This is a guest post by Kara McDuffee from over MyQuestionLife.com
How many times have you been asked: “What do you want to do for work?”
And how many times has this question caused you enormous stress and anxiety?
From a young age, society creates the impossible expectation that we should know what we want to do. We’re expected to declare a major, choose a career, and pursue jobs in this career that give us purpose.
If you’re like me, you might have started to shape your life around these false expectations about life purpose. I took on multiple internships and pursued jobs that I would’ve hated. All because I thought I had to.
Here’s the truth. These expectations are not only unrealistic, but they’re holding you back.
In particular, the mindset around what your career is can be incredibly damaging. If you’re buying into the myths about a career, you’ll miss out on countless opportunities.
Fortunately, the more you understand these myths, the sooner you can identify them and stop them from affecting you.
Top 5 Most Common Career Misconceptions
A specific job represents your experience with an entire career
You spend years figuring out what career sounds enticing to you. Finally, you find one that seems perfect. You’re passionate about it, and it resonates with your skills. Excited about your newfound direction, you begin to apply to jobs in that career. You’re hired, and you eagerly walk into work thinking, Time to start my career!
Imagine the disappointment when you find that you don’t actually like the job. Suddenly, you’re left with an overwhelming disappointment. Did you choose the wrong career?
This unnecessary anxiety is coming from the first myth about a career. We get caught up thinking that a specific job represents our experience with an entire career. The truth is, every job will provide us with an incredibly different experience.
Let’s say Ana wants to be a teacher. Then, much to her dismay, she hates her first teaching job as a seventh-grade math teacher. If she buys into the myth, she might think she needs to give up teaching. But it’s too soon to make this drastic change. Maybe she’d love teaching eleventh-grade math at a different school.
When you consider what you want to do for a career, try not to put a lot of weight on your experience with one job. Instead, consider the overall fit you’re looking for in the workplace.
A career consists of promotions within one line of work
You choose a career and get a job. Now, you think that you need to work hard to get promoted in that specific line of work. Careers are about growth in one field, after all, right?
Not true. When you lock yourself into such a narrow mindset, you prevent yourself from exploring the numerous possibilities that are out there for you.
Try thinking of a career as your overall growth in any sort of employment.
Your first job in a retail store develops your salesmanship skills. Then, you take a job at a public relations firm, where you finetune your knowledge of persuasion. Maybe you get promoted to associate manager. Because of your success, a new job opportunity opens up as a manager at a not-for-profit.
These jobs were all in very different fields, yet you still advanced. These promotions happened because you grew in your strengths. A career is about this personal growth, regardless of which line of work it comes from.
Our passions can only be found in one career
Another myth about a career is that only one will fulfill our passions. When we get asked the dreaded question, “What do you want to do?” we feel like we need one specific answer. And so we say things like, “I want to be an engineer because I’m passionate about math,” or, “I want to work in government because I’m passionate about politics.”
We all have passions, even if you haven’t discovered them yet. But very few of our passions equate to a cookie-cutter career description.
Imagine an eighteen-year-old saying, “I’m passionate about spreadsheets and government financial regulations, so I want to be an accountant.”
Instead, we recognize passions like writing, interacting with people, and working with kids. These passions aren’t reserved for one career. In fact, you can probably find multiple careers that contain your passions in some way.
By opening up your mindset, you can use your passions to find multiple opportunities, rather than trying to force your passions into one career.
We need to build our career in one long, dedicated period of time
I’m sure we all know the story that our grandparents share. How they got a job after college and worked at that same company their entire lives. It doesn’t take much work to see how different things are now. People change jobs regularly.
But it’s a myth to believe that these job changes need to be considered career changes.
Society makes us believe that our careers need to be built in long, dedicated periods of time. However, this notion places too much emphasis on the “job” portion of our resume rather than the “skills.”
I might work in a bank for six years and then take a job as a travel blogger. And then, five years later, you accept a new job at another bank. If you buy into this myth about a career, you might think each switch sets you back to square one. (The blogging pursuit, in particular, might feel like a “step away from a career.”)
The truth is that you’re building your career with every new job that you take. When you view your career as broken and disjointed, you fail to see the connections you can make between all your different jobs. The time spent blogging taught you invaluable lessons and skills that you’ll be able to use in any job you have. As will any new work opportunity.
We need to know what career we want when we apply for jobs
If you don’t recognize all the myths about a career yet, let me leave you with one final one. Our society tricks us into feeling like we need to know what career we want before we apply for jobs. After all, doesn’t it feel backward to apply for multiple jobs when you’re not even sure you like the field of work?
Our society creates an impossible paradox. We should know what we want to experience without having the experience to learn.
Experience is the best teacher, after all, and sometimes you just need to dive in. It might seem weird to treat your career as a “trial and error” approach. But, in the end, it’s the only thing you really can do.
If you’re feeling extremely stressed about finding the perfect career, try to step back. Apply to jobs that interest you in a variety of fields. Over time, you’ll begin to see patterns and better understand your own needs.
Furthermore, keep in mind that a specific job doesn’t represent a full career anyway.
Job searchers can fill us with anxiety and dread. Much of this pressure, however, is coming from our misconceptions about what a career is.
Our culture has made it easy to buy into myths about a career. As a result, we get trapped in a narrow mindset that holds us back.
The sooner you can understand and recognize these myths, the sooner you can free yourself from their confines.
Author Bio: Kara McDuffee
Kara writes a blog dedicated to help you find clarity, connection, and meaning in your life. She delivers information about human nature in a way that will help you better understand yourself and what you need to be happy. If you’ve struggled to find the answers you’re looking for, you’re most likely asking the wrong questions. Her blog can give you the questions you need to find your purpose.