Beliefs impact behavior. That’s a lesson I learned years ago as a counseling student, before becoming a national certified counselor. Now, as an experienced career counselor, every day I see that this lesson applies directly to how my clients make career decisions and execute their job search.

The problem with career beliefs that don’t align with reality, is that they can restrict your ability to imagine the many career possibilities available to you. Moreover, they give you unrealistic expectations that lead to uninformed career decisions or poor career planning. By raising your awareness of career myths and these false assumptions, you can better prepare yourself to map out a plan for success.   

MYTH 1: My degree determines my career options.

FACT: Research shows that only about one quarter of college graduates work in a career related to their degree. Although college graduates tend to earn higher salaries and experience lower rates of unemployment than those with only a high school diploma, degrees do not dictate one’s career. There are many factors that can influence one’s career path, including interests, skills, values, previous work experience, and geographic location to name a few. One degree can lead to many different careers.

MYTH 2: Career counselors can tell me which career is right for me.

FACT: Working with a career counselor means you will receive personalized assistance from a trained professional who cares about your success. They can provide guidance, support, and resources to help you through the process of discovering, clarifying, and pursuing your career goals. However, getting clear on your goals and taking consistent action to bring your goals to life is a personal journey, which is why only you can determine what career is right for you.

MYTH 3: Career assessments will tell me what career I should pursue.

FACT:  Career assessments are tools to help people learn more about themselves and how certain personal attributes relate to the world of work. For example, assessments like the O*NET Interest Profiler and the Work Importance Locator help you learn about your interests and values. Based on your responses to a number of questions, they can provide career suggestions that you might like to explore. However, it can be helpful to speak with a career professional to better understand the results and discuss other methods of discovering potential best-fit careers. No assessment can ever tell you what job is best for you.

MYTH 4: I have to find my passion to be satisfied in my job.

FACT: Feeling passionate about your career is certainly valuable, but it isn’t necessary to find a personally meaningful, satisfying job. There are a number of factors that can contribute to a sense of job satisfaction, including:

• Task variety: Jobs that offer high levels of variety in the work you do are likely to be more satisfying than those that are monotonous.

• Colleagues: Working with people you get along with and who care about each other personally can have a significant impact on your sense of job satisfaction.

• Working conditions: Working conditions, including location, facilities, and organizational culture are important to consider when searching for a job.

• Workload: Too little or too much work and emotional commitment can cause stress, boredom, or burn out.

• Autonomy: The ability to make choices about how you work and own the results can impact how satisfied you feel at work.

• Educational opportunities: Jobs that provide opportunities to learn and grow your skills tend to be more satisfying than those that do not.

Some people have multiple passions whereas others don’t have any identifiable passions. Passions may develop over time, or they may not. There’s nothing wrong with either of these scenarios. You can still find a satisfying job based on a variety of other factors.

MYTH 5: There is one perfect job for me.

FACT: Every job has its pros and cons. Expecting to find one career opportunity that perfectly meets every desire, need, and preference is limiting. Jobs change over time, as company priorities and industry trends fluctuate, or colleagues and leaders come and go. And with new work experiences, changes in life circumstances, or shifting priorities, your career preferences may also change. Instead of holding out for one perfect job, consider prioritizing your career preferences and separating your must-have’s from your nice-to-have’s. Keep in mind that you can also fulfill your passions outside of a full-time job through hobbies, volunteering, or freelancing.

Your career can go in any direction you choose to take it. You’re likely to make many career decisions throughout the course of your working life as you change jobs, promote, switch careers, or perhaps start your own business. The possibilities are vast but choosing the “right” career is a matter of getting to know what you most want out of a career, using reliable information to help guide your decisions, and going after it with relentless tenacity.


Steven Starks is senior manager of Career Counseling Programs & Operations at University of Phoenix