What I learned About Career Decision Making From YouTubers

An amateur chef recreated recipes from classic movies and shows. A housewife turned journaling and home design into artful video production. A chemical engineer reviewed cookware products with simplified everyday science. An accounting major college grad turned serial entrepreneur set a goal to help 100 million people to learn how to grow plants at home. 

These are some of my favorite YouTubers. In reviewing their channels’ origin stories and many more, I discovered three common themes that teach us important lessons about career decision-making.

“It just happened to me” / “I kinda fell into it.” Many people hold the notion that a new job or a career change is a happenstance. The same notion is also among many Youtubers who found their alternative careers through sharing homemade videos. A career decision is not a coincidence. Behind the one big decision, there are often a series of small decisions along the way that led us to where we are. Maybe it was the film-making class you took for fun. Maybe it was attending the media technology conference that your friend invited you to. Maybe it was the camera you asked for as a birthday gift. When you connect the dots of small actions, you’d be amazed by the themes and patterns through your life journey. 

“I didn’t know…but I knew that I always liked…” There are two main reasons why most people find career decision-making difficulty: options are plentiful, and life is unpredictable. We live in a time in history when occupations and titles almost seem infinite. Rather than treating a job as a means of survival, some of us grow up with the privilege of choosing a career that we would find psychologically fulfilling. For many YouTubers, without knowing what the job would entail (or even knowing that it could be a job), they held onto the two things that they knew best: their interests and strengths. Dr. Achi, the Taiwanese chemical engineer mentioned earlier, said on a video that she always enjoyed explaining complex scientific knowledge and making it easy to understand for others. She gave up her dream of becoming a professor because she realized that she didn’t really like research. The easiest way to start exploring career options is to ask yourself what you know for sure that you like to do and why. 

When asked “what led to the success of your channel?”, most Youtubers would say something along the lines of this: “I just gave it a try.” In the words of Andrew Rea, the creator of a successful cooking channel Binging with Babish, “I gave it my full and genuine self.” Even though the answers vary for each origin story, the theme is consistent: take risks and stay true to yourself. The answers are strikingly simple but these behaviors don’t always come naturally for most. Growing up, we’re often told to be cautious and stay safe, and disguise our emotions and personalities in order to fit in. Sharing your thoughts, feelings, and personal life on a video that could be viewed by millions of people around the world can be intimidating. By doing so, one chooses to be vulnerable and the reward comes from others resonating with the authenticity. When it comes to making a successful career decision, one that could fully satisfy your needs to be valuable in this world, sometimes it is as easy (or hard) as taking a leap of faith, believing in what you do, and then giving it your full, authentic self. In other words, when a choice is congruent with our natural elements, we find not only the greatest satisfaction but also the greatest potential for success.

By Sonia Liang
Sonia Liang Associate Director, Career Strategies Center MSBA Career Coach Sonia Liang