Career Myths and How to Debunk Them (page 2)
Most people make assumptions about careers. Often, these assumptions are based on impressions they get from relatives and friends, from television shows, and from workers and jobs that they see in their daily lives.
Impressions are a good place to start when looking for a career because they help people to identify possibilities. But at the same time, impressions can be misleading. They show only a small portion of reality, or worse: no reality at all. That’s when career impressions become career myths.
People make all kinds of false assumptions—about an occupation’s working conditions, job duties, educational requirements, employment prospects, and more—because they have limited information. For example, many people think that there are no opportunities in the manufacturing trades, that all high-paying jobs require a college degree, and that most teachers earn below-average salaries. None of these myths is true. And believing myths like these limits career choices unnecessarily.
Chances are that you harbor myths and stereotypes about careers. And you might not even realize that you do. Some myths are easily dismissed; others interfere with your ability to develop career goals. You can keep myths from derailing your career search by learning to confirm your beliefs or expose your misconceptions for what they are. Expand your options and uncover the truth about each career. Reality tools—including statistics, expert advice, and real-world experiences—can supply the facts.
Career Myths That Stop People Cold
Myth: There is one perfect job for me.
Reality: There are many occupations—and many jobs—that you would enjoy. Focusing on finding a single, perfect career is not only intimidating, it’s limiting. If you’re like most people, you will have several jobs and careers in your life, and each will have positive and negative aspects to it. Furthermore, your job preferences are apt to change over time as you gain experience, skill, and self-knowledge. Keeping your options open is a position of strength, not weakness.
Myth: I will use all of my talents and abilities in this job.
Reality: No one job uses all of your talents. And trying to find one that does will derail your job search. Learning a variety of tasks helps you to sharpen abilities that might not be needed in one job but could be invaluable in another. Especially at the start of your career, you should expect to spend time acquiring experience and skills. This is one reality about careers that, career counselors say, many new graduates fail to grasp. Counselors remind jobseekers to be patient. New workers should expect to start in entry-level positions and be willing to do routine tasks as they gain experience.
Myth: My job has to match my college major or vocational training.
Reality: You need not restrict your job search to careers related to your degree or training. Most jobs do not specify which college major is needed, even if they require that workers have a college degree. Many computer specialist positions, for example, are filled by workers whose degree is in a subject unrelated to computers.
Vocational training is often more closely related to specific occupations. But even this kind of training can open the door to a wider array of jobs than people think. Consider that electrical technicians are now repairing fuel cells, for example, or that veterinary technicians become pharmaceutical sales workers. Often, technical skills are applicable to many settings—and most workers learn the specifics of an occupation on the job.
Myth: No one will hire me because I lack experience, have low grades, have gaps in my work history, etc.
Reality: People overcome all kinds of challenges to find satisfying work. Experts say that how you handle adversity is a good indicator of your ability to persevere. Need experience? Get it! Volunteer, work in a related occupation, or focus on school projects that are relevant to your desired career. Low grades are the problem? Highlight other parts of your resume, and remember that grades usually matter only for that first job after graduation. Gaps in your work history? Overcome them with a well-designed resume that focuses on skills rather than chronology, and then get a little interviewing practice.
For most entry-level jobs, employers are looking for general attributes such as communication skills, interpersonal abilities, and enthusiasm. See “Getting back to work: Returning to the labor force after an absence” in the winter 2004-05 Quarterly, online at www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2004/winter/art03.pdf, for specific advice about conquering difficulties related to your employability.
Myth: It’s too late to change my career.
Reality: It’s never too late to change careers. Workers who change careers come from many backgrounds, age groups, and situations. There’s the doctor who decided she’d rather be a chef, the retiree who enrolled in college to become an accountant, the construction worker who wanted a steadier income without moving to a warmer climate. For each of these workers, the desire for job satisfaction outweighed the desire for status quo.
To make the change easier, look at your past work and education to see what skills relate to the job you want. Most jobs’ entry requirements are more flexible than people think. Gain needed skills with volunteer work, internships, or a class, and don’t be afraid to start at the bottom to get the career you want. If you are out of school and want expert advice, consider a local One-Stop Career Center or the counseling center at a nearby school.
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