Choosing a career: what you need to know that no-one tells you

Our columnist Matthew Reeves on what he's learnt about career choices from his own somewhat unusual experiences

I (like you, probably) had the good foresight to be born into the free world. My pre-gestation planning (yes, I'll take the credit) started me on a lifetime of making good career choices - like not being born in a Communist country and forced into being an Olympic gymnast or learning maths on an abacus.

For that reason (and some others I'll come on to), I see myself as an expert on career choices, and career choices do start young.

So, like many of us, you've probably already dropped the ball a few times. Maybe you weren't in as many extracurricular sports team leadership positions as some at your secondary school, but you carried on anyway and you've made it to university.

Perhaps you didn't sign up in freshers' week to be the chief whip of the Debating Society (well done, actually - I think a bunch of under-22-year-olds shouting their non-expertise about anything can be a bit wince-worthy).

However, you've now, with a chunk of your university career behind you, reached the careers choosing equivalent of last orders at the bar.

You're less than a quarter of the way through your projected lifespan but, as we all know, the most powerful people in the world, from presidents to celebrities, were all famous for their tween athleticism and youthful argumentative prowess.

You need to buck up your ideas and get going on making careers decisions, whether you want to run a startup or join a graduate scheme. I do know, however, that choosing a "career path" in your early twenties can feel like writing your own funeral invitations aged five.

In my quest to find the perfect job at the youngest possible age, I found myself beginning cover letters with long passages of meandering prose reflecting on the specific birthplace of my passion for jobs I hadn't know existed a few years ago, backwards engineering fairytale realisations.

Now I've had more than zero jobs, I can actually talk about careers with slightly more authority. I've had factory jobs, internship-like jobs, graduate jobs, normal jobs.

I've walked out of jobs, been fired from jobs, and walked back into jobs where they hadn't noticed I'd walked out. I've been paid a lot in boring jobs and earned less in jobs where I've learnt a lot.

Each new job has been slightly better than the last - in pay, in experience, in fulfilment. Rarely has a job lasted more than 12 months. There are millions of people doing better in their field than I am, but one thing I'd like to claim is that I'm an expert quitter.

Because the entire notion of long-term career planning is sort of absurd these days, I think being a quitter is the real key to success.

Knowing when to cut your losses, when to hang on for now, and when to cautiously explore other options is what really makes people's career choices great.

It's rarely a good idea to put your eggs all in one basket, so why should choosing a career be the exception? Instead, you should be an exception: be a quitter.

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