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July 3, 2014 at 1:00 AM

A 12-step program for choosing a career

Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar. You’ve just graduated from college (congratulations!), but you’re right back where you started: your childhood bedroom.

It’s tough for new college grads to find jobs nowadays. It’s even tougher if you don’t even know what kind of work you want to do. Is this you? If so, here are a few facts of life to consider:

  1. You will probably not land on the “perfect” career right after graduation. Don’t worry; this is normal.
  2. You’ll most likely have many different jobs and careers in your lifetime. Again, normal.
  3. You are allowed to adjust your course, or even start over. Nothing is set in stone.
  4. Go ahead and seek advice from others as to what line of work to enter, but know that in the end it needs to be your decision.
  5. Be prepared to think critically about advice you receive. Not all advice is going to help you.
  6. Hedge your bets by seeking input from many people (10? 20?) and then comparing their responses.
  7. Be aware that the careers you already know about are only a tiny percentage of the vast universe of career possibilities. You have more options than you think you have.
  8. Remember that just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it for a living. You are probably good at many things. They are most likely not all moneymakers, or even desirable careers.
  9. It takes a long time to master a job. You will not start at the top. What fun would that be, anyway? (The journey, the getting there, is the best part.)
  10. You have more resilience and energy than you think you do. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself or to take (intelligent) risks.
  11. Money shouldn’t be your only criterion for choosing a career, but don’t completely discount it, either. Money is important, and it often becomes more so as you get older.
  12. Finally, everyone says to “follow your passion.” But if you don’t know what your passion is, don’t beat yourself up about it. Seek it out; hunt it down. (Again, it’s the journey.)

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career planning, cool jobs, finding your passion, job search

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Blog contributors

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


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