Ever since early childhood, many of us have been told over and over again that we can be anything we want to be when we grow up. Our imaginations run wild with ideas of the fun we could have someday, being anything from a firefighter to a mailman to even a superhero!
And then there’s the reality of what these jobs actually entail—perhaps with the exception of the superhero one.
For many people, actually getting into their field of dreams proves to be very different from their childhood expectations of what it would be like.
Here are 41 examples of regrets, apprehensions, and complaints that professionals from all areas of the economy have about their fields.
Do not become an attorney. My soul is dead.
I followed what I love. Now I hate what I love. I have no interest in 12-hour daily monotony to collect pennies to buy garbage. I wake up everyday and just wait until I disappear into sleep again. Who cares what you pursue. Money is nothing. Fill those landfills and cash in.
I got a degree in civil engineering and worked as a geotechnical engineer for five or six years. I HATED always being dirty. I couldn't keep my nails clean. Couldn't wear nice clothes. Had to be in inclement weather all the time. Had to wear safety hats and vests all the time. I couldn't be feminine at all. I mostly just hated working in the rain or the scorching heat most of the time. I also had to travel constantly. It's hard to have a relationship when you're never home to meet anyone, plus I had a dog.
I quit about two years ago. It killed any upward mobility I had in a career.
Being a social worker sucks. It pays crappy and the jobs I've had have either taken my entire soul and still paid horribly, or been boring and useless and paid crappy while I constantly get yelled at by mentally ill people. I am currently trying to figure out how to leave the field because I dread coming into work every day.
Don’t go into photography like I did. It's oversaturated right now because everyone nowadays thinks they're a professional photographer with their digital cameras. It's especially hard if you’re looking to get editorial or advertising work. Super competitive and you have to almost know someone at an agency or magazine already.
My profession is teaching. I don't regret the years I’ve spent with students, but I am choosing to leave the profession. Undergrad students, laypeople, parents, etc. have no idea what it's really like. There is so much more involved than just learning your content and controlling students. It's a very political and bureaucratic profession in which you will rarely come out on top. It's emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially draining.
For anyone considering a career in medicine, think good and hard how much you time you want to spend on yourself/family/friends and decide if being "a doctor" is worth it to give this up. You're going to miss birthdays, anniversaries, meetings, parties, weddings, christenings, PTA meetings, plays, etc. No one really tells you what you're getting yourself into.
Once you're in, you're met with people telling you either that you picked this for yourself so stop complaining (usually patients) or that we did it when we were younger so you can too (senior doctors). You're expected to be tough and work yourself to the bone, then go home and study. Get a blood splash/stick from an HIV positive patient and feel like dying from the ARV side effects? Suck it up. You've been working for 30 hours? Finish the ward work before you leave.
Realistically speaking, at least 25% of the people who graduated with me are on antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds. Then there are more who are just denying their problems or self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Sure, you can eventually get to a point where you decide your own hours and actually make money (after paying off your mountain of student loans, but even then you're in debt from starting your practice) when you're around 50 years old.
I may be in a bit of a negative spot with my career choice right now because of circumstances, but speak to a couple of doctors before deciding and be realistic about it. "Helping people" only gets you so far and a lot of my fellow students who got into it for this reason had to find another reason to keep going or quit.
I'm a software developer and while it pays well, I hate being at a computer all day. I'm an active person and desk jobs are tough. Going to the gym during lunch helps.
I’m a pharmacist. I went through five years of training, only to be viewed as a shopkeeper. With my degree, I can't just go into another field without starting again, and my wife would kill me. Every day I go into work my soul erodes away…
The average career of a new minister (in my denomination at least, but similar in most American Protestant churches) is five to seven years. The education required is a minimum of seven years—Bachelor’s and three year Master’s program. Your first congregation, unless you are amazingly lucky, will be either in the middle of nowhere, falling apart and cannot afford a better minister, or both.
Congregations are aging to death so there is no fresh blood and no new money. You spend so much time and soul trying to help people feel something in their lives to the point where it can become easy to forget to feel your own. Your colleagues vary wildly from great people to arrogant sociopaths who crave attention and power. Guess which ones are in leadership? It’s all very tiring which is why I quit—but it was like losing a dream, a lover, and a career all at once.
I’m in cosmetology. I live in the suburbs of the suburbs and work in a small town salon. Granted my mom owns it, but still...
I hate working for my parents and so often I feel payday is just a pat on the head for being a good daughter.
Don't let the reason you go into something be that you are curious about it. You shouldn't be "curious," you should know as much as possible about the thing.
