Youngsters today take distinct paths when determining their career. Some make their decision at an early age, and though they may make and change their minds countless times in time, they are dead set on making that decision alone, with the motto “I know what is best for me”.

Recently I was, in a way saved by a TED talk shared by one of my friends. The talk “The surprising science of happiness” by Dan Gilbert is about how the abundance of choice eventually causes unhappiness. When people are overwhelmed by numerous choices people tend to be unhappy with what they have chosen, however when the ability to choose was taken away, people chose to be happy with what they have. In this light, I am sad for today’s youth who are drowned in choices of all kind.

I wonder if the high self-esteem of such headstrong youngsters inhibit their happiness, are they able to pursue successful careers?

And then there are those who have no idea what they want to do, and go about asking everyone for their opinion! The situation of this group is critical and we have a role to play in their lives: The people from whom they seek counsel often tend to beautify their own personal experiences. They’d like to say that they did in in the best way possible, that they are the biggest and the smartest in their field, but they fail to take into consideration the current state of things. Yes, you succeeded but is this particular youngster identical with you? The personal skill of the person in question, or the current state of the economy, all these are different variables that should be taken into consideration.

Career counsel tends to go in the direction of “Become an engineer” or “Become a lawyer”. It is one thing to receive counsel and “benefit from the experience” of these people, but at the end of the day, they are different people. Taking the life experience of such people and applying to today’s world, assuming that the status quo was stagnant is absurd, much like holding a lab experiment and ignoring all valuable variables. I personally went through this same experience.

At the times I desperately sought for help, I asked for the counsel of two musicians who are both a master of their craft. The one who ended up having an unsuccessful career told me “She should definitely pursue music as a hobby, and choose another career”. The one who had attained the highest tier in his music career told me: “She should fully pursue music and do nothing else if she is to succeed.” Both these advice were true, but none of them were helpful for my daughter.
At the end, when you ask a silly question like “I am here to take advice about my career”, you get a silly answer.

Before asking for advice, you should keep in mind the situation of the person you are counselling with. Is he really as successful as you believe? What did he do to be successful? If you ask the right questions you may be able to fully understand their situation. Perhaps he inherited his success from his father, and did little to improve it when he could have easily achieved greater things. So before you make any assumptions you must extensively comprehend his situation. Only then will your questions, and any answers you get from them, will have any meaning.

If the person you are looking up to is a Harvard graduate, no matter what you do, you would never be able to reach their level. But if you ask them what path they took in order to end up in Harvard, how many hours a day did you study, what choices you have made, then you will receive useful answers.

Choose the person you ask advice from wisely, search far and wide, try to understand in what field he is successful and why, make sure if this is your goal or not, and only then ask more specific questions, as to not waste your or anybody else’s time.

If you ask me, the money you make with whatever career you choose, will never bring you happiness. If you are happy to do whatever it is you have chosen as a career, only then can you be happy.

Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness