One important way to set your loved one up for success is to understand how to avoid the pitfalls of common myths about how to choose a career. Here are some of the most common misconceptions:
Fact: Deciding on a major/career is actually an involved process, and you and your student should give it the time it deserves. Career planning is a multistep process that involves learning enough about your child’s true interests and the occupations they are considering in order to make an informed decision.
Fact: Career-assessment tools and qualified counselors can help to guide students in their major/career decision. However, your child cannot rely on just one test or one meeting with a counselor to decide what to do with the rest of their life. Ultimately, they are their own “career decision maker” and need to consider their family values, experience and any number of practical considerations (expenses, opportunities, training requirements, family issues, etc.) to decide on a good career match.
Fact: Career decision-making is a process and not an event. Deciding prematurely based on inaccurate or insufficient information is always a mistake. Students may vary on the amount of time they need to make career decisions. The important thing is to engage in activities that help them learn about themselves and their career options.
Fact: Your child is better off shifting their focus than to stay on a path that is not right for them. Their experiences will help them grow and expand as a person. The more they learn about themselves and the occupations they want to pursue, the more likely they are to make a wise career decision.
Fact: Unless your student is planning to enter an area that requires specific technical skills, one major can lead to many different careers. In fact, many college graduates find themselves working in fields that are only remotely related to their majors.
Fact: Each profession is a little different. Most employers focus on a well-rounded individual who, in their eyes, has a higher value than one with only good grades. Employers may want their candidates to have some work and volunteer experience; outside interests and activities; personal, professional and academic references; leadership qualities; communication and interpersonal skills; and good character.
Fact: Money doesn't necessarily lead to career satisfaction. Surveys show that people who do not enjoy what they are doing will eventually become dissatisfied, regardless of the money they are making. However, your student should consider earnings, among other things, when evaluating an occupation.
Fact: Many fields have the potential to satisfy your child’s career goals because most people derive satisfaction from a variety of activities. With over 15,000 career possibilities, it would be unrealistic to think only one would be the right choice. The average adult doesn’t settle on a career until sometime in their thirties. Your child’s interests, values, abilities and aspirations may be different at ages 20, 30, 40 and beyond. If so, they can change or modify their career accordingly.
Sources: Adapted from Consulting Psychologists Press Inc., Strong Interest Inventory Resource: Strategies for Group and Individual Interpretations in College Settings; Gary Lynn Harr, Career Guide: Road Maps to Meaning in the World of Work; and Monster.com