The Best Career Advice I Ever Got

footprints going opposite directions
image courtesy of net_efekt

I spent a good four months in a quarterlife crisis, and it felt like torture.

It was torturous for my friends and family, too, because I couldn’t shut up about how it was just about to drive me insane that I couldn’t choose a direction to go with my professional life. I’d go from feeling like I was really close to making a decision to realizing I actually had no fucking clue, sometimes within the same day.

But had I not reached out to loved ones, I’d still be undecided. (I eventually settled on six careers. This ain’t “Normal Badassery,” you guys.) [EDITED 3/16/2013: That link doesn’t work because I’m now reevaluating my career plan. Again. It is so fun being me!!!!!]

I would ramble incessantly to them about a profession I was currently exploring and jazzed about, and, bless their hearts, they’d listen and try not to piss me off, and then I’d blow up anyway when I realized that career wasn’t going to work for me. And then I’d find a shiny new profession, and I’d dive in and start researching and start telling my best friend Kyle how I could see myself doing this…

God, this went on and on and on.

But one night, my boyfriend nailed it. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I am not rewriting that. No way.)

I can’t remember his exact words, but it went something like this: “Cassie, everything you’re doing [self discovery exercises, skills assessments, etc.] is telling you your mind is creative. But you keep saying you want to make a lot of money. You need to decide which goal to let go of: doing something your brain is well-suited for, or doing something that will get you a high paycheck.

Know Your Personality Type

And then I was like, HOLY SHIT HE’S TOTALLY RIGHT. I had identified my personality type (INFJ) and really latched onto it because I finally felt like I understood myself. We had talked about how not only do I have artsy-fartsy preferences, but I’m also just…nice. As in, too nice for traditional business roles. And my ethics and morals are entirely unshakable. I’m not willing to “do what it takes” if it means compromising my beliefs. Like, I am literally incapable of this.

The results I was getting over and over again from all my best-career-for-me exploration were pointing me to writing, counseling, academia…nothing that said “big money.” And yet I was still trying to make that goal fit in somewhere, too. I was associating my intelligence and work ethic with pay rate, and when John spelled it out for me, I realized that was a totally misguided notion. That’s not how the world works. Being smart and working hard does not necessarily yield a high paycheck. Industry matters.

Choose What to Sacrifice

So I had a breakthrough at this point. I realized I couldn’t make a decision because I was trying to achieve two competing goals with my career. I knew I had to let one go.

I want to make a lot of money, OK? I’ve always felt like I deserve to because I worked my ass off in college and got near-perfect grades, and I’ve worked my ass off in my professional life and gotten accolades, raises, and promotions. And I could totally stay on this track and eventually make a lot of money.

But it would kill me (see: INFJ).

I entered quarterlife crisis mode because the possibility that my job may be eliminated became very real, and I had to start looking for other positions. I cried to my mom (I’m 26, why?) about my bad luck in the business world, and she blurted out that my profession wasn’t a good fit for me, and never had been. And she was right, and I knew it, and I decided I needed to figure out what was a good fit for me now, at a point where I was potentially going to be forced to find another job anyway.

It became very clear that I could either aim for a high salary or for career satisfaction. But not both.

I’m guessing you know which one I chose.

Identify Your Voice of Reason

John calls me out on my shit all the time. I need him to, and he knows that, and he’s accepted his role as my personal voice of reason.

Though I know what kind of work I should be going after now, money still influences me. Somehow, I’m able to forget who I am and what my goals are, like, every day. The fear of financial uncertainty and undefined professional benchmarks associated with my chosen career path clouds my thinking. And if I didn’t run decisions about my career by John first, I’d make bad ones.

I know this for a fact, because just this week, I was presented with the opportunity to do some contract work (unrelated to wellness or personal development or anything I really care about), and I almost signed the damn contract right there because all I saw was additional income. I told John about it, and he listened, paused, and then said, “Let me put this in terms you understand.” (And in my head I was like, ‘What the HELL, John?’)

He went on: “You want to do epic shit. You say, ‘If you’re not doing epic shit, stop doing it.’ Will doing this work be doing epic shit?”

And immediately, I had my answer.

***

Discuss

Do you need to let go of one goal to achieve another? Do you have a voice of reason? What’s the best career advice you ever got?

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Your thoughts?
  1. Lauren says:

    Cassie- This inspired me to take the personality test. (I kept putting it off because I have the attention span of a squirrel.) Turns out I’m ESTJ. I had an epiphany moment when I read what the internet had to say about me. Apparently I should have gotten into politics or management.

