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4 Career Myths That Are Holding You Back

Simone Johnson  |  June 17, 2019

What? No promotion, again? You may be falling into the trap of these often-repeated career misconceptions.

Newsflash: This isn’t your mothers’ workplace.

Today, we’ve got more flexibility in where we work, when we work, even how we work.  With all of these changes it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the career advice that we grew up hearing often doesn’t apply anymore, says career counselor Vicki Rothman. Believing these outdated myths about the workplace and our careers can hold us back from growth and hinder us from making decisions that could drive us forward, says Rothman. Here’s a look at the career myths you need to erase from your brain — pronto — if you want to reach your full potential.

The Myth: Changing your career will stall your trajectory.  

The Truth: People switch careers all the time… Not only is it okay, it’s encouraged.

The average person changes jobs almost 12 times from ages 18 to 50, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and typically has three or four different careers.  The more changes you make, the more likely you are to find yourself a far cry from your college major. That’s okay.

Thanks to transferable skills — skills that can be used to succeed in any position, like good communication skills, a positive attitude, and tech know-how — these days it’s easier than ever for applicants to successfully change jobs and careers. For example, many of the same skills used by data analysts are also used by social media managers, who spend their days looking at post analytics. Likewise, if you majored in psychology and realize upon graduation that you’d like to do financial planning, some firms will likely see your experience as an asset because of your understanding of people.

The Myth: Taking a break during your career will hinder your ultimate success.

The Truth: Taking a break isn’t always within your control — if you’re strategic you can stay on course.

Whether you’re taking a break to raise a child, care for a parent or even travel, it’s important to take the time to figure out what you want, says Imants Jaunarajs, Ohio University’s assistant dean of students and director of the career and leadership development center.  Hiatuses don’t mean you won’t get a job when you re-enter the workforce, they just give you a gap on your resume that you have to explain when you return.

It’s more common than you may think. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 37% of women leave their jobs at some point in their careers, to care for children or other family members. If you’re among them, try to spend some time focusing on your field while you’re on your break. Read up on the latest studies and technology, and maintain your connections with coffees, emails, and handwritten letters, Rothman suggests.  And note: Although a lengthy break may mean you can’t reenter the workforce at the level you left, it doesn’t mean you can’t quickly work your way back up. “We live in a time where people and jobs are so forgiving,” Rothman says.

The Myth: It’s easier to get a job in a small town than in a big city.

The Truth: Bigger cities actually have a higher concentration of jobs, and talented applicants can stand out anywhere.

Historically, smaller cities were viewed as easier places to start a career because big cities are more competitive. However, experts note, smaller towns have smaller job markets, and applicants may find them to be just as challenging. To compete in a larger city, applicants simply need to have good experience and a solid resume and cover letter, Rothman says.

Big cities are more competitive, but that shouldn’t keep you from going after a gig in a major metropolitan area if it’s a priority for you, Jaunarajs says. The old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” still rings true — especially in areas where there are so many people gunning for the same position. You can get to know people and the job market in any city by joining professional organizations and meetup groups, attending networking events, and staying on top of job listings online.

Never feel obligated to get a job in a small city out of fear — if you never try the big market, you may miss out on life-changing experiences.

The Myth: Freelancing won’t provide a steady source of income.

The Truth: Freelancing can earn you just as much money as a traditional 9-5.

When we write off freelancing as a career option, we eliminate the opportunity to build something for ourselves, Rothman says.  At the outset, you may have to put in additional hours doing outreach to reach a point where you’re covering your monthly nut and leaving yourself something to save.  (Note: It also means you have to provide your own insurance and retirement benefits. Don’t forget about that.)

But scaling to full time is more common than ever. Full-time freelancers are averaging almost 40 hours of work per, week according to a survey by the Freelancers’ Union and UpWork, and today there are more than 50 million freelancers in the United States. And for approximately 30% of freelancers, their gigs are their sole source of income, according to a survey by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence.

While it’s true that freelancers may need to have more hustle than the average company employee — after all, your earning power is limited by the amount of jobs you can secure — it doesn’t mean that freelancing full-time isn’t a viable career path in today’s working landscape.

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