All college graduates end up asking the question; it’s just a matter of when. It may be our fifth month on the job, or perhaps our fifth year, but sooner or later we begin to wonder why someone didn’t tell us that life after college isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Well, the reason we were not told that life after college can be very difficult is simple: If we knew how frustrating working for a living could be, we might not have focused on graduating. Of course, our parents and professors couldn’t have that! So, like pretending there is a Santa Claus because you don’t want to take away a child’s excitement, they thought it best not to come clean until the last possible moment—when we started our search for that perfect career.
Yes, we were told many things about how life after college would be, and some of us were a tad bit misinformed. In fact, in college we may have heard of, and began to believe, many myths about the so-called “real world.” Some of these myths can hurt us in the long run if we cling to them because they keep us from looking at post-college life realistically, and carrying ourselves accordingly. The following are six myths that belong in a fairytale.
Myth #1: Your Degree Guarantees You a Great Job
Throughout high school and college, we were told that our degree would guarantee us a great job and career. However, it was also stressed that nothing in life is guaranteed. It’s true that your degree will get you into interviews a high school diploma can’t, and will make you more likely to land a great job and build an impressive career. But a college degree shouldn’t be mistaken for a magic wand. Even when the job market is not insane, there are plenty of college graduates who go for months on end waiting for not just that superb job they imagined would be awaiting them, but any job in their field. They will be the first ones to tell you that a degree can be overrated. And if a degree is the only thing you’ve got going for you then you’d better have a dozen of them.
Reality Check: It’s your hard work, persistence, ambition, and ability to network combined with your degree that will unlock doors for you. Good luck is always nice, too.
Myth #2: Your Degree Guarantees You a Great Salary
Many of us were also shown charts highlighting how much more a college graduate can make over a lifetime than someone with just a high school diploma, excluding Bill Gates. We were led to assume that a degree equated to lots and lots of money. So it’s not surprising that some college graduates think they’re on a hidden camera show when they’re offered a job that pays a little over $10 an hour. They start to feel like they wasted four years of their life, and that’s not it at all.
Reality Check: Your salary will depend on the type of degree you earned, the career you choose, the company you work for, the city you live in, your experience, and your ability to negotiate the highest wage possible.
Myth #3: Do What You Love and You Will Never Have To Work
This is a catchy little phrase, but unfortunately, it’s just not true. If you do what you love, you will feel that your life has more meaning, your whole focus won’t be on how much your job pays, and you will undoubtedly be much happier than people who make six figures but hate their jobs. But honestly, work is work and you’re not always going to love it. In fact, most people will tell you that they like their job, but loving it is pushing it. Even positions we feel blessed to have will irk us sometimes, give us headaches, and possibly make us want to quit. You may be doing what you love in a position and still dislike certain aspects of it. That’s life and that’s work.
Reality Check: Jobs, like people, aren’t perfect. If you start a position you wished on a star for thinking you will feel good about it every day, you’ll lose the excitement and commitment you had for it when all of your expectations aren’t met.
Myth #4: You Can Have It All
There is no shortage of TV shows in which women and men seem to effortlessly balance their fabulous career with their spouses, kids, extended family obligations, social life, community involvement, and need to get eight hours of sleep. Because of this and the fronts that many real working women and men put up, we may think our lives are off track when we can’t put a check mark next to every “success box.” However, you should not expect to have it all, at the same time, all of the time.
Reality Check: Sane successful people set priorities based on what is in the direst need of attention at different times in their lives. They don’t pretend to be professional jugglers, and thus, they avoid handling more balls than they need to. What’s more, they don’t beat themselves up when one ball has to be dropped and picked up later.
Myth #5: We Live in a Post-Racial Society
The workplaces you will find yourself in will likely be more diverse than ever before, as America truly is becoming the melting pot it has long called itself. However, true equality does not exist throughout America—much less in all American workplaces—as the many people of color who say they have experienced unfair treatment at work because of their ethnicity can attest. Yes, it’s true that workplace racism is not as blatant as it was 40 or even 20 years ago. Yes, it’s true that minorities have more career opportunities than ever before. And yes, a black man was elected president of the United States not once but twice. But it’s foolish to think that everyone judges others based solely on their character and background.
Reality Check: Workplace discrimination takes place throughout America on a daily basis—from people not hiring others because of their ethnicity to people treating others differently once they are hired. If you are a minority in your workplace and believe otherwise, you will think it’s just your bad luck if you get passed over for multiple promotions you deserved, are getting paid far less than everyone else, and are stuck with menial work on the job that no one else has to do.
Myth #6: workplace sexism doesn’t exist anymore
Just because Oprah’s kicking butt and taking names in her industry doesn’t mean that everyone is going to appreciate and welcome a strong woman in the one you’re in. We live and work in a male dominated society. Some men (and women!) really do believe women can’t or shouldn’t compete with them in the workplace, and will let women know this bluntly or on the sly.
Reality Check: If you are a woman and get duped into believing that the playing field is totally level, you will be oblivious to all the fouls and illegal plays committed around you. Don’t look for signs of sexism everywhere you turn, but don’t ignore obvious signs either.