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Avoid Career Confusion

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Whether you're preparing to enter college or getting ready to graduate, there are common mistakes to consider when choosing your career. Donald Asher, author of the book How to Get Any Job with Any Major (Ten Speed Press), sites a few common pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Confusing what you're good at with what you like to do.
  2. You don't have to spend your life singing at weddings just because you have a silky voice. Nor do you have to become a chef because you have an uncanny gift with spices. To jump-start your career search, jot down two lists: one listing what you're good at, and one of things you love to do.

    Though it might require more soul searching, the list of what you enjoy is the most important. Why? Because if you enjoy doing something: you'll do it for more than just a regular paycheck. You'll do it more often, you'll invest in training, you'll do it when it's difficult - you'll do it until you're good at it, and then some!

  3. Confusing avocations with vocations.
  4. So you've made your lists and discovered that you love running, law, reading and basket weaving. Now you're scratching your head, puzzling over how to combine all of these aspects into one job. Don't worry - you don't have to.

    Believing your job has to satisfy the whole you is a common source of career error. Mind you, this does not mean you can't love your job - you can satisfy your other interests through activities and hobbies (avocations) on top of it.

    For example, you may love to dance but know you can't earn enough dancing as a career. Dance, then, is a great avocation for you. You can continue to dance for fun, but separate from your day job.

  5. Confusing one aspect of a job with the whole job.
  6. What you like to do doesn't have to be the primary thing you do. Often people over-identify with the thing they like to do - believing they must become it instead of doing it.

    A common example is someone who likes to write. Instead of looking for opportunities to do writing, he things he has to become a writer. He pursues writing exclusively - careers like novelist, journalist or copywriter. When instead, he could have looked into public relations, editor or political lobbyist.

A final note: think creatively when considering which jobs to pursue after graduation. Your options are more varied than you think. Keep in mind that a paycheck is rarely incentive enough to continue in any job, happiness is the key to long-term success.