    Best career advice I got was shortly before I decided to leave Academy. My friend, Shannon, told me, “You need to stop compromising your beliefs for somebody who doesn’t care about them. There are companies out there who would love to have someone like you.” And she was right.

    You’re right about talking to your parents about your career. My parents are baby boomers. They pretty much always say, “You should be grateful you have a job in this economy… blah blah blah.” It’s never “do what’s best for you.”

    Keep it up. I love reading your blogs. (Even your old one)

    • Cassie says:

      Lauren! Your comment went to spam–so sorry! I’ve brought it back to light. πŸ™‚

      Awesome that you took the typology test!! I love when people finally do it because they’re usually super enlightened and kind of creeped out to be reading this information seemingly written by someone who somehow knows your inclinations and strengths and preferences better than you do. Awesome, hope you’ve found ways to use the info.

      It’s great that you’ve found a bitter fit for you–everyone deserves that. And yeah, our parents mean the best, they really do. But they grew up in a different world, and for most of us, discussing work with them is just going to lead to frustration–we do not understand each other.

      Thanks so much for reading, and hope you’re doing great!

  2. Best friend? Come on.

    Also, being a grown up is hard.

    • Cassie says:

      Would “very best friend ever” be more accurate? You’re right; it would.

      Also, I agree. Also, thanks (serious face) for reading.

  3. Sarah says:

    Cassie,
    I read this and I literally thought, “woah, okay, did I write about my life under the pseudonym of Cassie one night and then just forget about it?” This is completely me right now: I’m 26, an INFJ, and I think I’ve been having a mid-life crisis for a couple of years after I realized I didn’t want to finish marine biology grad school, that it just wasn’t for me (and scientific research in general). I’ve been going around and around researching careers, taking personality tests, and generally trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing in t my life. But like you, I feel like I deserve to have this awesome career AND make good money doing it. Now I just need someone like your John to nudge me in the right direction. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.
    Thanks!
    Sarah

    • Cassie says:

      SARAH! Your comment went to spam — so sorry!

      But anyway, Hi, twin. How crazy that we’re so much alike. And hey, here’s your nudge: Do what will work best with your personality, and try not to let money influence you.

      But yeah, find your John, because if we’re as much alike as it seems, you’ll forget this advice every couple of hours. πŸ™‚

  4. NZ Muse says:

    I am an ISFJ, and writing is the only thing I’ve ever been really good at (not so good with the people stuff but fortunately interacting with interviewees is only a really small part of my job). I adore what I do but I often wish my talents lay in something more lucrative, because being financially comfortable is also incredibly important to me.

    • Cassie says:

      “I adore what I do but I often wish my talents lay in something more lucrative, because being financially comfortable is also incredibly important to me.” –I so feel you on this, and imagine it’s something I’ll struggle with my whole life. But of course, the grass is always greener… πŸ™‚

  5. barbara says:

    Hi Cassie,
    I was looking for something/someone to help me get my ass to the gym – and I found your blog. I am a single mom of a college student, an artist – humorous illustration, painting, comics, etc. – and an adjunct college art professor – in my half-life, i.e., decaying gracefully.
    After freelancing for 25 years, I still feel intense stress getting the work out of the studio (query letters, proposals, gallery applications, etc.), but it’s getting easier each time. I still panic about “the money.” In the past, I took some jobs that were distinctly not “epic shit (thank you, John),” just for the few dollars that I thought I needed. Totally not worth it.
    Now I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Prosperity is not just about money (see Julia Cameron’s The Prosperous Heart). It’s about following your passion, living life with love and humility (while not letting go of epic dreams), and being true to your self.
    Every day I know that I am ok, and I have enough.
    I guess I just wanted to write a quick thank you, from down the path, for a very helpful, insightful blog (and to procrastinate for just a few more minutes…)!

    • Cassie says:

      Barbara, thank you so much taking time to leave a comment. It made my day! I’m glad Alternative Badassery could help a little–but I have a feeling YOU could help ME even more. πŸ™‚ I’m quite interested in learning more about your professional life and journey. Looking you up on LinkedIn/emailing you ASAP!

      Thank you again!

  6. spike says:

    Wow. So glad I never worried that much about what I was doing professionally in my twenties. Sounds like a pain in the ass. I am mid-life now and still don’t worry. That was the best advice I ever got. “Don’t worry, you’re not in control, anyway. Just enjoy the ride.”

