Don’t Let Anyone Pigeon Hole Your Career!

“Why do we pigeonhole and label people? It is a sure way of missing the important, the contradictory, the things that make him or her unique.” ~Lukas Foss

by Pete Ferguson

Yesterday I met with my son Mark’s career counselor. Mark is a freshman in high school, has played the piano since age 5 and has excelled at cello for the past three years. He has been a featured soloist for several combined orchestras, is in the Utah Youth Junior Symphony, and as a freshman is the second chair cellist over kids several years his senior.

So when I was told that on his career assessment tests that some of the jobs the test felt he was best qualified for included driving a bus, building a fence, or cleaning houses, I had to restrain my anger.

I sat through the counselor’s “analysis” for about ten minutes before getting to Mark’s aspirations. He put down: “I LOVE music!!!!!!!!

I had a bad flashback of being in High School and sitting down with my counselor and being told that either driving a bus or garbage truck was what my assessment (like the outdoors and meeting new people) had identified for me.

Unfortunately my dad wasn’t there in the room for me. But my brood of kids, I’m a career coach in training, so Mark is in better hands.

I realize in high school you are not always going to know what it is that you will do for the next 70-80 years of your life, but as a parent, I am very involved in helping my kids understand their passion and then ensure their primary activities support that instead of trying to “pigeon hole” them into a more “steady” or traditional career path with “security.”

Mark’s idol – world renown Luthier Peter Prieur.

Mark has one very simple goal, to attend Julliard School of Music and train to become a luthier (string instrument maker).

Once I got the counselor thinking on those terms, thankfully the meeting became a lot more productive and Mark is on a music and entrepreneur business path with electives in wood shop and design.

Had I not intervened, I am scared to think he might be stuck on the general education path with a career shadow day with the public transportation system. Not that there is anything wrong with driving a bus – but it clearly would not be a great fit for Mark.

“Monotony is the awful reward of the careful.” A. G. Buckham.

If you have been pigeon holed into your current career, how do you get out?

I recommend a career assessment with a much better tool. I personally like the 48 Days Proflier, but there are many other great tools.

Learn: Are you following your passion? If not, why not? Research how others are making a living doing what you consider your “dream job.” Do not be confined to traditional beliefs about jobs. Twitter, Apple, and other great brands would never exist if everyone prescribed to the United States Postal Service and IBM as the only options for communication and computers.

Act: I dare you to attend one workshop in the next 90 days on something you love. This year I’ve attended one weekend retreat and many webinars and teleconferences and it has made a HUGE difference in my outlook, creativity, self-esteem, and overall happiness index.

Share: I’ve been amazed how many people will talk to me about my passion. Farnoosh Brock is an excellent resource, as is Dan Miller’s network on and numerous bloggers and podcasters. People are a lot more open to talk than I have ever realized. I don’t prescribe to having regrets as I take full responsibility for my life, but I do regret not expanding my network ten years ago! (and so now I’m making up for lost time).

“You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.” ~ Charlie “Tremendous” Jones


2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Anyone Pigeon Hole Your Career!

  1. Pete, your an inspiration!..
    It is sad that the high school career counselors care so little and are narrow minded enough to actually believe that these tests are by default the best truth, I find them un-inspired and out of touch. I respect you for being there with Mark, he is a great young man and I expect he is going to make his mark in this world because his parents are taking an active role in his life. I hope this article awakens some parents to the fact that they need to focus more on working with their children, teaching them that someone else’s “opinions” are just that, opinions. We as parents need to be willing to sacrifice what we often believe is success by focusing on our jobs and becoming significant in our children’s lives and futures. Only by being a good example can we encourage them to become good parents themselves, thank you for being a good example to “US”.

  2. Pingback: What is Your Shelf Life? | learnactshare

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