What Grads Need To Know About Choosing Careers

Determining exactly what you want to be when you grow up is a process that can last years after you graduate. With trial, error and an accumulation of knowledge, you can strive to find a career that fulfills you financially and spiritually.

The Skool Of Life warns you to avoid falling into common traps when selecting an occupation. Its advice is a little harsh but pragmatic.

A recurring point in the post is to be careful where you get advice. Parents and guidance counselors are quick to offer suggestions, but you can’t blindly follow them. Counselors might give you advice based simply on statistics, while parents may not know what they’re talking about if they don’t know your professional landscape.

The post also preaches diversification. If you’ve got a hand in several professions, you may find yourself surprised that you’re drawn in a direction you didn’t think you’d head. It also doesn’t hurt to secure multiple income streams, in case one of your employers decides to force your hand to choose a new line of work.

5 Career Building Tips They Never Taught us in School [The Skool Of Life]


Edit Your Comment

  1. [redacted] says:

    “It also doesn’t hurt to secure multiple income streams, in case one of your employers decides to force your hand to choose a new line of work.”

    What economy are you living in?

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      That’s what I was thinking. Multiple part-time jobs aren’t usually the start of a career… that’s essentially what they are saying to do.

      • BennieHannah says:

        I think maybe they’re talking about being knowledgeable in all aspects of your chosen career field — like if you’re a graphic designer, it’s might be a good idea to branch out into web design, and to become familiar with the technical/production and marketing side. The more you specialize the more vulnerable you are to a layoff if that specialized skill becomes outdated or overstaffed.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Don’t put all your Faberge eggs in one basket. That’s great advice. You can’t just rely on your paycheck. You should supplement it with your trust fund investment income, and diversify with some rental properties, and maybe secure a reality programming development deal to round out your portfolio.

    • Yacko says:

      Everybody can moonlight as a criminal. Assuming it is not your primary occupation, then it at least gives you two.

    • kobresia says:

      eBay! And Craft Fairs & Etsy.

      There’s also blood plasma donation.

      Or maybe the author was thinking about having 2-3 jobs.

    • a354174 says:

      A free market economy. If you don’t have a job, make your own. Or…… you can be like most people and choose to watch television and play videogames instead.

  2. Cat says:

    Even with your fancy degree, a career in the fast food industry is no longer a sure thing.

    • rmorin says:

      False, False, False.

      I have a graduate assitantship at a large public institution and work with graduating seniors as part of it. I will tell you unequivocally that new graduates will 100% find work if they go about it the right way because I’ve worked with hundreds of them.

      People get (full-time, benefited) positions regardless of their major. Sure, if you get an engineering major, then obviously it opens doors to engineering jobs as well, but I have seen people with every major under the sun get full-time, benefited jobs. How they do it is simple; you can’t be picky. I have a Sports Management major who became an administrative clerks in a hospital, a communications major who works as a manager of a box office for a large-ish theater, a Pysch major who became a corrections officer, the list goes on and on. None of them even really had to relocate, you just have to be willing to take a good, full-time, benefited position even if is not glamorous or your passion. Once again, I’ve done this for years and every year this is completely true.

      How students fail? A different Sports Management major (this is a true story) didn’t have a single internship and was literally applying for jobs with MLB teams in non-entry level positions. When I asked him about expanding his search he said, “I feel that I spent four years on school, and that it’s unfair for me not to get something I want”. Holy Mole! I didn’t say this but I was thinking “Unfair? Who owes you anything!?”

      /Note: Everything I’m writing about is exclusive to new graduates, so don’t tell me that’s not true for everyone because I’m not stating that it is for the wider populace, just with new graduates.

      • tmc131414 says:

        I find what your were saying pretty hard to believe. I managed to take part in 5 internships throughout undergrad and grad school but have found that they have done very little to help me find a permanent position in my field (public administration/government) since I graduated last year. On most interviews I’ve been on since then, it seems that the employer has little interest in whatever experience I’ve learned as an intern and seems to give me little consideration to me as a candidate because I have not had full-time experience in my field yet. I imagine this is because there are so many people out there who have worked for a few years and then were laid off or who went to grad school while working full-time.

