We spend hours pouring over newspaper inserts to find the best clothing buys and grocery store coupons. We spend hours Googling information about vacation spots and fitness regimens. All, before we commit.
Then ask, “Why?” Typical answers:
- “It’s my favorite subject.”
- “I get good grades in that subject.”
- “I want to be an accountant [doctor, teacher, marketer]….”
- “My parents said that would be a good major for me.”
The problem isn’t these answers: It’s the questions left unanswered like:
- What careers paths/jobs will that major open for you?
- Do those paths match what you want from your life?
A college education today is still believed to be a “leg up” to better jobs, mainly higher pay and promotions. It doesn’t necessarily mean better for your happiness, satisfaction, or health. So a lot is riding on your major and the jobs attached to it.
Why due diligence? Because it’s your life!
Students pick majors with romanticized notions about the great jobs they’ll get by being accomplished students. They never talk to anyone currently doing those entry level or supervisory jobs to get a behind-the-scenes look.
I once coached a graduate from a prestigious university whose major was criminal justice. Just before graduation, she realized that starting jobs in her field meant street assignments. No way! So she stayed on, switching to journalism until she realized that starting reporter jobs meant evenings and weekends chasing stories. She switched again to English lit and graduated with no direction, huge tuition bills, and no viable career path.
Hard to believe she didn’t investigate those job realities the second and third time? It just didn’t occur to her and she’s not alone.
I’ve also worked with many, career-weary adults who took a long time to admit that they had invested years in a career that never fit them. Each one had to either reinvent him/herself or start over. Even with their own experiences behind them, they don’t teach their children how to avoid the same mistakes. Why? Because no one showed them how.
Don’t get me wrong. Every career is an adventure. That’s good. What isn’t good is committing to a career path blindly. Due diligence helps minimize painful disappointment or reasons to start over. You can’t control for everything, but you can avoid lot of missteps.
You need to do this!
Whether you are a student, an entry level or veteran employee, each time you say to yourself: “I want to be a [job title]:”
- Write down the name(s) of 5 people in your family, community or among your friends, who are doing that job or one like it
- Ask them to spend 15 minutes explaining to you what they do on a daily basis
- Ask what they like best or least, what skills or education they needed, what it takes to get promoted, and who else you can talk to
- See whether or not their work environment fits you
- Ask yourself: Can I see myself in that line of work for a long time?
(This is called information interviewing, a technique credited to Richard N. Bolles, who’s book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, gives the details. Find more on line. See, it’s all out there for the Googling!)
CBS contributor, Ben Stein, says, “The giants I have worked with in my life… found the thing that they were very, very good at, and did that with extraordinary focus.” Then he adds: “…harmonize your goals with your talents.”
That’s big! If your goals aren’t rooted in a realistic understanding of what the job market is all about, harmony is harder to come by. When you’re business fit, you’ve achieved the understanding and insights you need to build your best career. Let the explorations begin!
Have a story about a student who isn’t making the connection between his/her studies and the job market? Any ideas why students don’t explore the real story behind the kinds of jobs they’re after? Your insights can make a big difference!