You should know what "insert job title" actually does on a day to day basis when you choose that path. Because your impression of what it's like may be completely—completely—off. You might not even have a real image of it, you just think it might be cool. That's that curiosity again—eliminate it. Educate yourself about what someone in the middle of "your" supposed path would be doing and actually consider whether that is something you personally would enjoy.
Take anything and everything into account, think through it, then decide. If doubts come up, re-evaluate. It may never be too late, but it is always better to change your mind sooner.
Don't start a PhD without being prepared and aware of the stress you're going to put yourself into.
I don't regret doing it per se, but it's a serious and much bigger commitment than many folks realize.
I went to law school, passed the bar, then realized I didn't like being a lawyer. I regret it, but a lot of the reasons I didn't like it were due to personality changes of getting older, so I don't think that I could have predicted my feelings in any way.
Now I own a piece of paper worth more than my house and work in a traditionally underpaid industry trying to dig myself out.
NEVER get a psychology degree. There are NO jobs out there and if you are lucky enough to ever find one, you better have a PhD or good luck!
I'm a year into a career job (R&D tech for a chemical manufacturing company) and I can't decide if it's the work or the company I don't like.
I loved academic lab work, but industry work is so cold, repetitive, uninspiring, and unengaging.
After high school, I started working at a factory. Lathes, welding, shipping/receiving. Was good pay ($16/hr) and I advanced to management positions in a few years. For a non-skilled laborer, 35-40k a year was great.
I hated going to work everyday though. I hated most of the people working there, 20+ year lifers who thought the company owed them dearly because they had been there so long when, in fact, they were easily replaceable by someone off the street and a couple weeks of training. Someone actually eager and willing to work. I liked the company and they really cared about their workers, but the entire culture was very toxic and not somewhere I wanted to be. So I studied for hours on the side (working 12 hour days), took any certification courses I could, and moved three hours away from friends and family to pursue my passion. Four years later, I'm making three times my original salary doing what I enjoy.
Had I remained doing my original job just for the safety of the salary, I never would have had a career I enjoyed—and many people who did make that choice likely regret it.
My point is that not everyone has the drive to pursue their passion and go out there to try and make something for themselves. You see it all the time in the factories or similar workplaces; people who chose complacency and familiarity instead of pushing themselves. Don't fault yourself for providing them a good opportunity.
My story thankfully didn't progress too far; decided on digital forensics in high school, went through a horrible university experience while learning networking, IT security, IT resource planning/management, hacking, said digital forensics as well as some other topics. I looked for a wide array of such jobs for half a year before realizing I absolutely did not want to do any of the actual things that you do when working with any of it.
Learning and thinking about what you actually do when "doing" any of these things seems like a big combination of dull, stressful and thankless to me. It is not the type of job that fits me and my personality.
Got an English degree, entered the writing/editing field. Work is hard to get, but that's not the worst part. There is very little room for creativity and your skills top out fast. I switched fields to software and am much happier.
I would not suggest dropping the English degree, which is still valuable to me, but I would suggest double majoring in something useful.
I chose to go into the computer field despite never being that interested in it. I was always "the smart girl" who "could be anything" and therefore felt some sort of weird pressure to go into a certain type of field because I needed to represent our underrepresented gender and not "waste" my intelligence. My personality always pushed me towards what were normally boy hobbies/interests.
I don't even know where all the influences came from, but I always felt like I should not look for a career that was generally "women's work." Of course, this was really just as bad as a woman going into "women's work" because of being a woman, because it blanket excluded fields that I now realize I probably would have enjoyed much much better. I spent high school and some college years working for the public library and I LOVED that job. I have never loved a job that much since.
It's probably what I should have done with my future, but high school me saw that as "women's work" and not "important enough" and thus avoided thinking about it seriously as a career. Of course ten years ago, being a librarian became cool and edgy, so meh on me.
My wife would say, "If you want to be an artist, don't get a Master's of Fine Arts—become a welder. You'll make a LOT more money, and can still make art in your spare time." She has an MFA in Metalwork and Printmaking. She works for a world-class art museum as an Associate Curator and has been there for 19 years.
She wouldn't qualify to be hired for that position now—she'd need a Doctorate. They aren't even hiring SECRETARIES unless they have at least a Master’s, because there are so many Art-Degree Grads out there. I have a "high school, and some college" education. I make more, don't have to work weekends, and can still make art, too.
Getting a music degree is far from the best path to building a career. Were you the best in your city? The best in your state? Top five percentile in international arts camps? Doesn't matter, you probably won't get a gig.
Even the very best music schools in the world have crap job placement percentages.