        On the other hand, I also find it hard to believe that college graduates who earned a certain degree have found work as easily in a completely different field. I’ve found that just about any job these days won’t even consider your application unless you have very specific qualifications/experience that match the position (such as several years of clerical experience for a administrative clerk position). I doubt that recent college graduates (especially undergrads) are going to have any of these skills and instead are going to be forced to take basically minimum wage positions in retail or food service for the foreseeable future. In other words, I think the job market is going to be awful for any graduate right of college for the time being unless they managed to get a degree for something in demand (accounting, nursing, etc.) unlike so many of us.

        • rmorin says:

          You’re proving my experience completely correct that you have not been able to find a job in your field. I’m telling you with the hundreds of students that I have worked with, those willing to take full-time benefited positions get them. They are not glamorous, they are not their passion, but they are a steady job which is pretty good for a first “real” job.

          And you completely incorrect and are thinking too narrow minded in regards to “not their field”. A pysch degree seems pretty useful for a corrections officer, no? A sports management degree means they have had to take many management/business courses which would make them perfectly qualified for administrative work in a hospital. You don’t think a communications degree could help with all of the work needed to manage a box office?

          You have to EXPAND your search, which it doesn’t sound like you are doing at all. Instead you are stating “well I can’t get a job directly in my area of study, so I guess I have to work minimum wage”, which if that is what you choose to do, then that is fine. However, don’t project that to all people because unless I live in a utopia full of more jobs then anywhere else (I don’t) it is very likely for you to attain a full time, benefited position, just not one to which you’ll be passionate about.

          /Once again this is just with new grads, not people that have been laid off or at different points in their career so do not project what I say on to other populations.

  3. Solkanar512 says:

    This article seems like nothing more than fluff and SEO fodder.

    • Skyhawk says:

      I have something I need to return to Amazon.
      I’m going to print out this article and use it as padding.

  4. tungstencoil says:

    The post is interesting, but seems more focused to steer readers to be entrepreneurs. That isn’t bad in and of itself; however, it is a bit disingenuous to sell as advice on how to pick a career vector while in college or at an early stage in life.

  5. FreeMarketFan says:

    Do what you like, not what’s going to pay you the most money. Because if you’re making $100k a year but hate waking up every day and have an ulcer the size of a grapefruit it’s not worth it

    • Kuri says:

      And if you hold no interest in a particular field you won’t be very driven to do well at it.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      But you can pay for the treatment for the ulcer and then buy some things with the money.

      Money is important. Happiness is not.

      (at least that’s what the system says. If you’re happy you’re not making enough money.)

    • Talisker says:

      Or you can learn to like what you do instead of trying to force the world into your little vision of yourself.

    • TheGreySpectre says:

      I disagree. Do something you don’t mind or possibly enjoy that will pay enough to do the things you love. Obviously you don’t want to do something you will hate, but many times you don’t want to turn your passion into a job either. At a job you are invariably working for someone else, whether it is your employer or your customer, someone is going to be telling you what you are doing or making.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Do what financial service professionals do…self medicate.

    • tsukiotoshi says:

      Unfortunately for many of us we have to take what we find, regardless of whether we hate it or whether it pays much. I’m about to start a job I am 99% sure I’m not going to like and I’m getting paid less than most of my friends without graduate degrees. But after being unemployed for a year I’m in no position to be picky, you know?

      • sponica says:

        I just want something where the stress to pay balance is somewhat in sync….I really didn’t enjoy busting my arse for 8 dollars an hour to make my boss’s bonus when I worked a seasonal job this Christmas season but I also didn’t enjoy when I was literally having panic attacks at the job where I made 15 dollars an hour

        the best stress to pay balance was when I was a part time research asst….20/hr, flexible schedule, easy work, and I accrued PTO

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      I’d love to but I can’t seem to find a job that involves playing Farmville.

  6. drblair says:

    Step 1: Go to College, get liberal arts degree

    Step 2: Work for enterprise rent-a-car for 30 years

  7. dolemite says:

    10 years after I finished college, I’m STILL trying to figure out what I’d like to do for a living. Most certainly not what I am doing now, but I’d be hard pressed to find a job that pays this well (even though it’s nothing to brag about) in this economy.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Exactly the same situation here. I don’t see me able to find as good paying a job as this one without going BACK to college or taking certification courses.

      • dolemite says:

        Yeah…I’d at least like to pay off my student loans before doing all that (probably another 10 years).

