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Should I Follow in My Family's Footsteps?

My family has worked in oil and gas for three generations. I figured I'd carry on the tradition, but would it make me happy?

Sep 15, 2017

One of the strangest things I remember from my childhood is that I always wanted to work at McDonald’s. As a kid, McDonald’s was my happy place. I figured the only way it could be happier was if I worked there with all of the other smiling faces…

In hindsight, I realize that this is the epitome of a childhood dream, because I was totally idealizing McDonald’s and clearly didn’t understand the reality of working in the fast-food service industry as a career path. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it’s super hard to be financially stable working a minimum wage job. So, much to my parents’ relief, I scrapped my McDonald’s dream and started looking at options for other careers I could pursue after high school.

My ideas ranged from doctor (because doctors can cure people of illness) to retail manager (because it seemed like a stable job that would be around for a while). At one point I even wanted to be Royal Canadian Air Force pilot because I though flying fast around the world sounded like a lot of fun.

What I realized was that I had many career ambitions, and I had to figure out which ones were the most important to me.

Joining the oil and gas industry

When I finally got to the point of applying for post-secondary, I’d settled on entering the oil and gas industry as a software engineer. My family has a three-generation history of working in oil and gas. My father’s uncle worked in oil, the majority of my aunts and uncles worked around the globe in oil and gas, my father has worked for the same oil and gas company for more than 35 years, and my cousins have also found success in oil and gas. It worked for everybody else, so I figured it’d work for me.

I decided on engineering because I figured I didn’t have the patience or strength to work long hours doing manual labour in the oilfield. I like taking naps, so long work days didn’t interest me, and I can be pretty lazy on my best days. Engineering seemed like a relatively safe job that would be an interesting career path and please my family of oil and gas workers.

My dad always wanted me to have a fulfilling career, and I figured that meant he wanted me to follow a similar path to him. But after starting university, I started thinking about what a fulfilling career meant. I was miserable taking math and science courses, which got me thinking that career fulfillment also has to be something that makes you happy – and what I really wanted to do was help others.

I decided to talk to me dad about this, and that’s when I started to understand that he wanted me to do what made me happy, not what made the most amount of money or pleased the family. He just wanted me to be excited about work, because he’d worked hard to ensure that I could follow any path I wanted.

What do I really want? 

This realization ushered in a new age of soul searching, and I was back to the drawing board. What was different this time around was that I was evaluating what I wanted from a career, instead of what I thought others expected of me.

When I looked back on the various career paths I’d considered, I realized there was a common element they all shared: whether working as a cashier at McDonald’s or flying jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force, what appealed to me was the thought of helping others in a way that is interactive and fun. I also realized that I had too many interests to settle on one industry with a skillset that might not transfer well to others, because chances are I’d change my mind at some point.

I chose to study journalism and communications at Mount Royal University because journalists help others by spreading knowledge through a wide range of mediums, and a communications degree goes a long way in a world with rapidly advancing technology.

I knew that I’d finally made the right decision after starting back at university, because rather than hating every aspect of my classes, my journalism classes rarely felt like a chore. I loved every moment of my first year, and I continue to find inspiration in my journalism work.

Not only am I happy with what I’m doing, but my family supports me every day. My parents tell all their friends how I’m going to be the next great face of journalism, and my dad is proud that I found something I love to do. But I don’t regret flip flopping for years before finally choosing my path, because it was those hard choices that made me realize what I really want out of life.

Brett

Communication Studies
Mount Royal University

I never knew what I could accomplish until I entered university and realized I held the key to my own success.

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