The question is simple. If you were younger and starting all over with a career choice, what would it be? Everything is moving so much faster today. Decisions we made yesterday get outdated overnight. Careers that made sense in one economy may not make sense in today's narrow job market.

East County workers were interviewed at random about their original career choices. What would they do in today's market if they were starting all over again? There's more involved than just the paycheck because benefits and job satisfaction also are in the mix.

Donna Brown of Antioch chose to become a dental assistant years ago. "The pay was low but it was personally rewarding. Now that I'm approaching retirement age, I'm sorry," she said. "I would be better off if I had chosen a career with a corporation. That kind of a job would have given me medical benefits and a more secure retirement outlook."

Judy Diana of Discovery Bay feels much the same. "I worked years for the Bank of America and in a bar. It was enjoyable work but the pay wasn't good," she said. "If I were choosing today, I'd put the emphasis on the long range. A retirement plan and benefits really are what's important."


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Oakley's Toni Jordan works with health information systems. "It hasn't turned out well for me as it gets more and more involved electronically -- and ever-increasing outsourcing definitely is bad," she said. "If I were starting out now I'd go into nursing. It's a field where there's great need."

Steve Yakovich of Oakley is in home construction and hasn't had a job for more than two years. "These are bad times for a homebuilder, and I'm sorry I chose it," he said. "I would have been much better off if I pursued my interest in music sound engineering or sports management. I could have made a fortune in either of those two careers."

Jerry Boltz of Bethel Island is sorry he quit college and joined the Navy. "It was a mistake. Today you have to have college credentials for any good job," he said. "But people who are starting out today should be thinking of the military or law enforcement as a career."

Brentwood's Dave Elwood also missed getting a college education. "I ended up following my interest in engineering and mechanics. I was taught on the job and it's been good. But today I couldn't do it without a college diploma," he said.

Jane Smithson of Brentwood said she has no regrets. "I chose teaching and would do it again even though the field now is less satisfying and less fun than it was 10 years ago. The pressure on both the teachers and the kids is much greater," she said.

Richard Crofoot of Antioch is a pipe welder and can't understand why more kids aren't thinking in that direction. "It's been great for me. It pays $48 an hour with an additional $30 an hour in benefits," he said.

Ed Arnow can be reached at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.