Advice & News

July 3, 2024

3 Career Myths Debunked

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There is no shortage of information and advice available about building and enjoying one's career. However, not all of it is helpful or even true. Many myths have been perpetuated over the years -- perhaps with good intent, but misleading nonetheless. Here, I'll debunk three common career myths and offer alternative perspectives to consider.

Myth #1: "Do what you love, and you'll never work another day in your life," "Follow/Find your passion," and other similar adages.

Reality: These popular adages ignore the reality that there are many ways to choose a career. As Justin Zackal points out in "Choosing a Career Based on Craft, College, or Cause," following your passion for your craft is one way. Other valid choices include choosing an institution or cause that you love and are committed to, even if the role isn't perfect for you.

These sayings can be deceptive, as they might encourage professionals to look at their careers through rose-colored glasses and imply that you can 'have it all.' As Zackal points out, you will always have choices and tradeoffs to make.

It's also worth noting that for some people, doing what they love or are passionate about might not be enough to make ends meet and can lead to burnout. There's no shame in pursuing a 'good enough job' in higher education and 'doing what lets you have the life you want.'

Finding your passion and fulfillment outside of work doesn't make you any less successful in life. In fact, having hobbies and side gigs you're passionate about outside of your job can help you disconnect and come back to work refreshed and ready to focus.

For more on this myth, check out why 'follow your passion' is bad career advice.

Myth #2: You have to be "on" all the time.

Reality: In truth, you may be putting undue pressure on yourself to be "always on."

Careers tend to play a significant role in our identities, especially in higher education. A 2023 survey conducted by Pew Research Center reveals that 39% of U.S. workers say "their job or career is extremely or very important to their overall identity." The percentage is even higher for those with a postgraduate degree at 53%.

Higher education can be especially competitive, as we all want to deliver results for ourselves and our departments and institutions. While this is something to strive for, it's easy to get caught up and fall into the trap of chasing perfection. Instead of showing ourselves compassion, we wind up fearing failure, beating ourselves up, and pursuing unachievable goals that ultimately contribute to burnout.

The reality is that we can't be "on" all the time at work. We all go through hard times personally and professionally. Take parenting and caregiving for example. A 2023 Forbes article details the discrepancy between what working parents and caregivers are dealing with at home and what they're revealing to their employers. Managers are often left in the dark and employees suffer in silence due to this misconception that we must always be "on." We're all human and have lives outside of our professions. It's okay to be vulnerable, and it's okay to ask for help. Managers can't offer the flexibility or support we may need if we don't open up about the challenges we're dealing with, whether they are work-related or personal.

Myth #3: Getting a new job will fix my career.

Reality: When we're in the wrong job, quitting and finding a new one often seems like the answer, but it certainly is not your only or best option. So, what else can you do?

Remember, managers aren't mind-readers. Often, you can improve your career by simply negotiating, advocating for what you want, and asking directly about growth opportunities.

Additionally, there are many things you can do to better prepare yourself for your next job while working your current one. Brush up on key skills, review your resume, or consider whether you may be able to craft your own job. In short, a new position isn't a surefire way to find career happiness. In fact, there's quite a bit of risk when you switch jobs, as it can be challenging to determine if the position, the work environment, and the department's culture are right for you. Take time to consider what is truly the right move for you.


Your colleagues, mentors, friends, family, and even strangers might offer you career advice from time to time. None of it is foolproof, and it's up to you to think critically and decide what makes sense for you.

HigherEd360 is part of the HigherEdJobs network.