Dec. 15, 2008 -- Lindsey Pollak is an author and speaker who specializes in career advice for college students and young professionals. Below, read an excerpt from her book, "Getting from College to Career," courtesy of HarperCollins. Do you have questions about your career? Click HERE to ask Pollak a question, and check out her ABC News On Campus column about finding work during winter break.
Getting Rid of the 'Shoulds'
Before you can accurately assess yourself and determining what you want in your career, an important step is getting rid of what other people tell you that you should want.
You may not even realize that you have some powerful predetermined ideas about how job searching should work and what various career paths entail. In other words, much of what you think you know about the working world and your place in it may not actually be true. Why not? Because sitcoms, movies, magazines, and even friends, professors, and relatives don't always know what they're talking about—or, they give advice based on their own personal knowledge or experience and not necessarily what's best for you. Add to this the fact that career trends change over time, and it's pretty clear that some people's impressions may no longer be entirely accurate.
It may be that you're interested in some jobs or career fields simply because you know people, or have heard about people, who are in those fields. While it's great to follow in the footsteps of those you admire, you may not want to limit your options to the careers of people in your immediate frame of reference—or to jobs that you currently understand how to perform. I guarantee there are thousands upon thousands of careers, companies, and job titles that you've never even heard of. One of those may just be the winning ticket for you.
Here are some common "should" myths that you may need to bust before you can move on and seriously consider what kind of job you want:
Myth: You should get a job that's directly related to your college major.
Fact: English majors get job offers from investment banks. Pre-meds change their minds and go to law school. Philosophy majors are marketable outside of academia. While some industries may require that you take a few extra classes to prove you can do the work required, your major should not hold you back from pursuing a career that feels right to you.
Myth: You should try to get the highest paying job you can.
Fact: Well, sure. You should try to get the highest paying job you can…as long as it's something you really want to do. Taking a high paying job that doesn't interest you is a big—and common—mistake. Now is the time to start at the bottom and build a career in something you enjoy. Believe me; it will be much harder to give up a big salary in 10 years to switch careers into something you love rather than doing it now. There is no shame in taking a lower paying job now to build a career path in an industry you like. Don't worry about keeping up with your friends in more lucrative industries.
Myth: You shouldn't even try to get a job in a glamorous industry unless your last name is Spielberg or Chanel.
Fact: It's harder to get a job in a glamorous industry—such as film, fashion, magazines, television, or professional sports—than in say, accounting, but it's not impossible at all. Most of these industries don't have formal college recruiting programs, so you'll have to do more work on your own. The major fact about "glamour" industries is that virtually everyone starts at the bottom, so in these fields it's all about getting your foot in the door—any door you can. You may have trouble convincing your parents that your college degree is well used while you bartend and direct short films, but they'll understand in a few years when your full-length feature wins a prize at Sundance.
MAKE THIS WORK FOR YOU
What is your biggest "should" about getting your first job after college? What message is playing over and over again in your head? Whatever you're telling yourself, there is one thing you must do right now: Find out if the "shoulds" are true. Test your assumptions. Take your top three "shoulds" about your particular situation and write them below.
I'll never get a job in a big city because I go to college in a small town in Maine.
I shouldn't even try to find a job in corporate America because my parents didn't go to college and they don't haven any connections.
I should be a teacher because that's what English majors do.
I shouldn't try to be a professional singer because most people fail.
Now, go out and gather information to see if you need to wipe these beliefs from your mind. Ask your professors. Ask your college career services office. Ask alumni of your school. Post these questions on an Internet bulletin board devoted to career advice. Bring these questions to your next informational interview. If you find out that any of your worries are unfounded, then erase them from your mind. My hunch is that you'll learn that no path is impossible, though some are harder than others. But once you know what you're really facing, you'll be able to make a more informed decision about your future.
Want to read more? Click HERE to browse through Pollak's book.