Dear New Grad: 15 Tips on Choosing a Career

There are a few things to consider for those wondering, “What do I do now?”


A friend’s son, recently graduated from college, has just moved back home. Surely this is a scenario being played out all over North America and beyond.

The son’s next task is to get a job, of course, but he faces a familiar problem: He doesn’t know what he wants to do.

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It’s tough enough for new grads to find jobs nowadays. If the new grad doesn’t know where to start, it’s even tougher. If you are wondering “What do I do now?” here are a few things to consider:

1. You may not find the “perfect” career right after graduation. In fact, you probably won’t. This is normal.

2. You’ll likely have a number of different jobs and careers in your lifetime. In a very real and important sense, all jobs/careers are temporary.

3. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. You are allowed to adjust your course, to completely start over. Again, this is normal.

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4. You can seek advice from others as to what line of work to enter but in the end it needs to be your decision. It will be one of your first decisions as an adult. Exciting! (It may not be a perfect, permanent decision. See Nos. 1-3.)

5. People want to help you. Really. Feel free to ask for advice. But be prepared to think critically about it. Not all advice is automatically good.

6. While you’re at it, be sure to ask more than one person for advice. Ask 10. Or 15! And then compare and contrast their answers.

7. The careers you already know about (the ones your parents are in, the ones you see on TV) are only a tiny percentage of the vast universe of career possibilities. You have more options than you think you have. Go out and explore.

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8. 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 truly master a skill, profession, or job. Don’t think you need to start at the top. What fun would that be? Very often 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 criteria for choosing a line of work, but don’t completely discount it either. Money is important. It often becomes more so as you get older.

12. You may find that money and power, if you ever get any, can be addictive. But a career based only on the acquisition of money and power rarely fulfills people in the long run.

13. Everyone says to “follow your passion.” But if you don’t know what that passion is, don’t beat yourself up about it. Hunt your passion down. Actively look for it.

14. Don’t give up too soon. Finding your life’s work may take a surprising amount of persistence. Every successful happy person got to be that way by trying stuff that didn’t work and then trying something else.

15. In all your endeavors, always put together a Plan B. What would you do if the situation you were in fell apart? If a decision turned out to be a bad one, how would you back out of it? Usually we never need to implement our Plan B. But it’s always a good idea to have one.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at


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