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’m in the same boat. My field is heavily dependent on the coal industry (mitigate environmental issues), which has essentially collapsed in the past three years. It’s very tough to change fields during a recession or to go back to school when you have a family and need the income.

      It would also be tough to start over and to go from an analyst or project manager position and to be a technician again, especially at a new company and starting over with vesting and vacation time.

      • ARP says:

        Yeah, you’re in a bad spot. D’s are trying to get away from coal completely (or transition out of it). R’s don’t want any regulation on coal (or the EPA for that matter), so environmental/point controls wouldn’t be required.

  8. yabdor says:

    Learn all the mathematics you can.

    • blogger X says:

      So true

    • dolemite says:

      That only works if you “get” math. If your brain isn’t wired for it, you’ve got a hellish long way to go, uphill. It’s like saying “bulk up and learn to use jackhammers.” Well, if you are 5’1″ and 90 lbs, you are going to have a hard time being a jackhammer operator.

      • blogger X says:

        I get “some” math. I can compute accounting and financial calculations with ease, statistics…ugh!

      • KB Foodie says:

        I used to hate math, was terrible in high school. I went back to school at 25 and ended up “getting it” for the first time ever. By the time I finished grad school I had gone through differential equations (high level calculus) and a year of graduate level statistics. (And my degrees were science, not math.) Now, I don’t know if my brain changed and I “got” math, or dicovering I needed these skills for the thing I newly discovered I loved (the hard sciences) made them less of a chore/ more interesting.

      • Solkanar512 says:

        It’s not an issue of “being wired” for math, it’s an issue of finding a good teacher/guide. Given the nature of learning math and how every step relies on all the previous steps, if you get an ineffective teacher or don’t understand why it’s useful it isn’t easy to advance to the stuff that is really helpful.

  9. milkcake says:

    You’ve pretty much too big chunk of chance at making money if you took liberal arts as major and had no plan to advance your degree.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Thank you for succinctly displaying why English majors will always be able to find work.

    • dolemite says:

      I don’t think you get to major in “liberal arts” at most liberal arts school. I went to one. I majored in computer information systems. Everyone likes to make fun of liberal arts compared to a poly-tech type of school, but the only difference is…instead of forcing you to focus entirely on one subject (for the most part), they also require you to take classes in things like art history, music, world governments, world history, sports, etc. I am actually very grateful for my liberal arts degree, even though many of the classes have absolutely nothing to do with my field, because I know more about the world instead of my own tiny little portion of it, and I was taught to question authority, and given the tools to think for myself.

      • Jevia says:

        By saying “liberal arts” degree, they mean a degree in English, History, Art, Political Science, Philosophy, Sociology, etc., i.e. just about anything that isn’t math or science or such. Computer Information Systems may “technically” be liberal arts (although I would have put it closer to math or “technical” field), but I don’t think anyone really considers that to be “liberal arts.”

        Certainly at most any school that teaches math, science, etc., at least for undergrad, you can still pick up electives in history, philosophy, etc. to ’round out’ your education.

        • sponica says:

          yet it’s all my English major/ Communications and Media Studies major friends who were able to secure jobs 5 years ago (within 6 months of graduation) and are still with those companies today in managerial positions…

    • Solkanar512 says:

      I’m really glad my engineering school forced a whole third of our major to be in the liberal arts. Just because a piece of knowledge or training doesn’t directly match up to a job title doesn’t mean it won’t earn money or otherwise be useful.

  10. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    And remember, if you really like doing something, but only 1/10000 people ever make money on it… Keep it as a hobby. Or live with the consequences of your gamble without complaining.

  11. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Learn a trade. Learn multiple trades, if necessary. Something’s always gonna need building or fixing sooner or later.

    • Jevia says:

      One thing about trades, they’re a lot harder to out-source. And while perhaps not as “rich” as finance, medicine or law (for some at least), I sure pay my plumber, electrician, and auto mechanic more than minimum wage.

    • MaytagRepairman says:

      My wife had a family member in IT that did missionary work for a year. Came back and nobody wanted to hire him any more because they thought “1 year” out of the game made you too far out of date. The only thing he could score was graveyard shift jobs far from home.

      He eventually threw in the towel, borrowed some money from his parents, and went to welding school to learn aluminum welding. He now works for a company making small boats and gets overtime every week. I think welding has to be a hot, dirty, and crummy job but it seems to be paying him well.

