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Golden Guide Career Advice: You Are in Control

Golden Guide Career Advice: You Are in Control

Lydia Lazar

car driving through forest

Golden Tip No. 3: You Drive the Car in Your Career

Golden Guide Career Advice is a new series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at—the answer may appear in a future post.

Cultures and families are different, and some people feel obligated to pursue the profession chosen for them by their families. Whether or not you are paying your own college tuition, you are the person who will be living your life, and you must drive the career car.

One of the hallmarks of growing up and moving away from your family home is that you have to take responsibility for yourself in both big and small ways. You already know you need to set an alarm since no one is waking you up; you also need to be honest with yourself about the academic and life experiences you are having so that you can “course correct” as needed.


As you grow and change in your late teen years/early twenties, you may find that you are on a professional path that doesn’t feel right. For whatever reason, you may find yourself pursuing studies that are not resonating with you intellectually or emotionally. Whether or not they are the first in their families to go to college, many students are fulfilling the expectations of their parents—and sometimes those expectations turn out to lead down paths that simply are not a good fit for the person you have grown to be over time.

This requirement of personal responsibility to yourself means that if you are unhappy with your friends or your studies, you have to take the time to figure it out—and then take steps to make your real life more consonant with your dreams.  This is one of the hardest parts of being an adult: you have to recognize and accept that you—and only you—are responsible for the choices you make.

Some people find the entire career discussion quite overwhelming and experience a lot of anxiety, especially when they suspect they need to make a big change. Mental health counselors on campus or in your community can help you work through your emotions and help with your planning. If anxiety is preventing you from thinking about career planning or about making a shift in your career plans, be sure to talk to someone who can help you.

Throughout your career, it is helpful to think of yourself as a driver: consider what road you are traveling on, how you are relating to the other cars, and what speed you are going as you navigate life’s twists and turns. Taking responsibility for yourself means recognizing that at the end of the day, you have to live your own life, mindful of any promises to family and to self.  You will be most successful in your career and life when you can connect your inner dreams and self-promises to your day-to-day behavior and professional life.

Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.