Where did it all go wrong? It’s probably simpler than you think.

I was 21 when I took a careers test. I didn’t do particularly well on the mechanical stuff or the diagrams. And don’t get me started on the numbers questions. The careers consultants did their bit, marked it up, and sent me back their report. In capital letters, they wrote the words: “Don’t go into anything that requires data, engineering or linear thinking.”

Twenty-five years later, I woke up and found myself working with accountants and engineers, putting in IT Systems for banks. What could go wrong?

What did go wrong? Had I ignored all the advice? Had I started off in the right direction but veered off the road?

Yes (I didn’t listen) and no (it was more like a slow slide into a murky bog).

I did pay attention to my parents though. “Get a good job. Something safe with a pension.” Some of it was peer pressure. Some of it was fear of failure. Was I really creative enough?

So many of my Spoon by Spoon interviewees tell me the same story:

Teresa, wanted to do a fine art degree but ended up in events management. “The more years that went by the more scared I was to even try to do any art. Maybe I wouldn’t be good after so long.”

Dhaval wanted to study engineering in the States but his family wanted him to stay in India.

Natalie was going to be photographer but her family said: “Get on the career ladder you’ll want to buy a property. I kick myself about it even now. I was very influenced by other people.”

Alexander ended up working on oil-rigs, “There were influential factors like parents saying you can’t keep changing jobs. I suppose there was also a bit of burying my head in the sand and just going ‘Well it’s all right, it’s paying for this lifestyle.’”

So many of us do it. We lose concentration. We take a wrong turn. But it is never too late to change course and get back on the right road. We just need to focus on what we’re good at, or the things we enjoy. It sounds far too easy, but it’s the starting point for greater happiness at work.

This is part of a series called Spoon by Spoon — a project I’ve run interviewing 100 people going through career, relationship and wider life changes. If you’re looking for support with your own career or life change find out more here.

Photos copyright of Charlotte Sheridan

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