      • dolemite says:

        I used to work for my dad doing carpentry. There was a lot of hot, sweaty, dirty, and long days. It was hard work. However, I could easily stay up until 3 am the night before and perform well at the job. I also didn’t feel much stress, as I simply came in, did what I was told, then left it all behind me when I was at home. Sure, I was tired physically, but I honestly could still find the energy to work out or do other things. Now I work with computers and it’s very stressful. I sit at a desk in air conditioning all day, and listen to music much of the time. However, one tiny screw up could cost the company $30,000 at any time. I feel like every project is an opportunity to get fired. And errors are very easy to commit. There are also daily deadlines. I’m honestly so exhausted, I don’t do anything when I get home. I feel like all I want to do is go to sleep, all the time.

    • Solkanar512 says:

      But what about all the out of work construction workers? They certainly have the skills you’re talking about and they were hardest hit by the recession.

  12. whiterussian says:

    Don’t go to school for your first passion, go to school for something that you are somewhat good at and find at least somewhat interesting and has somewhat decent salary prospects.

  13. polishhillbilly says:

    get your state mandated classes out of the way at a community college. Then pick an affordable school and settle on your major. Also get a job doing research for your professor or someone else in that department. Also get involved with a professional society (Society of American Foresters in my case), it will help to have it on your resume after graduation.

    • dolemite says:

      If there is one thing I wished I had done, it’s this. Get as many transfer credits as you can at the much cheaper price (while living at home usually, which saves on room and board), then hit college up a year or so later. You’ll probably save yourself around 10k (varying wildly on what school you go to).

    • axhandler1 says:

      Good advice to join the professional society that is related to your major/job field while you are in college. I didn’t, and regretted it when I was putting together my resume. Would have been nice to have something like that on there.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      That’s a very good point about professional societies. Those kind of connections can be worth their weight in gold. Also, presenting and writing papers for minor, regional and state societies, can make a huge difference when applying for jobs or grad school.

  14. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    The economy changes so quickly, I think it’s always good to have a back up plan in case and to try to be as well rounded as possible. Many obscure fields have overlap with more lucrative ones, which can result in higher salaries, more demand, and something to fall back on if government regulations change or your field goes away entirely.

    If you’ve always wanted to be a cartographer, you’d probably be better off going into GIS and specializing in visualization/cartography. If you want to be an archaeologist, go into geomorphology, remote sensing, GIS, or virtually any other related field.

  15. Netstar says:

    Start a blog? Join Toastmaster? LOL! Article is a joke!

    Speaking from experience, stay away from the IT career. Too many reasons to list.

    If I had a chance to do it over again, I would have chosen any career that cannot be outsourced overseas. Best choices are any kind of Criminal Justice careers like law enforcement, FBI, and CIA. I don’t think Homeland Security will be laying off anytime soon.

    Another good field to get into is Education and being a teacher.

    Why? These type of professions have large unions that control and instill fear into the politicians. Jobs will not be going away anytime soon and the salary, pensions, and benefits are great. It sure beats writing a blog!

    • Don't Bother says:

      Coming from a recent grad from the Education world, NO. DON’T.

      Getting a job as a teacher right now is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. Education is a hurricane right now with opposed political theories on how a classroom should look.

      Besides, you have many, many, many teachers out of work looking to take decreased pay just to get a job. It used to be that because you were young and cheap you could get a job. Now you have experienced and cheap teachers on the prowl.

      I wouldn’t choose anything different for myself, but it’s not a position I would advise to people who don’t have a strong passion for teaching.

      • kobresia says:

        Seconded. New teachers got really badly hosed at the school district I used to work for, when budget cuts rolled around, they’re the ones who lost. Any teacher with more seniority who was laid-off from one school could bump a teacher with less seniority from his/her job at any other school in the district. That’s how the union contract works.

        What makes it that much worse is that some of the older teachers were also working past the age they’d planned to retire, just to be on the safe side. That makes it just that much more difficult to get started as a new fresh-out-of-college teacher.

        • Don't Bother says:

          Amen to the last part of what you said. I student taught at a school and am currently working as a sub while the normal teacher is on sick leave. There are several teachers here who should retire but aren’t. I’m just biding my time until they retire so that I may have a shot at a permanent job*.

          *That is, if there’s not another teacher in the same district that wants the job. No matter who they are, they get first dibs.

