Most of us get through life’s daily challenges by leaning on our natural instincts. However, when it comes to job search and career planning, our first hunch may not be the right one. These five myths of career exploration will reveal common mistakes made by students as they progress through their college education. Read on for more details:
I’ll figure out “What I want to be when I grow up” when I get to college.
You will learn a lot in college, from how to manage your own budget to thought-provoking theories on a wide variety of subjects. If you are expecting your future career path to hit you in the head one day, you will likely be disappointed. Get actively involved in the process of identifying your interests. If you really enjoy a particular class, ask your professor to give you ideas of how you could make a living by specializing in this particular area of knowledge. For example, if your statistics class grabs your attention, a conversation with your professor, combined with a little research through your career management center, would reveal a wide range of career paths, from finance positions with Wall Street banks, to analyst positions with Major League Baseball and the NBA. Get curious, ask a lot of questions and increase the chances of discovering an interesting career path before you graduate.
If you graduate in a “down” economy, your job search is doomed.
Nope. Every day, in good times and bad, companies are hiring, especially at lower, entry-level salaries. In fact, employers are most often quoted as saying “It’s always hard to find good people.” More than a million college students graduate every year, so good people are plentiful, right? Not necessarily so, according to employers. While graduates are plentiful, focused, career-minded job-seeking graduates are less so. In a tough economy, it’s even more important to present yourself to the marketplace as someone who is interested in solving problems for employers. Too often, job-seeking graduates are focused on what the employer can do for them, rather than on what they can do for the employer. Identify a few interesting, potential employer firms, research their products, challenges and future plans and identify entry-level positions that match some of your interests. Applying online is step one, but if you really want the job, leverage networking tools like Linked-In and Facebook to share your goals with individuals connected to your target firms, increasing the chances that your application gets noticed. Speak in terms of how you can help the employer reach his/her goals, and you will easily differentiate yourself in a tight job market.
Everyone says college/career management centers are useless and should be avoided.
Far too many college freshmen blindly follow the sometimes cynical advice of upperclassmen and never even visit their own college and career center. This experience is so common that many college and career offices track client satisfaction in two ways: satisfaction of students who use their services, and satisfaction of students who don’t use their services. Simply put, they recognize that all students have a perception of their services, even if all students don’t use their services. Oddly enough, students who actually use career centers generally find them to be quite helpful. Those that don’t visit the center or only visit once or twice are more likely to rate them as not helpful or less helpful. While these results make good intuitive sense, don’t lose sight of the bigger point — if you never engage with your school’s career management professionals, you will of course find them to be “useless.” The staff and student workers of your career management center are waiting to help you with career interest assessments, resume development, networking, interviewing and negotiating advice. Meet with a career consultant in your college and career center and decide for yourself.
If I major in liberal arts I’ll never get a job.
“Don’t get a liberal arts degree, you’ll never get a job!” Well-meaning adults frequently share this one-sided point of view with impressionable high school students. Fortunately, many employers find a liberal arts education to be highly valuable, even preferable, to a more career-oriented degree. These employers are seeking well-rounded individuals who are intellectually curious. They view college as a place to grow and explore, and are eager to hire motivated, intelligent graduates with the right personality fit for their organization. From commercial lenders to marketers, salesmen to operations managers, corporate leaders to artists and entrepreneurs, liberal arts graduates thrive. Study the subjects that interest you, but always take the initiative while in school to explore related career paths.
The first job I take after college is critical to my future success
Most of us will change careers, defined as a change in job function, industry or both, at least three times over the course of our lives, and we’ll change employers many more times than that. While landing your “dream job” right out of college is certainly possible, any job where you learn skills that advance you towards long-term career goals is a great start. For example, while you might dream of landing a job as a financial consultant in a well-known consulting firm, an entry-level position as a financial analyst with a smaller firm in an interesting industry will help you gain the experience and credibility necessary to capture the attention of that consulting firm down the road. Your first job isn’t your forever job. Keep a long-term perspective and sense of humor on your job search, and you’ll hit the mark.
Patricia Phillips is the Vice President of Campus2Career Transition Services, Inc. (campus2career.org).