Because you are a student, many people will want to give you advice as you make your way through college. Older family members like to talk about how things were when they were in and graduated from college. Your parents might have very definite ideas about what you should major in and the best way to get a job (or perhaps they don’t know at all, and you wish they did). Your friends, particularly those already in college, might tell you what their experience is, but maybe yours will be very different. Then there are all kinds of things you hear about in the news as to whether there are jobs out there. The economy can be very confusing at times. The stock market is up, then down. Government statistics tell us that the unemployment rate is lower than ever before, but many people say it is still very difficult to get a job. Students have seen their parents or grandparents get laid off, then hear that there is a new company in town that will hire thousands of people. Any and all of these things can be true, and all at the same time. So what does that mean for college students looking to begin their careers?

MYTH #1: “Because I am getting a college degree, I will have no problem getting hired and making a lot of money.”

REALITY: As you learned in chapters 1 and 10, your chances of making more money over the course of your lifetime are greater when you have a college degree. However, employers expect more than just a diploma. They also expect that you did well in your studies and engaged in activities and experiences that demonstrate you can put learning into context in a work setting. Internships, practicums, service learning, community-based research, part-time or summer jobs, and more prove to employers that you are capable and eager to begin your career.

MYTH #2: “There is one perfect job for me” or “I will be happy if I find the right career.”

REALITY: Finding the right career is not like waving a magic wand or a ticket to living your best Instagram life all of the time. There are jobs and careers for which you might be well-suited based on a combination of features and attributes. The better you know yourself, the better you can make a good match. Additionally, those features and attributes change over time, and by learning good career planning skills, you can adapt easily.

MYTH #3: “I can’t get a good job with (fill in the name of a major).”

REALITY: There are some majors that traditionally result in jobs that earn more than others do. These are usually because the education for these occupations is often rigorous, and both training for and working in the occupation require a high level of skill and knowledge, even over time (engineering, computer science, accounting). However, anybody can get a “good” job with their major. The key is to understand what knowledge, skills, and abilities are required for the jobs you would like and to take action to make sure you have them. People who have a problem getting employment in their field after college may not have fully understood the requirements for being hired, they may have been unable to make the sacrifices necessary for that to happen, or they may have had unrealistic expectations.

MYTH #4: “I should base my major on ‘hot’ careers that will pay well.”

REALITY: Just because a major or career field is “hot” doesn’t mean that you will enjoy it or even be any good at it. Better to choose a career based on your interests, abilities, values, and personality. Additionally, which careers and fields are popular and well-paying can change quickly based on supply of candidates and economic situations. Thus, those who choose a hot field must be eager to learn new skills to keep up with the evolution of such a career.

MYTH #5: “It is too late to change my career.”

REALITY: It is almost never “too late” to make a career change. There are millions of people who have made career changes, some by going to college in their 30s, 40s, 50s, or even older. In many cases, the best time to make a change is when you are older, because you have more to offer employers, have gained different experiences, and have become more settled in your personal life. Many college students find they are well-positioned to make the most of their college studies when they are more mature.

MYTH #6: “No one will hire me because I am ‘just a student’; I won’t be able to compete with people with more experience.”

REALITY: Employers often like to hire recent graduates or people who are early in their careers because their learning is fresh, and they know how to learn new material and adapt quickly. Additionally, many employers believe that hiring new graduates allows them to train people the way that they would like. New graduates of all ages show persistence and flexibility by having earned a college degree and shown willingness to start something new.

MYTH #7: “I should be passionate about my work. If not, I am doing something wrong. “

REALITY: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” and “Do what you love and the money will follow” are terrible advice. No one loves their work every minute of every day, and passion is a very high standard to meet. There are many things about which we might be passionate that would make for jobs that are completely unsuitable for us. What most people who are happy with their work have in common are that they can do it well; it has some impact on people, organizations, information, or things; and they find satisfaction in it. It is often through discovering this that passion for one’s work follows.

MYTH #8: “My career path should follow a neat, straight line.”

REALITY: For almost everyone, a career path is more like a winding road than a straight highway. Recall the story of Shira building a career off of her summer job, and know that Shira’s experience is one path of many. Not everyone has a clear idea of how to find a job that fulfills an interest and then how to move from that job to a career. It is not always so straightforward. For example, there is great value in choosing a major in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, or humanities, but sometimes these fields do not obviously transfer to a career. Yet with the right guidance, practice, and commitment, these majors provide many routes to a fulfilling career and life. Based on information, experiences, and skills you gather along the way, you will find that you need and want to adapt and adjust. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to get into a career.

MYTH #9: “There are not many jobs out there with good pay and benefits, so why bother looking?”

REALITY: The way in which we work has changed in the last twenty years. There are many more flexible work arrangements available. The “gig economy” refers to jobs that are independent of being an employee and are often time-limited. These positions give people multiple options for generating personal income and are good options for a “side hustle.” At the present time, the job market is also considered to be a “job seeker’s market,” meaning employers are having difficulty finding candidates for their openings. Every day, thousands of people get jobs that advance their status.


Consider the various events or conversations you’ve experienced in the past few years that have led you toward a career goal. Have any of the myths or their counterparts listed above impacted your choices? Are you called to reconsider any previous decisions? Why or why not? Are there additional preconceptions you might have that could potentially block you from moving forward with your ideal plans?


Source: OpenStax College Success is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License v4.0


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Strategies for First Year College Success Copyright © by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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