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What happens if you graduate with your degree and find out that the career you thought you wanted is not for you?

I recently visited and old roommate of mine who graduated last year. She just began her first teaching job at an elementary school and hates everything about it. It made me start to worry that I may graduate next year and go into a career and hate what I do and that the 4 years I spent getting my degree might be wasted.
#psychology #ptsd #career #career-change #career-plan


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Reynolds’s Answer

I went through the same issue. I graduated with a double major in Psychology and Criminology. I decided the last semester of my Senior year that I did not want to go to the PhD program I was accepted to, but I had no back up plan.

I moved home, and applied to jobs in the social work field and followed that path focusing on counseling and began a Masters program. However, after 4 years I completing burnt out.

I obtained a job as a waiter/bartender that paid the bills while I figured out my next steps. After a year or two I went into professional services as a contractor. My career evolved from there... I started as an account manager, I paid attention to what I did and did not like and what my peers were doing around me. I then obtained a role as a recruiter for several years, again I recognized this was not my "dream job" and I left that well paying job for one of our clients that I knew treated their employees well. I have now been in Human Resources for several years and I am very happy...

My advice is that to not use the degree you obtain is not uncommon in any way. It is very useful to have and I would not have made it this far without mine. Do not force something that is not right for you, and pay attention to your peers and what they are doing, sometimes that is a great indicator of other options. It took me most of my 20's to settle in a career and I have used my previous experience and work ethic to quickly move up.


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Donna’s Answer

Hi Kaitlin,
I know that this is a scary thought, but it happened to me. I chose the path of elementary education and after about 5 years, I decided to go back to school to be a nurse. I had always gone back and forth in regards to my career, and I wanted to be able to assist others no matter what it was that I chose to do. If this occurs, it is inconvenient because you spent money on your education, but it will work out. I had to continue working and managed to obtain my nursing degree in steps. I began with becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse and then slowly took my prerequisites for my Associates degree in Nursing. When I began working as a Registered Nurse, I went back to school again and obtained my Bachelor's Degree online. It was pain staking at times, but I had my mind set on my career and continued to advance in my role as an RN.
Two years ago, I completed my Masters in Healthcare Administration and I am now a manager of a different type of department. I am no longer doing "hands on" nursing, but I am more in an administrative type of role with a balance of education. I have a wonderful job that I love and I do not look at how hard it was to get here. So, don't think that you may not like what it is that you have chosen as a career. You may absolutely love it and want to continue to do it for the rest of your career. I just didn't want you to be afraid that you can't choose another path because it is always possible.
I wish you the best in you studies as well as what you have chosen as your career path.

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Ceil’s Answer

When I was 25, I thought my life was over when I didn't want to stay in my field. When I was 35, I thought I was way too old to make a career change, and regretfully turned my back on one I probably would have loved. When I was 40, it seemed I was way too old to explore new opportunities. Do you see a theme here?


If you guessed wrong the first time, you still learned a huge amount. Don't lose that: write down what you know, how you've grown, what learning the things you realized you don't like will mean in a role you do like, how you'll have a better understanding of people who love the work you don't - so much value from being on a path with lots of detours!

Ceil recommends the following next steps:

Quick exercise: big sheet of paper, line down the middle top to bottom. Write what makes you miserable (conference calls? spreadsheets? working in a virtual environment? selling? people who constantly tell you their problems? soft-boiled eggs?) write it all down!
Ok, that was just to loosen you up.
Now, same exercise: what did you adore about the work you've decided to leave - sometimes this will help you realize it wasn't the field per se, just the jerks you have to work with
What did you dread about the work you've decided to leave?
Now you know the kind of job you want. Google it. Go up to LinkedIn. Build a word cloud of job descriptions in your new field and see which qualities bubble to the top in each of them. Get on Lever's list of cool companies - they have great stories, and you'll find a "wow, I'd love to work there" moment with a few I'm sure!

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