Planning & Exploration:
Common Myths of Major and Career Choices
hold a number of myths that interfere with choosing
or committing to a major or career. These beliefs can
result in unnecessary anxiety or even avoidance of making
a choice. Here are a few common myths along with some
reasons why they might not be true:
is only one career that is right for me...
Many people believe that there is one,
and only one, occupation that will fulfill all their
desires. All they need to do is discover it. The
reality is that most of us can do a number of different
things and would be happy in a variety of occupations.
Also, we all change and develop over time, so as
we mature one career is not likely to satisfy us
for an entire lifetime.
is "love at first sight" in vocations...
The myth is that we will be immediately
smitten with the vocation that we intuitively feel
is right for us. The reality is that most people
need to explore themselves and the world of work
before they know whether something is right for
I find the perfect career choice, I won't be satisfied...
The problem here is that perfectionism
leaves no room for error and often leads to paralyzing
anxiety or avoidance. We can be absolutely certain
of very few things in our lives. "The only
absolute is that there are no absolutes." The
best we can do is to prepare ourselves to make good
decisions and to deal with whatever happens.
else can discover which vocation is suitable for me...
A variation on this is the perception
that a test or experience of some sort will tell
us what we ought to do. The reality is that no one
else, nor any single test or experience, can give
us this kind of information. Although tests, assessments,
and experience can help narrow our focus, in the
end we must learn how to process the information
and make our own decisions.
must be an expert or fabulously successful in my chosen
The result of this belief is that we
avoid or quickly leave any occupation in which we
aren't immediately highly skilled and successful.
The reality is that it usually takes some time to
develop expertise in a career. Expecting yourself
to be highly successful in a short time is often
self-defeating. Some occupations require years of
training and experience before an individual is
able to master the skills and knowledge required
to be proficient.
choice of a major or career is irreversible...
Once you make a choice you cannot,
or should not, change your mind.
This is an archaic idea that might have been true
several generations ago, but changing technology
and social values has turned things around. The
reality is that the vast majority of people change
majors and/or careers several times in their lifespan.
Most people change careers an average of 4 to 5
times in the course of their lives. The most important
task is learning how to choose, not making the one,
not okay to be undecided about a career or major...
The myth is that we have to have definite
ideas about what we are doing at all times. The
reality is that all of us are undecided sometimes,
and being undecided might be the best thing if we
don't have all the information or insight needed
to make a rational choice. Making premature decisions
often costs more than taking your time.
choice of a major or career should satisfy other people
who are important to me...
This myth results in a hectic attempt
to please everyone, a task that is usually impossible
to achieve. The reality is that while we may care
what others think, ultimately we must satisfy ourselves
in order to be happy.
a major or career will solve all my problems...
Many people rely too much on their
studies or their careers to satisfy all their needs
and to solve their problems. A major or an occupation
is only one part of a satisfying lifestyle.
must choose a career goal before choosing a major...
This is not always true. In fact, over
50% of students graduating with an undergraduate
degree pursue careers which have no direct connection
with their majors. Your choice of a major does not
necessarily lock you into a particular career, or
vice-versa. Employers often look for candidates
with a variety of skills and the ability to learn,
not necessarily someone with a degree in a particular
relationship of college majors to career fields vary. Obviously,
some career choices dictate that you choose a specific undergraduate
major. If you want to be a nurse, you must major in nursing.
Engineers major in engineering. Architects major in architecture.
There is no other way to be certified as a nurse, an engineer,
or an architect. However, most career fields don't require
a specific major. People with specific majors don't have
to use them in ways most commonly expected.
college majors don't offer specific preparation for a single
type of work. Instead, they educate you and help (along
with your activities, work, etc.) make up the personal package
that can enable you to become anything you want to be. Your
grades, the electives you choose, and the skills you acquire
through your coursework often tell employers more about
what you have to offer them than does your major.
other factors affect how employers look at potential
employees. Your personal traits, goals, experiences
(jobs, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, internships),
and knowledge of a career field play a large part in
determining an employer's response to you.
Return to Career Planning
Ron Vick, MA, LPC
Counselor / Academic Advisor
Int'l Student Advisor