When what you studied is not what you want to do

For my undergraduate, I wanted to study gender, philosophy and politics and my parents wanted me to study engineering. I ended up choosing a BSc in Construction Studies as a sort of “middle ground”🙃. I then specialised by getting a BSc Honours in Quantity Surveying. As a quantity surveyor, a cost consultant for the construction industry, the next steps are usually to work for a contractor or consultant for 2-3 years and then get registered as a professional. After that you could gain more experience toward more senior levels in the organisation or start your own company (they say this is where the money is at ). There are other less traditional options such as working in the banking, consulting, insurance, education, green building and property industries. You really can make of quantity surveying what you may and that was why I chose it over the other engineering courses.

In spite of these possibilities, I feel strongly that the quantity surveying career paths I have been exposed to, do not align to what I sense my purpose could be. At first I thought this feeling came from the exhaustion of studying a course I did not willingly choose. But the rest and introspection that my gap year afforded me proved otherwise. I am choosing to go with my gut here and bolstered by my parents’ support I am officially saying good bye to quantity surveying. I want to share the steps I followed in coming to this point, in case there’s someone else in a similar position. 

I gave quantity surveying a chance

Initially, I went into construction to appease my parents but with time that changed. I immersed myself in the course work and enjoyed the process of learning. This combined by my educational background enabled me to excel. Moreover, I interacted with and listened to stories of professionals working in the built environment. I was also open to work and volunteer experiences. In my first year, I interned with a contractor and realised I would rather spend more time in the office than on site. Following that, I interned at a project management firm as I tried to figure out whether to specialise in construction project management or quantity surveying for my honours. During my honours I worked part time in a cost consulting firm where I learnt more on the different sectors quantity surveyors can work in including real estate, energy and infrastructure. I barely scratched the surface because working full time is the real deal. However, giving this career path a chance in the way I did helped me discover my strengths and skills even though my passions and interests differed.

I questioned my reasons

Am I just being an entitled millennial who does not want to do entry level tasks? Am I calling it too soon? Do I maybe just need a little more grit? Am I thinking the grass is greener on the other side instead of watering it where I am at? I think interrogating my reasons was important because it helped me become more realistic. I was also able to separate the reasons that were particular to quantity surveying from general reasons. Like the realisation that working crazy hours, inflexible work schedules and 30% income tax is common practice.These realisations were important in managing my expectations of the alternate career paths I sought.

I validated my reasons

I really battled with the fact that my reasons for not wanting to work as a quantity surveyor were more instinctual than logical. I especially felt like they were invalidated by the importance and necessity of quantity surveying work. Nevertheless, no matter how wishful or premature they were it all boiled down to me being the wearer of the shoe.I am the person who will be doing work I do not feel aligned to. The person with the better sense of my dreams and purpose is also me. Most of all, the joy and peace of mind that needs to be prioritised  is mine.

I remembered that nothing’s ever that serious

When it dawned on me that I was not going to pursue a quantity surveying career, I berated myself for wasting four good years of my life. But I was acting like I was cutting out the part of my brain that knew how to calculate elemental estimates, put together bills of quantities, value engineer and more. Also transferable skills! The knowledge and experiences from studying to be a quantity surveyor will come in handy in some ways in this alternate career path(s) that I seek. Lastly, one of my mentors also reminded me that my degrees are a good back up plan in case things go south. In short, it is never that serious or final. Tutamake irregardless😊

I started planning alternate career paths

I thought that choosing an alternate career path would be fast and easy. However, the work of finding out the possible industries, financial viability, skills requirements and possibilities of the next path began. I am grateful to have angels in the form of family, friends, career coaches, mentors, sponsors and aunties guiding me on this journey.

I am taking steps

My vision for my purpose is getting clearer the more I soul search, plan and network. I realised I was getting fixated with getting this new career path right (unlike the one I had to change from). However, I have started taking steps towards it. It looks like it is going to be great but whatever the case; I am learning that the possibilities are so vast and endless that all that matters is that I keep moving with conviction.

Have you / Are you changing or merging career paths? Any useful factors you would add?

P.S: Issue #3 of Chai with Chebet drops on Thursday! There’s more tea related to this, you don’t wanna miss it ! Sign up below if you haven’t.

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