  7. Allison says:

    Great article!
    INFJ here too *waves* … also in quarter-life crisis mode for hmmm 8 months now!

    I totally get that tug of war feeling every time you “discover” a new career path. I too was in a job (albeit, a very respected one) that was just not for me. It didn’t fulfill me spiritually (and morally) and I don’t care how many times someone wants to tell me “it’s just a job” because they can go shove it! There are a ton of other jobs out there that do not include wasting away in a cubicle.

    Now if only I could decide on one …!

    Perhaps as an INFJ we desire INFJ career counselors who would just TELL us what to do, right? Despite the inner turmoil that is my crisis, I have learned oodles of really important things about myself this past year!

    I couldn’t feel worse for my friends and family who have to put up with this too. Each day it is a new idea, the relief washes over me, and then I shoot it down because of who-knows-what reason …. and then everyone is left confused.

    Ultimately, there are topics that speak to me: Wellness, Motivation, Career Counseling (ironic…), Arts, Design, Crafting, Spirituality, Fitness, Nutrition, Relationships, Psychology, Social Issues

    Right. So there they are.

    And yet, here I am filling out an application for a sales jobs. Typical.

    I’d love to here where you are now in your pursuit for career discovery!

    • Cassie says:

      Allison, wow, if you hadn’t mentioned crafting, I’d swear we were the same person! You obviously already know this but I soooooo relate to what you’ve said here. A couple things:

      1. Are you familiar with the concept of multipotentiality? If not, check out Puttylike.com. If you haven’t already stumbled upon this site, you’ll be relieved to find lots of other people like you–people with several interests and “callings.”

      2. Have you read the book “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher? Highly recommended! Just like discovering Puttylike, this book makes you feel way less crazy and broken for being pulled in a million directions, and gives some practical career advice.

      As far as where I am with things, I’ve pretty much narrowed it to writer or professor (after, as you can imagine, a TON of research, evaluation, consideration, info-gathering, trial runs… I’m thinking of creating some sort of resource for others on this, actually). I’m going full force into writing while exploring academia in the background…and I have to say, I’m feeling pretty solid about this path. πŸ™‚

      Thanks so much for reaching out, and keep me updated on your journey! πŸ™‚

  8. Jayne says:

    Oh Cassie! Me too! Me too! It’s like you’re in my head. I am also an INFJ and have these same struggles. I am so glad I stumbled upon this post! Thank you so much! I cannot tell you how comforting it is knowing someone else has this exact same struggle.

  9. Adored this!!! Exactly describes my own process…and let’s face it; its a never ending one

  10. Aaron says:

    Omg omg omg.

    Hello Cassie! I just graduated for almost a month and is going through the same thing! I would research about credit analyst and think I should apply for credit analyst jobs and the next day I would wake up and maybe look at it again and change my mind. I sort of became a career expert if you know what I mean. Hahaha. I’m also an INFJ. πŸ™‚

    • Cassie Nolan says:

      “I sort of became a career expert if you know what I mean.” β€” oh, I *so* know what you mean. πŸ™‚ Happy it resonated with you, Aaron!

  11. allison says:

    Hi Cassie,

    Stumbled upon your site and I have to say, I am going through the same stage as you are now, and have been for the past 2 years while I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. It’s so hard because I’ll get a million ideas but then change my mind the next day. All I really want to do is help people everyday but also be able to make money, so I’ve decided to go into real estate part time but also go into developing affordable housing as a day job, that way both jobs feeds my need to help others, both directly and indirectly!

    • Cassie Sanchez says:

      Well it sounds like you have it figured out, allison. πŸ™‚ At least it sounds like a great plan to me!

  12. Kristina says:

    Reading through the various INFJ blogs – during my own 1/3 life crisis and subsequent career reflections – has highlighted for me a couple of things.

    1. We are very good – and fun – writers! We love words. Every blog I have read that is written by an INJF is written in this same witty and intimate way.
    2. This is a universal truth: “I’m not willing to β€œdo what it takes” if it means compromising my beliefs. Like, I am literally incapable of this”. Ha! Truer words were never spoken. This sometimes drives me crazy, and drives people around me crazy, but I am similarly incapable of compromising my values and beliefs. I have quit multiple jobs simply because I came to realize that my values did not align with the boss. Gah!
    3. I always had a nagging feeling that I WAS special (or weird). Tada, I really am! Only 1% of the population is an INFJ.

