malaysian Certificate of Education, I could definitely get into a good university if I had wanted. However, I had to give up on those available options because of the advice given by my teachers and family members. These were among the opposing remarks that I had received when I said I wanted to be a pathologist or a doctor.

‘Please don’t.’

‘You will have no life, as you will need to commit your hours or days to your patients in the hospital.’

‘You will have no time for your family and not to mention about finding a partnerin your life.’

Then I gave up on that option.
When I chose teaching as my future career, my teachers all advised me again.‘Please don’t try to be one.’
‘It is very stressful.’
‘You should try to do something big with the intelligence that you have.’Again, I gave up.

I admitted, at that time I did not have enough confidence and time to really sit down and think about a career that was suitable for me in the future. Despite doing the personality tests in my school and attending all types of education fair and career talks, I still did not

have any idea about my future occupation. When the day of graduation came nearer, I began to be anxious and nervous as I did not want to be a useless person in the society.

Out of the blue, I reminisced on what my Form Three teacher in the secondaryschool once told me, ‘You are suitable to study psychology, you are the psychological type of human.’ Well, she did not mention the reason for her words, which left a great question mark in my head: Why did she say so? I did not really pay much attention to what she said, because I did not put psychology into my priority list of careers at that time.

Not long after finishing my SPM, I began searching and researching all sorts of information, just to justify her sayings. Finally, I found it. I found a career that somehow suited my personality; outgoing, organized and responsible – a human resource manager.

In January 2017, I began my first semester of foundation year in UCSI University with full scholarship being awarded by the university. I still remembered, my first subject was Fundamentals of Oral Communication. I liked that subject very much and started applying what I learnt in my daily life. Soon, in the second semester, I had another communication subject, Human Communication, which I scored a GPA of 4.0 in both that subjects. I was extremely happy and delighted as I finally found my passion in a field that I had never really explored. I discussed this matter over with my family and got their support. My mother suggested that if I am really interested in that field, I could go on to further my studies in my Masters and PhD. So, right now, I am in my first year of pursuing the degree program in psychology in UCSI University, where I still insist on my future occupation – a human resource manager. This will be a reality in another 5 years’ time.

The Last Place You Look – Bess Katerinsky

I was over 30. I had a steady job in a well-established sector of the banking industry. I had paid off all my debt, had plenty of savings, and even had funds to take vacations and donate regularly to charity. Sounds pretty perfect, right?

I was also unmotivated, unengaged, and completely unhappy in my professional life. The work was repetitive and tedious to me; I felt like I was trapped on top of an ever-growing pile of pointless paperwork. No other jobs in banking or finance appealed to me in terms of career advancement, either. Perfect? Not for me, and I wanted a way out.

A career change wasn’t just a vague desire for me, it was necessary for my happiness. There’s a big difference, however, between knowing that something isn’t right for you and knowing what isright for you. That’s where my real search began. I did know one thing: that I wanted my career to be an enjoyable challenge, in a field of work that I found truly meaningful. But what work was that?

As a child, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to be “when I grew up”. I took aptitude tests in my early teens, which said I should work in a laboratory. In my college years, I took several personality tests with wildly differing results, including one that suggested I join the clergy! Over the following years I tried different jobs, but nothing ever seemed right. I took so many tests, but none of them really felt like they managed to pinpoint my true passion.

Eventually, on yet another attempt at discovering a line of work that would be ideal for me, I went to Google. I searched “what is my perfect career”, and the results included a website called “What Career is Right for Me?” The test was a little different than ones I’d taken before, and gave me several unexpected suggestions when I was finished. One in particular caught my eye: Interpreter/Translator. At first, I dismissed it, as I’m only fluent in English. But it made me think about another career I had long considered but never pursued: teaching English as a foreign language.

Of all the careers I had ever thought about, teaching was one that I was never sure I could do. I believed that being able to teach well was a gift that you were born with, and I just didn’t know if I had the gift. I also worried that I didn’t have enough patience to teach, and that I wouldn’t be able to really make students learn.

But the thought of becoming a teacher just didn’t go away. It stayed in my mind, until I finally contacted a school where I could get a certification in teaching English as a foreign language. The advisor I spoke to was extremely knowledgeable and friendly, and answered all my questions. In the end, I decided to take the training. I learned a lot in my course, but two points stood out as especially important. First, that teachers don’t “make students learn”, but they are responsible for facilitating that learning. And second, that good teaching may be gift, but it is also a skill – and that skill can be developed and endlessly improved on.

One year later, I have my certification. I have several students that I teach English to privately, and I also help teach in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class held at a local community center. I wouldn’t say that my work is never difficult, or that I never get tired or frustrated. But teaching makes me happy, where no other job ever has. There is a joy in watching someone’s eyes light up when they learn something new and understand it; in my new career, I get to experience that joy.

You may have heard the saying “when you’re trying to find something, it’s always in the last place you look”. That really is true, but it’s true because once you find what you’re looking for… you stop looking. So, keep trying to find your perfect career, and don’t stop looking until you find it.

After all, if I can do it, anyone can.