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Misconceptions about Finding a Career Direction


30Apr 2013

I continue to have the opportunity to provide career coaching for a number of individuals — from high school students, to college graduates, to adults considering changing their career path (and almost every stage in between).  I thought I would share some repeated misconceptions I hear in working with career-seeking individuals in our culture.  Here they are:

 

*MISCONCEPTION #1: The first thing to do is to figure out what you are interested in.

WRONG:  Nobody (except your mom) cares about what you want to do or are interested in.   Ask any art history or English literature major still looking for work (or who is working in a non-career job like a Starbucks barrista or as a hostess at a restaurant to “make ends meet”).  Employers don’t really give a rip about what you want to do – they have work they need to find someone to do.

CORRECT BELIEF:  Work is providing goods or services that others want or need and are willing to pay for.  Your goal is to find out what people want or need (and are willing to pay for, otherwise, it is volunteer service) and if / how you can meet those needs – and what training it requires to do so.

RIGHT ACTION: The first thing to do is to explore what the needs are (or will be) in the world of work and then see the jobs and careers that do so.  (See articles in Career Development to see how to do this.)

 

*MISCONCEPTION #2: You need to figure out exactly where you are going before you start going there.

WRONG:  Talk to almost anyone you know that has been working for 10+ years and you will find out hardly anyone winds up doing what they originally intended.

CORRECT BELIEF:  You need to figure out the right general direction that matches your skills and abilities, your personality type, and DO SOMETHING that starts moving you in that direction – volunteer, shadow someone, talk to someone working in that field, talk to college faculty who teach in that area, get a part-time job working in a related area.

RIGHT ACTION:  Figure out the general direction you want to go (e.g. working in technology, or “helping people”) and the direction you know you don’t want to go; take courses and get experience in those general directions.  You will find out what you like and don’t like, what you are good at (and not) and you’ll discover needs in the marketplace that aren’t being met.

 

*MISCONCEPTION #3: You will figure out what you want to do for your career by the time you finish college (or whatever type of training program you go through.)

WRONG:  Most college graduates (or those about to graduate) don’t have a clear picture of what they want to do when they graduate – to the chagrin of their parents.  Why?  Most college majors don’t prepare you to work in a specific career – or if they do, the field is so broad, you still have to figure out in what setting you want to work, where the needs are, and the more specific skills needed.                 

CORRECT BELIEF:  Once you graduate from college, you should have a general sense if you are going in the right direction (both for yourself and also whether there is a need for what you can do.)  EXCEPTION 1: If you plowed through college (or “just finished up”) in an area that you now know was the wrong direction for you, you probably just know the direction you don’t want to go.  EXCEPTION 2:  If you have never worked or volunteered in your career area, you are highly at risk at being surprised by “it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.”

RIGHT ACTION:  Don’t panic.  Realize most college students and graduates are in the same place (although they only talk about it to their closest friends). KEEP GOING.  Get a job in an area that is at least somewhat related to what you studied, even if it is short-term/temporary, or part-time (and you have to take another part-time job to be able to pay the bills.)  EXPLORE.  Learn about your area by working, by talking to people who work in related fields.  Find out where the needs are and what you need to do to be able to meet them.

 

*MISCONCEPTION #4: Taking a job that is “beneath you” just to pay the bills is a mistake and will delay your being able to find a career-related job.

WRONG:  If you pursue this path, you are highly at risk for falling onto the path of Career Limbo, living at home and/or being supported by your parents for several months, and eventually becoming discouraged or depressed.  And there are tens of thousands of young adults in this state right now, waiting for the “right job” to come along.

CORRECT BELIEF: It is better to be self-sufficient as an adult, demonstrating to potential employers that you take seriously the responsibility of taking care of yourself, and that you will do what is necessary to do so.   Employers are more interested in someone who is working to make ends meet than they are in someone who has been waiting for the “perfect job” and being supported by their parents for several months.

RIGHT ACTION:  Work.  Find a job (or jobs.)  It is not dishonorable to live at home in order to save money while you are working, and looking for a better paying job.  Start somewhere – part-time, low level, bad hours, low prestige.  Part of this will help motivate you to figure out what you need to do in order to get the type of job you really want.  NOTE:  To increase your chances of working in your career direction, you increase your chances by being willing to move and by being introduced to a potential employer by a friend or family member.

 

It is tough to find career-oriented work these days – that is partly why I say find some kind of work — or you could find yourself in a desperate financial situation.  If you need more help, contact me for some short-term career coaching (I do long-distance sessions by Skype).  Usually in 1 -3 sessions, we can help you determine a direction to go and move you down the career path a fair distance.

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