Here are your options: Join a military band (no thanks) or work on cruise ships for crap pay (did that, it will burn you out fast). You will not get a better gig. If you do, it will likely be the equivalent of minimum wage once you factor in driving, rehearsals, etc—and that's excluding the personal practice time you need to keep yourself capable of performing these jobs.
Or you can hustle for odd jobs as a freelancer, but that means a stressful lifestyle and highly variable income. Good luck having a family...
Do yourself a favor and major in something else!
I don't regret my career choice, I just wish I actually went to school for it. I mean, I still could and I might, but I wish I knew when I was 19 to choose computer science rather than theatre.
I’m a therapist. Don't go into this field if you haven't figured things out yet, and by that I mean, you haven't ever gone to therapy yourself, you aren't used to questioning everything about your life like you would a client, and overall don't enjoy working on self-development and self-care all the time. Burn-out and traumatization are real and take a long time to get over.
Plus, thinking the job is all about helping people is a mistake. It's more like helping people help themselves and watching their messes unfold like a telenovela, but it's real and most of the time you can't do much but sit there and be with them through it all. I liked it, but not after 30-40 clients a week. Also, you constantly need training and reassessing of your skills. It always feels like running on a treadmill going nowhere, no matter how much progress you make with a particular client.
I'm about 50. I actually enjoy my work (software product management), but I think I took far too long to land where I am. The internet is full of opinions from the young and mostly inexperienced. I say this because of the number of people who think hard work pays off (this is conditional), or the most competent rise into management (think political races with all the sleaze, lies, etc.).
In short, you need to manage your career. Employers will happily pay you for less and put you into a dead-end job if you let them. In a professional office setting, it seldom matters how much you work, but it does matter about perception. That is probably the biggest thing I learned, and goes against the grain of who I am. I hate beating my own drum, but it's become clear that this is required to move up.
Paralegal. The work can be really stressful because you're either dead inside or get too invested in your clients and in trying to keep them from panicking. Add to that that the only upward mobility is really to go to law school... and yeah, not worth it. I did it for four years before having a heart to heart with myself and going back to school to swap careers.
I work in advertising, specifically in a Media Agency.
It's not like Mad Men. Sure there are some fun parties, and freebies. However, the pay sucks, the hours suck and you start to become jaded and hate everything you see online or on TV.
Clients also tend to be pretty dumb.
The military can be an enticing way to pay for education. And some people definitely thrive there and find fulfillment. Just be sure to take a closer look at the other options for signing yourself up for what can often be a huge burden…
If going into accounting, do NOT fall into the trap of working for large public firms. Colleges hype them as the best option in the industry, and make it seem like passing the CPA is the only way you will be hired. That, however, is not true.
You are a cog to them. Nothing more, nothing less. You are a means to an end, a machine meant to spit out reports, perform taxes, and never make a mistake. Not only that, but you are easily replaceable. Graduating senior accountants happen every year, after all. Unhappy? Take a hike. Underperforming? They'll try someone else (I’m speaking in generalities here from personal experience. I am sure there are a few good ones, so take that for what it’s worth).
Get out there and learn about all of the amazing careers that exist for accounting. Private, corporate, charitable, managerial, farming, statistical, etc. If there is an industry, there's a position for accounting.
Find what fits you best, and what makes you happy.
Non-profit professional here. I chose it because I thought the work was interesting when I was an intern. But what I didn't realize was that positions at the more successful organizations can be very competitive, so I don't have as much choice as I imagined over where I work and what kind of work I'm doing. So I'm dealing with a crappy boss and not getting paid that great to do work that I'm actually not super-passionate about. While the relatively low pay was expected, the other crappy things were not.
Law. I feel like I was born to be a lawyer and have a good gift for certain skills that go well with law. But I strongly advise against it UNLESS you want to do it regardless of money/prestige/anything. We already have too many lawyers and jobs can be tough to come by. If you are only in it for "the money," or because you want to do something that sounds good, or your parents are pushing you into it, or maybe you think it will help you get dates, or you are just putting off going into the real world—don't do it!! Don't take the LSATs, don't go to law school, and don't try to become a lawyer.
Like I said before, I am not going to knock anyone who truly wants to be a lawyer because, after learning what real lawyers do, they actually want to do what we do. I do a lot of research, reading and writing every day—not to mention analyzing cases and discussing/working on case strategy and arguments. I personally love it. But if your reason is not that you sincerely believe you will enjoy the actual work for the rest of your life and believe you were meant for this line of work, stay away.
I’m a software engineer.
