There is a lot of information and advice out there about careers, and the path you "should" take to find a “good” career. And even though your path to a meaningful career is up to you, it can be hard to navigate so much chatter, including myths. Below are some of the common myths we hear on campus, the more nuanced truths, and helpful references.
MYTH: “I need to figure out my career right now.”
TRUTH¹: People today change jobs an average of 12 times throughout their career. Reframe “what am I going to do for the rest of my life” to “what am I going to try first.” To get started exploring different roles and industries, check out the resources below!
MYTH: “My major will dictate which job opportunities are open to me after graduation.”
TRUTH²: Three quarters of all college grads don’t end up working in a career directly related to their major. Every major has transferable skills and knowledge that will be marketable to employers and there are always ways to gain additional industry skills and knowledge outside of your major (campus organizations, elective and online courses, summer opportunities, etc) during your undergraduate years.
MYTH: “I need to find a summer internship Autumn Quarter or it’s too late.”
TRUTH³: The big tech, finance, and consulting companies recruit heavily in Autumn Quarter, but every other industry, and smaller companies in tech, finance, and consulting, recruit Winter and Spring Quarter. In fact, the peak for posted internships is actually in February and March!
MYTH: “I have to find a summer internship after freshman year. That’s what everyone does.”
TRUTH⁴: A summer internship can be a great way to learn about a role or industry, make connections, earn money, and travel - but it is not required and will not dictate what opportunities are available to you next summer or after graduation. There are also many alternatives to a traditional internship such as study abroad, research, and service projects, and employers often find these experiences equally as valuable on your resume.
MYTH: “I need a network of well-connected people to get a good job opportunity.”
TRUTH⁵: Up to 85% of opportunities are found through connections, but you do not need to know people in high power roles - just people! And you already have a large network - your family, friends, Stanford faculty and alumni - who are often excited to help! Developing these connections can be as simple as emailing these professionals and taking them to coffee to learn more about their career and hear their story.
MYTH: “I don’t have any experience so I’m not qualified for most job opportunities.”
TRUTH⁶: You do have experience! Experience includes leadership positions, athletics, service opportunities, group projects, and more. Employers often care more about transferable skills and a willingness to learn. Additionally, up to 85% of opportunities are found through connections so focus on relationship building, not your resume.
MYTH: “I need to figure out what I’m passionate about so I can figure out what I want to do with my life.”
TRUTH⁷: Most people are passionate about many different things. Only 20% of people have a clear vision of what they want to do, where they want to go, and why. You need a lot of ideas to explore any number of possibilities, and as you try new things you may discover new interests. Instead of trying to find your passion, re-focus on a future where you could develop a passion and see it through.
What now? Things are looking up. Take time to explore your interests, connect with new people, and try new things. Here are a few resources to help you get started:
²’⁷Burnett, B., & Evans, D. (2016). Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.