What Causes the Confusion and Why It’s OK to Be Confused
When it comes to career paths, conflicting messages can sometimes lead to analysis paralysis. First, we are told to do what we love. Then, we follow that up with the importance of income stability. Last, we have a smorgasbord of possibilities. Criteria for choosing our careers mixes feelings, with practicality, and freedom of choice.
Although diversity in choices might work for some, it can debilitate others. In some countries, students, based on their grades, dictate what their major should be in college. If you’re not in the 70th percentile when it comes to biology, for example, majoring in the sciences is out of the question. This essentially eliminates medicine as a possible career path. In this process, grades narrow your choices for you.
Books on career paths tend to lean on personality and psychology tests to figure out career path matches. If this strategy doesn’t work, a concept in sociology referred to as the master status, might help.
What Is the Master Status?
Essentially, master status is our main persona. Our statuses can be ascribed or something we are born with, such as being a native Californian, or the son of a king. Or we can achieve our status, such as a doctor, an athlete, or an influencer. The important point to keep in mind: some statuses you’re born with, others you achieve–this gives you control.
An Exercise on Career and Master Status
The way we answer the question, what do you do?, tells us a lot about us and how we perceive the world.
Here’s an example. If you’re a student with a part-time job as an Uber driver, you’ll most likely say:
“I currently drive for Uber, but I’m studying to be a nurse.”
Indirectly, this person makes sure to let everyone know that they are not where they want to be currently (Uber driver), but working towards fixing the situation (student). These statements say a lot about us and how we deal with our status when in a group. This answer takes the focus away from being an Uber driver, to shining the light on being a person with goals and aspirations.
You’re Still In Control
Notice this. It’s OUR perception of how a status will be received that guides how we choose our master status. Why? It’s how WE THINK our answer will be perceived that we calculate decisions. To use our student example, there’s nothing wrong with being an Uber driver. However, this person has ideas on how being a ride-sharing driver will be perceived.
This goes to show that using the master status to guide you doesn’t mean that you have completely lost yourself to social pressure; rather, you acknowledge YOUR view of people. For example, if one chooses to be an investment banker, some might perceive this as a glamorous job, while others might view it as snobbish. The most important question is, how do YOU think OTHER PEOPLE view investment banking?
Our Definition and the Rest of the World
Keep in mind that although we have the ability to define our master status, it doesn’t mean that our definition aligns with how society defines our master status. For example, Grimes, is a musical artist. However, based on media coverage, society has chosen, for her master status, Elon Musk’s girlfriend. Although we might not align with how the people around us define our master status, it doesn’t diminish the fact that we still can choose our own.
People larger than life such as Mother Theresa or Steve Jobs have master statuses cemented in history. This is when someone mentions your name, and people form an immediate association. In this case, the association follows: sainthood and Apple. And yes, I know that YOU know that I’m not referring to the fruit.
Remember not to be too hard on yourself when it comes to career paths. When all is said in done, we are more than our careers. We have other statuses to work on, such as being a child, a caring mother, or a good neighbor.
Here’s wisdom from Baz Luhrmann:
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’tEverybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) | Baz Luhrmann