10 Myths About Career Planning

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“I love writing, but I’ll never get a job doing it.”

“I wish someone would just tell me what I’m supposed to do.”

“I like it well enough, but I don’t want to do it for the rest of my life.”

Have you heard things like this before? In an era of fake news, perhaps nothing is more fake than the general perception surrounding career preparation. Sad!

Let’s clear up some of these misconceptions today. Here are 10 myths about career planning.


Myth 1: A career is an irrevocable decision

Actually, you can always start something new, and most people will. By the time you’re ready to retire, the US Department of Labor estimates that you will have 11 jobs, spanning 3 different careers! So it’s a myth that your career decision is an irrevocable one.

On the contrary, it’s a frequent one.

It is important to learn about careers and choose well so that you don’t hop unnecessarily from job to job. But don’t let your stress become paralyzing because you think you’re going to get this decision wrong. If you try something you don’t like, go find something new!

Myth 2: I need to study a major related to my field of interest

Any major can lead to any career. Anna Pickard, the editorial director of the digital giant Slack, studied theater at Manchester Metropolitan University. Justice Clarence Thomas, who visited Ave Maria back in 2011, majored in English Literature from Holy Cross College. In fact, most of the Northwestern University graduates working in Silicon Valley were liberal arts majors than were science and tech majors. So it is almost better for us to think of our majors as different from our careers, and they may be related but are not the same. If you want to be an advertising salesman you should probably consider studying marketing, but it is NOT the case that anybody who studies marketing will become an advertising salesman.

Myth 3: You can go to your career office and they'll set you up with a job

They don't. In fact, no one does. In the mid-80s, colleges moved away from the idea of placing students in positions because it wasn't good for them. In fact the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the big national association for career services offices, used to be called the “Career Placement Council.” But they recognized that a true education involves training you not just for a job, but for a career.

So you can't go to the career office and ask to be given a job. That said, we do have a database of jobs for Ave Maria students specifically. Login to your account on Handshake to browse through hundreds of options.

Myth 4: Choose a career where you can make money

Well, half-false. You should choose a job where you can make a living, but finding a job where you can earn money should never be your first line of thought. Bill Gates did not drop out of Harvard because he wanted to make money. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard because he was obsessive about computer software. And because he did something well, he was able to make money doing it.

What you must consider is whether you can make enough money to survive on a job, and whether your activities are likely to sustain you. But if you’re good at something and enjoy doing it, the money will tend to follow.

Myth 5: What you're good at is the same as what you like to do

It's easy to figure out what you're good at because people have told you those things: they’ll say you’re a great listener, or that you communicate really well, that you manage other people easily, etc. It is harder to determine what you like to do. Skills are easy to determine, activities are harder.

If you’re good at nursing studies, that does not mean you will like to be a nurse. In fact, if you’re someone who faint at the sight of blood, you probably should avoid nursing no matter how good you are at the other work. In other words, your career must involve something that you have a natural affinity for. Just because you like something does not mean you will be good at it, and vice versa.

Myth 6: Choose something you love to do

Half-false. You should enjoy what you do. But in addition to considering whether you’re good at it, you should consider can you be paid for it? Are there opportunities in that field, and will there continue to be? Can you afford to pursue it now?  The difference between vocation and hobby is distinguished by these factors.

Also, be aware that you may not love every aspect of a job, but that does not necessarily mean you won't enjoy it as a whole. Furthermore, if you enjoy doing a certain skill, your job doesn't need to be that skill. If you want to speak, you don't have to be a speaker. If you enjoy mission work or helping others, you don't need to be a missionary or a social worker.

Many people will say that passion is everything, and it’s simply not. Find your passions and pursue them pragmatically.

Myth 7: If you can’t see yourself doing it for the rest of your life, don’t do it

Can you see what your future holds? What will the job market look like in 20 years? We don’t know the answers to these questions, so it is unfair to expect that your career choice must take those questions into account. Perhaps you will have to find a different job after 5-10 years, based on changes in your family situation, earning potential, work environment, or education. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

At the same time, you want to think about where your future might take you. It is common for interviewers to ask candidates where they see themselves in 5-10 years. If you were asked that today, what would you say? Begin to visualize your future so that you can make plans accordingly. As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Myth 8: You won’t know what the work is really like until you start doing it

Don’t get me wrong, internships or other practical work experiences are great ways to learn more about a job and to confirm your interest in a potential job. But you don’t have to wait until you get the job in order to learn something about it! You can talk to people who have made careers for themselves in your field of interest (called informational interviewing). You can read books about the field, or research companies in that field. You can observe or shadow professionals for a day without actually doing the work yourself. Or you can also use databases that provide broad information on the type of work within a field, or the variety of jobs within that field.

For example, let’s say that you’re really interested in counseling but are having a difficult time because no one will take on an intern for their counseling practice. The information is sensitive and they need to protect their client’s privacy. You can still speak with a counselor and ask them how they got started in the field, or what the challenges of their day entail. You can also read information to learn what the differences are between mental health counselors, and school counselors, and marriage and family counselors.

Myth 9: Your career coach can tell you what to do

You are the expert when it comes to your own life. The choice is entirely yours, and no amount of assessments or coaches can tell you what you’re supposed to do. They can offer you the ability to discover skills and abilities you possess, and can even make suggestions to you based on what people with your skills and abilities tend to do. But as we’ve already established, neither your major, nor your skills, nor your passions give you a crystal clear picture of your future. You must discern that for yourself.

Myth 10: Career preparation is stressful and confusing

That depends on how you feel about Myth 9. There are some people who will view the uncertainty surrounding career preparation as an extremely unfortunate thing. But the discovery process should actually be exhilarating and can bring you great joy.

Think on anything in your life that you’ve accomplished. Whether it was getting a good mark in school, or mastering a new skill, or meeting and surpassing an athletic goal—all these accomplishments come through hard work and uncertainty. You don’t know that you’re going to make it, and that uncertainty causes you to work harder.

Moreover, the discovery process that we’re talking about is the mystery of your life. You should want to know the answer to that question and pursue it diligently. And there is an answer to that question; there is something you are uniquely qualified to do, that will bring you happiness and fulfillment, and will allow you to serve others and yourself well. Discovering your career is the process of uncovering your potential. Embrace the questions you have about your future and ponder them.

Lastly, the career office has a plan in place for you to discern in a more straightforward path. The Career Challenge is a simple, 3-step process that takes the confusion out of career preparation. Do the 3 things associated with your class year, and you will prepare well for your career.


Want more info? Don’t stop here. Go to the Student Resources page and click on the individual steps to learn more.