Mr. Hepburn, our school counsellor, gave us all career advice at our blue collar high school.

He had us all do an aptitude test that showed I liked to make things and was good with communications. Based on my marks, I was a kid who was really good at math.  Mr. Hepburn told me to go into engineering.

He never said anything about the internet.  Sure, the internet had not yet been invented, but still.

Mr. Hepburn, like most experts, had an amazing grasp of the obvious. If you are good at something, the counsellors in your life will tend to move you toward that ability. Similarly, each year the sports experts predict that last year’s champion will be the winner the next year.  We all see evidence of our own biases.

What Mr. Hepburn, in all his good intentions, didn’t take into consideration is that many career choices for people don’t exist when they are in high school.  His predictive experience was based on his personal experience which was in the past, while his counsel was for someone travelling to the future.

What we need to do is consider what we are interested in and what we are good at and follow those.  Once you are pursuing some path, it will fork, bifurcate, provide other paths to follow.  I don’t know many people these days who have maintained a straight and narrow career path.  My good high school friend Duane started as an engineer, took a detour into the Astronaut program, and then set up medical networks.

I did indeed start in math.  Then I wondered what I would do with a degree in Math, other than teaching at a university somewhere, which I didn’t think was me.  So I took a deep breath, and switched from Honours Math to Business.  I got my degree and switched again, taking a Masters in Communications – then into advertising in New York City.  I don’t think Mr. Hepburn saw that for me either.  It would, in his opinion, been a real long shot for a kid in a blue collar neighgourhood far from the cultural centres of the world.

I can’t say that the path was a straight one.  I couldn’t have forecast it and I was a lot closer to it than Mr. Hepburn.  It was a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right attitude and abilities, then taking the risk.

If you are doing something you are comfortable with, watch for opportunities.  The world is constantly changing and so are you.  Be curious and get a rounded education to be adaptable for the future, you never know what will happen or when it will  The roads will rise up before you and opportunities you didn’t know existed may just be what you were looking for.  Even if your Mr. Hepburn didn’t see it coming.

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