    • ARP says:

      Very few jobs can’t be outsourced. Law? outsourced. Finance and Accouting? Outsourced. Many HR functions? Outsourced. If you can do with some training, it can be outsourced.

    • dolemite says:

      I’m with you. I went into computers because at the time, the pay was ludicrous, and there were TONS of jobs (I also sort of liked it). Now, pay is low, hours are terrible (hell, I work 50 hours a week, and I know many tech jobs that would kill to only work 50 a week).

      Honestly, I’d go back and learn a trade like plumbing, or something in medicine. You can’t outsource those jobs.

    • Kate says:

      Um nobody has been hiring teachers for years. Apparently someone lied to you, big unions don’t have much power.

      • rmorin says:

        You are incredibly incorrect. In my graduate assistantship I work with a lot of graduating seniors and MANY of them have gone on to be teachers (at every grade level) in the past few years. You are completely making things up.

        • pop top says:

          Personal anecdotes are totally useful!

          • rmorin says:

            I don’t think that professional experience with hundreds of students qualifies as an anecdote, but thanks for playing.

        • dolemite says:

          Maybe depends on where you live. I’m sure some cities are growing. In my area (and surrounding counties), there were tons of teachers laid off, and they absolutely aren’t hiring. And if they were hiring, you could be sure one of the ones that were laid off are going to get a job over a fresh graduate.

          • rmorin says:

            I’ve had students teach throughout the BOS-WASH corridor. My experience is that exact opposite, in that teachers are being laid off in favor of new graduates because they are cheaper.

            Particularly I’ve seen schools DESPERATE for teachers (establishing creative master’s degrees to meet requirements, being lenient on allowing teaching while working on masters) in poorer cities throughout BOS-WASH.

  16. patty says:

    Just because you love doing something doesn’t mean that you can make a ton of money at it or be self supporting. Ask anyone who love textiles, ceramics, painting, illustration. Learn as much math as you possibly can, math=money. Make lots of friends where-ever you go, make a good, even great impression with your fellow students and professors. There will be dips in your career, if you have a side-line (animal photography) that may help you with the rough patches. If you are in a creative field know how a spread sheet works, no really understand how it works and what it can do for you. (track expenses, track your costs) Be nice to everyone you meet. I remember one student in a class and she made an impression on me, when it was time for me to go out on sick leave I recommended her. She was a temp for the business in two separate situations, and might be coming back for a third temp position.

    Say something kind. I know it sounds all fuzzy, but it really helps when looking at new avenues. Follow up and follow through on promises to others and to yourself. Yup it is scary out there, and tough, we all don’t have silver spoons, some of us actually work for a living.

  17. brinks says:

    Make sure you choose a career that actually requires a degree and will pay you more for it (my first mistake).

    Make sure that entry-level positions in your newly chosen field don’t actually pay way less than what you are currently making, or less than what you need to even scrape by on Ramen Noodles every night (my mistake the second time at college).

    Now I have two worthles degrees.

  18. u1itn0w2day says:

    First thing is know the difference between a career and job. If for no other reason an employer hr will judge you on how you look at their current opening. If it’s a job and you talk like you want a career oppurtunity they might not hire you, they’ll figure you’d be too expensive or might leave for a career. Other hr’s and companies want or get insulted if you view their career oppurtunity as A job. Know when to look at something as a career or job.

    In reality most jobs are exactly that: A job, not a career, not a guarantee of 30 years and a pension. That’s what I’d base my schooling on-on training and classes that will keep me in or get me a job.

  19. Tardis78 says:

    Though math is helpful. I’ve found being able to write grants to be the key for many of the jobs I’ve gotten. If you work at a historical society or museum being able to write a grant is is a big plus. Most of the math in my grants don’t go beyond basics, like 1+1.

  20. xanadustc says:

    I would say around college might be about right! Let me explain:

    What I do for a living did not exist when I was in elementary and middle school…unless my guidance counselor had a crystal ball, myself and every other web designer would not be working in that field and we could then get rid of the internet!

    More seriously, there is too much push to pick a career and be blindly forced down that path before you even have any experience at it. I learned in graduate school just before getting my terminal degree that I did not want to do that! I loved the experience and would not trade it for anything, but narrowing the education of the student does no justice to future career.

  21. icy_one says:

    How about, don’t go to college if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up?