Myths about work and education

Commonly held beliefs can be incorrect, yet they affect how well parents advise their children. Review this list for any that you might hold as true.

There is only one right job or career.
On the contrary. Careers are personal expressions of who we are within the context of the opportunities that exist in our communities. These opportunities, or the world of work, are vast and changing all the time. Many different jobs, occupational areas, and life roles use the skills and talents that your children possess. Career development activities help your children take advantage of these opportunities by teaching them how to plan and manage their careers over their lifetime.

The goal of career education is to track my child down a path toward a particular occupation.
Absolutely not. The goal of the career development work your child does in school is to learn the skills for a lifetime of career self-management. These skills include:

My children should know what they want to be by the time they graduate from high school.
Not so. In fact, young people should not even be trying to answer the question, "What do I want to be?" If you are trying to "be" something, you may not be open to new opportunities. If you are trying to "be" something, you may feel like a failure when it doesn't fit. It is actually very uncommon for 18 year olds to know what they want to be. It is best that they:

  1. understand themselves,
  2. are open to learning more as they have new experiences, AND
  3. understand how to develop skills, abilities, and knowledge to pursue their dreams.

Everyone should go to college.
Definitely not. Everyone should understand that learning is lifelong and that all work requires training. But there are many ways to get training - on-the-job, through formal apprenticeships, in the military, and at career schools - in addition to two- and four-year colleges.

There are some jobs that are better suited for men and others for women.
In the past, many believed that men were better at some things and women better at others. This led to women holding lower status jobs and receiving lower pay. Talents, interests, and skills affect how well we do in our work, not our gender. Discouraging young people, girls and boys, from pursuing careers because they are typically seen as work done by the opposite sex can undermine their potential and drive to achieve it.

Since I didn't go to college, my children shouldn't need to either.
The world of work is changing and our children need more skills than we did. Lifelong learning, in all types of postsecondary training, is essential. Children need to decide what they want to pursue - in terms of a broad interest area or a specific occupational goal - and then figure out what kind of education and training past high school is important to achieve that goal.

If my children go to college and study hard, they will be able to find a job in their chosen professions.
Not necessarily. Getting a job in your chosen field can depend on many factors - how the overall economy is doing, whether the industry is growing, where you live, what personal constraints you may have at the time. It also depends upon how you look for a job and what you are willing to sacrifice to get it.

College is too expensive.
Despite rising costs of college, not all colleges are that expensive. Also, there are many sources of assistance for students who need help. If your child has a goal and is willing to work hard, and if you are willing to support his or her dream, college is possible!

Career guidance is best left to the experts.
One writer compares the career decision making skills to language skills. Although they can be taught in school, they flow more easily in a home environment. Be a partner with the guidance program at your child's school by being proactive and involved.

My own feelings about my work and life don't make a difference.
You are your child's most important teacher. When you share stories about work, you are modeling work attitudes and behaviors. You are interpreting the realities of the world of work through your eyes. By being positive and open, your child will learn important lessons about how to be prepared for the future.