I have to confess something… I am a gambler, but not in the 12-step way. In a way, we are all gamblers, every day we are putting our personal capital on the line for some tangible gain. You are betting your life and happiness on career decisions you make every day. Here are three ways that you can make sure you are going “all in” with the right career.

To get us started, a little data.

In 2013, a college graduate earned about $1,108 every week, that’s $457 every week more than a high school graduate. Check out Reality Check and get an idea of what income will support your lifestyle. 

In the United States, 7.5 % of high school graduates were unemployed in 2013, but only 4% of college graduates were unemployed.

Data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Have a game plan

Have you ever heard a coach say to the media, “we had no plan, but things worked out for us and we got the ‘W’.” I am guessing no, because to some degree you need to be aware of the potential scenarios that exist. Use tools like Nebraska Career Connections, Career Cruising, Choices, and a magnitude of other interest and skill assessments to identify your options. Talk to an EducationQuest representative or your school counselor about how you can gain access to these tools. 

The hard part about this is that there are two key elements of the game plan. The short-term, measurable and actionable goals, and the long-term broad vision for what the future holds. Realize that career is not synonymous with job; a career is a series of jobs. 

If you are going to beat the other players you need to have a plan, and you need to be playing the right game. You could be great at Blackjack, but terrible at Poker, if you are going to succeed you better be sitting down at a Blackjack table. 

Don’t bet $100 if you can bet $50

Pursuing a career is going to cost you. In the most utopian of all scenarios it will only cost you time, but for most of us it will cost us money, too. The key to a successful career path is limiting the costs and risk. Avoid games of chance, like obscure degrees and high cost colleges. A college degree gives you the best odds of success.

This does not mean that a cheaper school is better, or that you need to attend whatever college gives you the most money. You need to perform well and have opportunities to showcase your skillset. You should always ask yourself if a particular college or opportunity would get you closer to your goal. In the movie Money Ball, Billy Beane said that he made one decision in his life based on money and he would never do it again. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that money solves problems; all it will do is exchange one problem for many more. 

Protect your winnings by betting only what it takes to win.

See it through to the end

I’ll be blunt, the time and effort you put into your degree is worthless until you finish. If you are using student loans then the cost is higher. Remember those stats above? Well the unemployment rate for those who started but did not finish college is 7%. You are not doing yourself any favors by just “trying it out.” 

Here‘s good news, it’s never too late to go back and finish what you started. Better news, some two-year degrees lead to jobs that pay more than the average four-year degree field. If a four-year commitment scares you or just does not feel like the right fit, then contact a local community college and see what they have to offer.

You might lose a few hands, but that does not mean you will lose the game. All you need is a chip and a chair.


Go, take your chips to your chair, sit at the right table and show us all how talented you can be. 

Questions about careers? Contact me or leave a message in the comments, I promise to reply.