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6 Africantrumpet-The voice of Africans


MONEY MATTERS with Ken Barnes

Choosing a Career

This month, I would like to share part of a presentation I made not long ago at a confer- ence on Jobs and Careers in Los Angeles. I want to do this because career choice has once again become very impor- tant in our daily life due to the high levels of unemployment in our economy.

Last month I got a call from a middle aged man who was wondering if he chose the right career in Life. Another man was transitioning into a new career path and needed my input so that as he put it “he doesn’t make another mistake”. Among the many definitions of the word “career” is this: “a cho- sen pursuit, a profession or occupation”. Another source defines career as “job or occu- pation regarded as a long-term or lifelong activity”. The empha- sis is the long-term or lifelong activity. A career is thus a pro- fessional pursuit you enter for a long time sometimes lifelong!.

Lots of thoughts and factors should therefore be taken into consideration before a choice is made to avoid a wasted life sit- uation.

It is a truism that one’s career could be the single most impor- tant source of income in life. One’s career could also be a source of social prestige and a source of power. Your career choice could determine your level of relevance in the society and has the ability to determine who you become in the future in society. Sometimes it deter- mines who you marry and who becomes your friend, sad isn’t it? But that is the reality. So whether you are about to choose your career for the first time or you are transitioning into another career or you are wondering what career best fits you, I pray that this essay guides you as a resource tool to make an informed and rational decision.

The first point I want to discuss

is this: Choose a career that match your talents and abilities. There is always the need to know your abilities, your strengths and weaknesses, what you can do best and what you are always found wanting in doing. There is the need for you to know what skills come to you easily and what skills leave you struggling. For instance a naturally quiet and shy person who always maintains and cherishes his privacy might not be very successful in sales. A person who is usually “all over the place” might not be a great accountant but a detailed ori- ented person might be. People who are able to match their tal- ents and abilities to their careers are usually very suc- cessful at what they do. Secondly, choose careers that interest you! What are your areas of interest in life? What do you wish you are always doing? What do you enjoy doing? Where will you rather be? A person who is not excited about children cannot be a good teacher. A person who hates football might not be a good football coach. Someone who delights in singing might be a good music producer. Interest has a level of commitment so long as the reward is good. Choose careers you are pas- sionate about! What is your passion in life? What do you feel you were born to do? What satisfies your heart? What is it that gives you that inner fulfill-

ment? Passion is different from interest. Someone can talk you into developing an interest in career but you might not have the passion for that career. Passion is interest plus emo- tions and conviction sometimes minus financial reward. People who work with passion general- ly tend to succeed. Choose Careers that pay well! In the long run realistically it’s all about the money. It’s all about being comfortable and able to discharge your financial obligations to yourself, family and society. I recently was part of an interview process to hire a mid level management team for this company in Ohio and was startled when one of the inter- viewees responded head on to my question, “why should I hire you?” . The guy gave three rea- sons and the third one was, “because of the money!” we work for money! The panel laughed but he was right! We cannot overlook the money aspect. A Nigerian friend of mine once told me "na thank you I dey chop?" meaning he doesn't live on ' thank you" he needs to be paid so he can pay his bills and take care of his family.

Choose careers that make you relevant to your community and society. Like it or not, you have a social responsibility to help your ‘neighbor’! This is a world of interdependence! No one can be 100% self sufficient, everybody needs somebody.

You thus need to be relevant to your community through your career among other things for this interdependence and inter- relationship to be complete. People will constantly ask for your unofficial or official opinion and advice on a subject once they know you are an expert in that subject. People meet me at social functions and ask for my opinion in real estate, personal finance, corporate crises etc because they know i consult in that area. I have a friend who has been a teacher for "gazil- lion" years and owns a school, people are constantly consult- ing him on educational matters and so it is with other profes- sions.

Choose a versatile, growing and evolving career such that when the dynamics of the econ- omy change, you can easily transition with it. Be careful choosing a career in a dying industry or an industry which is chocked up! Look for emerging industries, industries with lots of potentials in growth and oppor- tunities and income. Industries that can easily make you versa- tile like technology accounting, sciences etc. An Accountant is needed in every industry. A “computer person” be it in soft- ware, engineering and pro- gramming is needed every- where in today's world etc. These two scenarios are not true for every career. Some careers limit your versatility while others, as already stated

somewhere in this essay, are dying and going extinct. There are other factors such as Geographical preferences, health, culture, propensity and ability to study and go to school, family history and finan- cial dynamics etc but for the purposes of this essay, I will limit myself to those discussed. It is important to note that you cannot make an informed and wise decision based on only one of these factors. Passion alone doesn't cut it; interest alone won't work it, choosing a career solely based on Money is always not the politically right thing to do. Thus a little bit of everything with one or two major underlying reasons seem to be the right way to go about it!

Be realistic to yourself but don't be a wimp, challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone, surprise yourself, do what oth- ers think is impossible, aspire for the top! don't take initial set- backs to be failures, Refuse to be a failure, press on, refuse to give up, don't look at the rugged environment , be pur- poseful and well focused, aim at the prize! For that is how successful people made it!

Ken Barnes- MBA is the President of Barnes and Barnes Financial Inc and Barnes Training and consulting,Santa Clarita,CA. You can reach him at

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