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Career Development

The New P Word in Career Development

Tamara, my long-time colleague, friend and GWC associate, and I are planning to write a book together.  While there is no shortage of books to be found in the career section of your local bookstore, we think that our idea is somewhat unique.  You see there is a ton of pressure on students these days to “find their career passion” quickly, graduate in four years and get on with living that life of perfect bliss in a perfect world with your perfect job — the one you are passionate about.  It’s a recipe for success that resonates with many millennials and their velcro (promoted from “helicopter” status this year) parents probably because it is so idyllic.

But the P word (passion) is messy.  It can insinuate many things to over-involved, over-achieving college students who are already stressed about whether or not the majors they have selected are the right majors.  Even mentioning that “finding your career passion” is possible suggests that it is attainable to all in a rather prescribed period of time — preferably four years in college.  Over and over I have listened to students express their frustrations over their inability to find these illusive “passions” and the college majors that would prepare them best (not even well) for this great life work.  Because the concept of a career passion even exists, students routinely assume that all of their fellow students know their career passions and are moving effortlessly toward those jobs which will magically appear once their mortar boards have been tossed triumphantly into the air.  They find themselves, on the other hand, passionless and sensing that they are somehow flawed.  Seriously, the pressure to find your passion is a bit much.

Let’s toss the word passion and replace it with path.  It’s also a P word but with much less baggage.

If we know and anticipate that Americans will probably change careers more than three times in their lifetimes, it just makes more sense that career development is more cyclical and path-like as opposed to passion-centric.  The work we do as career counselors should help students discover interesting and intriguing paths and we should give the necessary career management tools to help them along the way.

I routinely tell students that it really doesn’t matter what your major is.  You should pick a major you enjoy.  If you enjoy it, you will, most likely, do well in it.  If you do well in it, you will be successful.  If you are successful in college, you will probably be successful in your career.  No matter how many times I recount this logic flow to students they still stare at me with questioning eyes as if to say, “Seriously?  That sounds nice and all but, I really need to find my passion so I can be successful.  I know there is the perfect job and the perfect major out there for me and I just need you to tell me what it is.” 

Do I have time to tell them the story of the paths I have gone down — my six college majors, my 161 undergraduate credits hours and the chance opportunities that led me to the profession that I enjoy?  It will all be in the book.    Ray

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