    Thanks for an enjoyable post. Now, if you could just tell me what I should do with my life πŸ™‚

    • Cassie Sanchez says:

      Oh, I would if I could. πŸ™‚ (But I’ve always thought about creating an ebook or something with all the stuff that’s helped me over the years… )

    • Bethany says:

      Hello Kristina! I know you wrote a comment awhile ago but I wanted to say thank you for sharing observation #1… it jumped out at me as some confirmation.

      -Bethany (INFJ)

  13. Sacha says:

    Are you me!? Pretty sure we are the same person! I’m also an INFJ, also have gone through a quarter life crisis, constantly re-evaluate my career choices, and also was in the ‘grips’ and wanted only money while ignoring my creative side (us INFJs do that when we flip our functional stack and use extroverted sensing, our inferior function, instead of our introverted intuition like we’re supposed to).

    I see the post is 2.5 years old now- what are you up to nowdays?

    • Cassie Sanchez says:

      Happy it resonated, Sacha. I’m a Content Marketing Manager now; it’s a good fit for me, and I work with rad people. Definitely in a better place these days. πŸ™‚

  14. Greg says:

    Why do I have to sacrifice money and creativity? I am an INFJ type as well and your situation is just like the one I am facing right now, I want work that has meaning but I sure as hell don’t want to be broke and not be able to support a family some day. Are you financially secure in your current situation? Do you have some kind of support system? Like you split rent with your boyfriend? I do not have that option I am out there on my own trying to make something for myself but I keep struggling to think of something.

    • Cassie Sanchez says:

      Hi, Greg. So this post is about 3 years old, and things have obviously changed since then, but let’s see… Why do you have to sacrifice one of the two? Well, you don’t necessarily, I guess it depends on your definition of creative. It’s true that the types of jobs I’m best suited for typically make diddly squat and that’s what this post was about, but fast forward to today, and I’m at a salary I never, ever imagined for myself. That’s for 3 reasons: 1) I found a way to be creative and happy within the business world (as a Content Marketing Manager, in which I create content and philosophically give a big F YOU to traditional marketing); 2) I focused on getting really good at my chosen craft (writing); and 3) I found a manager who really, really “gets” me and values my strengths, and made my crazy-to-me salary a reality. I suppose if I were to give you advice, it would be to get creative about how to be creative (heh) in an industry/job that pays the salary you’re looking for. Hope that helps!

  15. Bethany says:

    Hello Cassie! I know your post is old but I wanted to also chime in as a fellow INFJ – Hi! πŸ™‚ Like others have said, you wrote almost word for word my career journey. Grh! I can relate to the agony and social frustration! I’m back to the same mountain of not knowing what my purpose is. I have a BFA in graphic design and an associates in software programming – a very rare combo to say the least! I love being right AND left brained! However, I think it adds to our career hunt frustration… do I want to paint or be an accountant? Not to many people even have the choice to put those two somewhat opposing careers in the same sentence! πŸ™‚ I thought I had FINALLY figured it out 3 years ago. I worked my a– off for two years to be one of only 5 software developers to graduate my program, got my first job in the industry, was finally able to get a nice car, apartment, furniture, etc, etc. (I spent several years broke trying out every career under the moon) Only to find out I was miserable… to “make it” at my particular company, I would have had to go against my “niceness” and personal ethics. I’m considering becoming a health couch or getting into vegetable gardening full time (blog, books, podcasts…). It’s the second time that I spent a lot of time and money on school only to quite after one year in the industry. It’s extremely frustrating and it makes me nervous to switch yet AGAIN. I might stay with programming and I might not… sigh… Anyway, thank you for sharing this article and I hope your career path is still serving you well! πŸ™‚ It’s awesome to share with someone who gets it!

  16. Natalie says:

    Have to say I loved this blog post! What you’ve gone through is exactly what I’ve been mulling over for months now in my life, and absolutely driving my family nuts in the process! In my previous career I was a musician in rock music for about ten years, I’m an INFJ also, and I had to get out of the local music scene in Vegas because of crummy people (druggies,drunks, liars, rude, you name it….) and life stress. Now I’m mulling over options for my future knowing I have to pick something to make a really good financial living… For me the struggle has really been between wanting to do something creative and helpful to society that uses at least some of my natural strengths while ALSO not going broke. Ah well.. choices. πŸ™‚ Thank you for your blog post, it has helped to make things a bit clearer. πŸ™‚

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