While I am competent at my job, I am not as "into" it as my co-workers. I don't do pet projects at home, I don't research the latest trends or look for new, cool programming languages to try out in my spare time. This means I treat my job very much as a 9-5 time punch (in my case, 7-3). I struggle to keep current in my field. I am not much interested in advancing (but that's also partly because I love my current hours and flexibility due to the great work/life balance it allows me). I am at a point where I really need to work for another company because the director is getting more and more difficult to work with, but working on my resume has been really depressing. I don't have any great stuff to put on it because I'm just not into the job.
My big mistake was that I didn't go for what I really loved because I didn't have the confidence to do it, which was biology. Somehow, I had it in my head that only super-smart people can be scientists. I understood that people thought I was smart but I knew, for sure, I would be exposed as being mediocre if I took up such a challenging topic. So, I stuck to classes and disciplines that I felt more confident I could just do well in, and that sort of defined how I lived my whole life for a while: nothing too challenging, where I might fail and expose myself for the fraud I was.
For better or worse, at my middling, not-so-challenging job, I got a new boss who just hated me. He, quite literally, nearly drove me insane with how he treated me because he just wanted me to quit so he could hire someone in my place that he preferred. I got so depressed that I really needed some therapy and that is how I came to terms with how much I wanted to be a scientist and how much I loved it. So, the time came and I quit that job and started all over again, working part-time and going back to school. I eventually got my PhD in biology. It is, indeed, a very challenging career where I feel my abilities are constantly being tested, but it has its rewards as well.
We once had a piano tuner visit my piano class. His first words:
Never become a piano tuner.
I'm going back to school now but working with the public has basically depressed me regarding humanity. Some types really want to work with people, but I want less of that. It amazes me how cold, calculating, manipulative, and selfish the general public can be. Even friends. Give them an inch and they take a mile. Unfortunately, I LOVE my field but 1) it doesn't pay well and 2) I can't duct tape my clients' mouths shut.
Do not go into game development because you like to play video games. You won't make it past the first semester.
Do not go into game development because you like to make games. You might make it through the courses, but the industry will chew you up and spit you out in a year.
Go into game development if and only if you LOVE to make games, and even then only if you don't mind sacrificing your life for the next decade in the name of your love.
Every year, in every CS program across the country, a few hundred neckbeards with poor hygiene flood the first-year classes, and every year...90% wash out of the program as they realize that making games is NOTHING like playing them.
The ones who last aren't much better off: They get to go into an industry with only a handful of good jobs and truckload of bad ones, so the competition is frighteningly stiff. If you don't get incredible grades and make friends with connected people, plan on spending the first couple of years being pushed to your limit to develop crummy games for lousy pay. Games that may never see the light of day. Most of your peers will leave the industry in the first six months. You will, in all likelihood, be among them.
The problem is that there is a whole lotta money to be made in the game industry, so there are a quite a few investors ready to dump money into the first startup that promises the moon and the stars. Those start-ups then get to cut corners and pay fresh grads to chug out a barely-together game at light-speed. You will get calls in the middle of the night saying that the testers found another bug and if you don't turn this trash into gold by the end of the week, you'll all be out of a job.
Of course, if you DO manage to get really good and beat out your competition, someday you might be in a job that is fun and doesn't eat up all of your time without your permission.
But you'll be in the minority.
The fashion design industry has been crippled lately to almost a non-existent size, so I have difficulties in getting any work.
Been unemployed for almost 500 days.
By the time I got to the last semester of my Master’s degree in counseling, I regretted my choice. It's soul crushing. I was prepared for the burnout that counselors experience from listening to people talk about all their pain, but I was not prepared for the burnout I'd experience after I learned just how corrupt and unethical the mental healthcare system is. I couldn't stand it.
I'm so glad I left.
Nursing sounds like a great career, but make sure you know what you're getting into. The pay can be great, but you'll be working weird hours and spend a lot of time as the butt of every single problem in the facility. Talk to some actual working nurses. Research the crap out of healthcare worker burnout, and how cost control measures affect nurses.
Know that you are costing your facility money, not making it, and they will make every effort to cut costs on your end. Know that your employer will throw you under the bus at any opportunity. Just do your research before you chose a career thinking you can actually help people, only to instead end up a burned out mess in a couple years because paperwork is more important than actual patient care to your employer.
I would go back to nursing in a heartbeat if I could actually help people, but that's not what most employers want from their nurses.
I never had a career path, just jobs, but my regret was hiring university students for casual factory work and then helping them get into well-paid positions within the corporation.
25 years later and they're still in the furniture industry. They were supposed to be pharmaceutical chemists and pathologists and doctors. I wish I'd fired them.
For anyone thinking of a career as a cook or chef: You most likely will not become the next Gordon Ramsay or Bobby Flay. Instead of starring in your own Food Network show, you'll most likely enjoy the following:
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