*Unfortunately, not my first car.

What Driver’s Ed Taught Me About Careers

I had just turned 16, and was sitting in a hard, plastic chair in the back row of a musty classroom.

It was day one of Driver’s Ed.

Scribbled on a green chalkboard at the front of the room were 30 dashed lines, separated into three groups — the beginnings of a game of Hangman.

A heavy-set man with a sparse beard (our instructor, Gerald) proceeded to field our stabs at the answer.

We hung.


My class and I had clearly expected some kind of driving-specific wisdom, and definitely not:

Knowledge accelerates experience

The purpose of drivers ed, as we were told, was to give us the knowledge to avoid making life-or-death mistakes while on the road.

Lucky for me, the School of Hard Knocks rejected my application letter.

Accelerating Your Career Search

Six hours in that tiny classroom has probably saved my life a dozen times over. What I learned that summer prepared me to see the road, and other drivers, in a way that has kept me accident free (knock on wood).

I didn’t appreciated it at the time, but those tips and concepts have stuck with me to this day, saved me loads of money, not to mention physical pain.

In the same way that driver’s ed helped me avoid failure on the road, I believe that spending time digging deep and learning about your strengths, values, and interests, can save you an enormous amount of time and stress while searching for your career path.

Simple, right? The key, however, is to start this process as early as possible. The more knowledge you have about yourself in the early stages, the more focused your career search will be, and far less time will be spent exploring eventual ‘dead ends’.

Can Knowledge Really Replace Experience?

To drive, eventually you actually need to get behind the wheel.

Classes, books, and videos can only take you so far.

Just as in the search for your career path, you eventually need to choose your major, apply for a job, or take on a new position. Sitting around, thinking about things forever, won’t get you very far.

No, knowledge alone cannot replace experience: Knowledge can only accelerate experience.

Think of it as the difference between getting into a car with zero understanding of what the pedals and shift do, compared to having a comprehensive knowledge of each button, switch and pedal, all before stepping foot inside.

Sure, without any prior knowledge, eventually you’d figure things out. But think about how many headaches (and visits to the body shop) you’d avoid by doing a little research beforehand.

It’s really a ‘no-brainer’.

A Shorter, Clearer Path

Finding your path in life takes time. It’s a journey.

However, the time it takes to find that meaningful path decreases dramatically when you take the time to think deeply about what your interests, values, and strengths really are. They’re unique to you, so no one else can discover them for you. Tests and algorithms can help, but nothing can really take the place of introspection.

And just like when you’re driving to your final destination, the more detailed and specific your knowledge of where you’re going and the route you’re taking, the faster you’ll get there.

I often ask the students I work with to write out their top 5 interests, strengths, and values in priority order. It’s harder than you think. Only about 1 in 5 people I’ve spoken with can actually do it convincingly.

Give it a shot.

Originally published at blog.enscholar.com.