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.

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