As I currently do not have a career (I define a career as something with a predetermined start and a predetermined goal), I found myself wondering how people generally go about picking their careers. For many their career will essentially be determined almost randomly and exogenously by the first employer that accepts them out of college; often in an unrelated filed. My career was “chosen” or I chose my career when I was 16 or 17. Back then, prior to the world wide popularity of the internet, there was something called the fidonet and fidonet had something similar the usenet, the news groups. In there, I think it was during my first year of high school, I started talking to T_, who was a year older than me, and I was amazed at how much he knew about physics and mathematics. At the time I was one of those very bored students, who got high, but not super-high, grades without putting in particularly much effort spending most of my spare time playing games and programming my computer. Shortly after being thoroughly impressed by T_’s knowledge, I started reading up all the college level books the HS library had to offer. After I understood quantum mechanics (at 17) and started writing a book about special relativity (at 19), I had long decided that I wanted to be a physicist. Hence, there was never any doubt (other than wanting to change my other “major” to computer science from mathematics which at that point was too late anyway) and I went straight to the point where I am now or rather was a few days ago, career textbook style.

I have however thought about other careers from time to time and I still revisit the list from time to time.

  • Lego designer — Until I was 11 or 12, Lego was my main occupation. When I got a new set, I’d build the model following the instructions, then immediately pick it apart and make up other models. Of course when I got my first PC that all changed.
  • Electronics technician — I got this idea from the first career book I ever read. It sounded interesting, fixing TVs and radios. In fact, electronics was my hobby for quite a while. My biggest project was building a 20W stereo power amp completely with self-designed torus/donut supply in a nice black 19″ rack.
  • Fighter pilot — I suspect this was from being a pretty good arm chair pilot and wanting to experience the real thing. However, the long odds of the selection process made me change my focus to something else, namely …
  • Electrical Engineer — If I had to do it all over again, this is what I would pick. The required skills are very similar to what I eventually ended up succeeding in, that is, using computers to solve complex equations, but an EE degree is probably more widely useful compared what is essentially an academic degree.
  • Physicist — See above.

There are other things I thought about doing as well including precision machinist/tool maker, watch maker, financial analyst, bicycle mechanic, ecologist, … There is not enough time to get degreed and pursue actual careers in all of these, but there just might be enough time to try many of these as a hobby.

Retirement is supposed to be about what you want to do, e.g. travel, play golf, … I suppose I want to learn, but I also want to do (no use just sitting around reading or thinking about stuff) and the main challenge as I see it is to get a chance to do things without going through the motions of the traditional pathways.