What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Except that there are literally thousands of ways to help people that don’t include scalpels and stethoscopes and too many people make the leap from “helping people” to “performing surgery” without stopping to consider the options.
I was talking with a student the other day who said she wants to be a doctor. I asked why and she said, “Because I like to help people.” In the same week I talked with a friend who for the last decade has been on a path to being a doctor “because I like helping people” but who is now considering a shift to business. While working at Rice I career-coached dozens of pre-med majors in quarterlife crisis who had become pre-med because they always wanted to “help people” but quickly realized that the path to helping people included tons of technical classes on science-y things that I can’t begin to explain, a decade or more of schooling, and loads of debt. What do all of these anecdotes have in common? All of these individuals want to help people, and being a doctor may or may not be the best way for them to do it.
It sounds like I don’t believe in the profession but that’s not true. I love doctors. In fact, this post isn’t really about doctors. It’s about a much larger challenge in choosing a career path — making career decisions based on very limited information.
If you like to help people, as most of us do, consider these questions before leaping to a career path that will allow you to do it:
“Helping people” is a value and can help you define the type of work you would enjoy and the industries or organizations you need to be in, but you need to unpack it before moving further. Doctors are great because they help people, but so do social workers, psychologists, teachers, wealth managers, politicians (some of them), lawyers, landscapers, and many other professions. Who do you want to help? What do you want to help them do? And does it align with your strengths and ideal environments?
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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