Myths and Facts about Careers

You can find a lot of information online about career planning during the college years, but much of the information is more myth than fact.

Myth: Pick a STEM Major

Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM)

Families invest in their children’s college education with the expectation that the financial rewards will include a job with a good salary that will lead to a happy and fulfilling life and they often see STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as the best options. They believe that if students graduate with a STEM degree,  they will be certain to find a job that pays more money.

Fact: Not all students are destined for STEM jobs, and many students would be happier in other kinds of careers. Equally important, some majors outside of STEM teach students the highly valuable skills for work in all types of careers, including communication, psychology, international relations, and business.


Myth: Students Should Follow Their Passion

A common myth is that students must follow their passion to find the right career.

Follow your passion, line going from heart to head

Fact: While it’s wonderful to feel enthusiastic about the job you perform every day, what brings the greatest satisfaction at age 22 might not hold much meaning at age 30–or when you have children, want more time for yourself, or have done the same thing for 10 years. The best sign of a good fit is that you believe what you are doing is important. For some people, simply seeing that a task is completed at the end of the day might be most important. For others, knowing that they are providing a valuable service is what matters. For still others, being challenged every day and being able to tap into their creativity is what they will value.


Myth: You can be whatever you want

Children grow up hearing that they can become whatever they want to be if they just work toward their goal.

Fact: Not every student who wants to be a doctor can successfully pass anatomy. Not every aspiring engineer can understand calculus. A student who plans to be a veterinarian might discover she’s allergic to animal dander, and the job is simply not a possibility. A successful and satisfying career requires that a student’s interests and abilities align. Working with a career adviser, students can explore opportunities for careers that match up with their talents and interests.

Detour construction sign

Myth: Money buys happiness

Students might believe that if they get a well-paying job, they will be happy. If they don’t like the work, they can spend their non-work hours doing what they love.

Money by Ben Davis from the Noun Project

Fact: Even the best paying jobs can be hard to bear if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing or if you’re unhappy in the atmosphere where you spend eight hours a day. You do need enough money to pay the bills and have a lifestyle you enjoy, but a higher salary is not worth it if you wake up dreading your day and then spend eight hours being miserable.


Myth: Your major determines your career–for life

Students graduating from high school generally have a career path picked out, and their image for the future seems like a straight line.

Fact: Career paths for today’s students are not linear. Jobs available to new graduates can lead to very different jobs within a few years. Some of today’s jobs might become automated in a few years with no more demand for employees, or they may lead to better opportunities as a career field expands. Talking to a career adviser about transferable skills and how to get them can be helpful as graduates look for positions now and in the future.