Career Myths & Misconceptions

We’re giving you the truth on some common career myths and misconceptions!

  1. Your major is the main determinant of your career.

While some individuals do pursue careers that are traditional for their majors, such as those who major in accounting or mechanical engineering, most graduates combine academic disciplines of interest with experience in their short and long-term career pursuits. The skills that you develop are important factors in determining your career (see the National Association of Colleges and Employers Career Readiness Competencies to learn what skills employers think graduates should have.)

  1. The main factor of success in a career is how much money you make.

Career success is based on the alignment of values, skills, and interests, which match the organization and position needs. While salary, commission, or other remuneration may determine success in such professions as sales, the definition of how you determine success is very individual and personal. Performance reviews, project accomplishments, added value to the organization, ability to help others, creating new products or services, finding a positive balance between personal and professional life, have all been factors that many individuals cite as key to their success.

  1. A career center is for seniors only.

Alumni & Career Services at the University of Richmond serves all students, starting freshman year, and beyond college, as we offer career services to alumni for life.

  1. The best way to find jobs on the Internet is through job boards.

Internet job boards can be a valuable way to find out more information about career fields and organizations, as well as a way to connect to contacts, but research shows that only 4% of jobs are actually acquired through job boards. Much of this is due to the fact that the majority of the job market is still hidden. (Bolles, 2015.)

  1. Career development is a one-time process.

Career development is a lifetime of decisions, experiences, reflections, economic conditions, and personal and professional needs. After retirement, a new popularity in encore careers has risen, where retirees pursue passions that utilize their past experiences, interests, and skills.

  1. Career progression is always linear.

Career progression is rarely linear and often is a series of experiences that might be lateral or seem to lack any relationship from one to the other. A recent college graduate may experience up to eight career changes in a lifetime and fifteen job changes, most which are not linear or obviously progressive.

  1. The person who most often gets the job is the one who is most qualified.

Due to the fact that many job positions are hidden, sometimes the individuals who are most qualified are not aware of a position or perhaps the timing is not right for them to pursue an opportunity. So, it’s really the person who knows how to get the job, make the connection, and possesses the skills, enthusiasm, as well as is the right fit, is most likely to get the position.

  1. A career field is best chosen by looking at employment outlook information and listening to the media.

While employment outlook information (such as the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook) can be a valuable tool and listening to trends, whether they be social or industry related, are helpful, there is also a big cautionary note: by the time the information gets into print it is often out of date. Additionally, the media usually is looking for a story angle and may not actually provide the full picture or how the worker supply relates to the demand in a particular area.

  1. Career centers are for business majors only.

Some universities have career services offices devoted to different departments or schools, but at the University of Richmond, our Alumni & Career Services office is for all students and alumni, in all phases of career exploration and decision-making.

  1. It is recommended to keep hobbies and personal interests separate from your career choice.

Often those who are most fulfilled in their careers are those who were able to combine personal interests or areas into their career field. Example combinations include: photography and landscaping, skiing and finance, or even what one such Richmond alum has done in combining a love of animals with finance by working at a zoo.

  1. While in school, the only way to get valuable career experience is through a paid internship.

Many experiences, in and out of the classroom, such as extracurricular activities, sports, part-time jobs, civic engagement, study/travel abroad, lab projects, and even hobbies can provide valuable experience.

  1. Alumni are best reached through mass email if you want to ask them for career help.

Personal interactions, through one-on-one meetings/communication, are the best way to connect with alumni, such as signing up for Spider Shadowing or coming to an information session on-campus hosted by an alum.

  1. I should focus only on my academic studies while in college, because a college degree and a good GPA will secure me a job.

While employers and graduate programs do look at how students apply themselves in school academically, they also look for additional experiences that will help distinguish them (this includes activities such as those mentioned in #11 above.) Many employers look for a combination of leadership, experience in the field, academic accomplishments, as well as the ability to get along with others.

The top 10 attributes recently cited by the National Association of Colleges and Employers include:

  • Leadership
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Communications skills (written)
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills (verbal)
  • Strong work ethic
  • Initiative
  • Analytical/quantitate skills
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Technical skills

Written By: Denise Dwight Smith, Assistant Vice President, University of Richmond Office of Alumni & Career Services

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