Q&A: How Do I Know if This is What I Want?



Q:  I am considering going to therapy to sort this out.

About every 3 months or so I go crazy about switching from my business career to medicine.

My plan in high school was to take nursing, work as nurse for X years, apply for med school and then work my way to becoming a surgeon. But for some reason I decided to do accounting instead.

I am decently good at what I do. I’ve been working for 2 years now and I occasionally struggle and get overwhelmed (I want to clarify what I mean by ‘overwhelmed’. I am not overwhelmed by the work itself but more as to what happens when you do 8 hours of work and find out that the end number doesn’t balance. I literally have to go through it line by line or erase it all and put in another 8 hours to find the error. It is just numbers all day long – no real interaction with anyone and nothing really getting achieved). When I am busy and engaged it is all good but more often I end up getting bored and either have to find something to look busy or I neglect the work I do have but don’t want to do.

Eventually I convince myself that it is too disruptive to take 4 years off to do the school for my nursing degree. I am married with responsibilities, it is a huge risk to leave my career and get loans for school.

I honestly don’t see myself doing this long term but I don’t know if this urge to go into medicine is a sign that I have a calling or if I am just trying to run when times are tough.

How do I figure out what I want? I don’t want to find myself 10 years down the line wishing I had went another path but I also don’t want to force myself in a second career!

-Anonymous Inquirer


A:  Dear Anonymous Inquirer,

While I can see that you are having difficulty settling on a choice for your career, let me reassure you that this is neither an uncommon nor an impossible situation.  From your post, I see that you have an interest in medicine, but that you have also have found some contentment in the busyness of your role as an Accountant.  While you may think that being a Surgeon and being an Accountant are from two completely different spectra on the career continuum, there are some similarities that make this whole thing make sense:

  • Both careers require one to communicate with others and to be able to understand spoken and written information
  • Both require a high level of attention to detail, reasoning and analytical skills, good decision making skills, and problem solving skills
  • Both require strict adherence to guidelines
  • Both careers require that one engage in work that keeps them busy, that they have to remain focused on in order to achieve the desired goal
  • Both require work indoors in a moderately fast-paced environment
  • Both careers considered to be are important work

Where they differ, of course, has to do with the type of tasks involved, the level of social interaction, the skills, the knowledge (education), and the specific tasks they are called upon to perform.  Would you rather work alone from day-to-day or do you want to work with and alongside people?  Are you happiest working on humans and their health or would you rather stick to data and numbers?

What I would strongly recommend for you is a career assessment.  There are several good ones online.  The U.S. Department of Labor has a few here – http://www.doleta.gov/jobseekers/assess_yourself.cfm.

You may also visit your Alma Mater’s Career Placement Office for more in-depth assessments.  Once you complete the assessment, a listing of jobs suitable for someone with your responses is given.  From this point, you should find it a whole lot easier to make your choice.

Be aware, however, that should you ultimately choose medicine, you may need to determine if being a nurse is really the path you want to take to be a surgeon.  Likewise, it may be helpful to remember that there are many roles one could have in Accounting that may be as fulfilling (Payroll, Accounts Payables, etc.).

Best wishes.


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