Career path myths

Some people just know what they want to do, and move straight through life into their chosen careers. But as The Mix discovers, not knowing what you want to do isn't a sign of failure.

lost businessmen

Myth one: Wearing a box on your head will help your modelling career.

You’ve got to get it sorted out by your 21st birthday or else you’ve failed

Don’t be intimidated by people who badger you to make a decision quickly. Some of the most successful people take time to make the right decision. Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein weren’t exactly failures, but neither of them had achieved anything of note by 21. In fact, if you’re thinking about entering one of the ‘people’ professions, such as nursing, teaching or social work, you’ll find that late starters are positively welcomed for their life experience.

What’s more, once you’re on a career path, there’s no reason why you have to stay on it for the rest of your life. According to UCAS, nearly a quarter (112,387) of all university acceptances in 2009 were aged 21 or over. That’s an awful lot of people who have come to study after trying other things in life.

A career should be fascinating every moment, and if you experience any tedium you must be in the wrong job

Nothing is fascinating eight hours a day, five days a week. Being bored, frustrated or confused isn’t a sign you’re in the wrong job; it’s a condition of being alive. If boredom does start to kick in, think about how much time you spend interested and motivated at work versus how much you’re daydreaming about a different life. If the balance is tipping in the wrong direction, consider taking on new projects or asking for extra training at work – that could be all that’s needed to get you inspired again.

You need to talk to lots of careers advisors, life coaches and clairvoyants to have a great career

There are a lot of excellent careers advisors and life coaches out there (we’re not sure about the clairvoyants), but listening to experts or reading about other peoples’ experiences can only help you part of the way. There’s no substitute for getting out there and making your own mistakes, false starts and wrong decisions.

Duncan Bannatyne is a fantastic example. You might know him as the ultra-successful entrepreneur in BBC2’s Dragons’ Den. But at 20, he had no references, no qualifications and no money after a fight with a navy officer put him in a detention centre for nine months. This experience pushed him to achieve. As he told The Times, “I realised nobody else was going to stand up for me, or help me realise my potential.

If I was going to succeed in life, then everything was down to me. I was master of my own destiny.” Now his health and leisure empire is worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

No matter how bad the job, how evil the boss, you must stay at all costs to ensure you have a good CV

Your CV doesn’t own your life. You’re the one in control. This means you can adjust it to meet your needs.

This isn’t about outrageous adjustments where you turn your bad A2 scores into three shining A*s. Blatant lying could cause you serious problems if you get found out, and may affect your chances of getting a job in the future. It’s all about presenting the situation in a positive light.

Claire Harbord is an HR consultant who has spent years interviewing people for jobs in large organisations. “Show that you thought the decision through carefully and that there were clear reasons why you left,” she says. “For example, perhaps the job didn’t turn out the way that it was described to you at the interview, or the career progression you were promised didn’t materialise.”

It’s not necessarily a disaster if you move quickly from job to job. In some professions, it’s expected that you’ll stay two or three years in each post, but in fast-moving sectors such as journalism or PR, 18 months might be considered perfectly acceptable. Even in tougher times when there aren’t so many opportunities, you can still shop around to see what’s out there.

The biggest myth of all: your career defines your life

If you are dreaming of a career, go for it, by any means, and best of luck to you. But don’t forget that what you do at work is just one part of who you are. Family, mates, falling in and out of love, getting into music, art or sport – these are the things that make life worth living.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

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