College Grad Chronicles: When Your Degree Leads You Down a Career Path You Hate

So you went to college, picked a major, graduated, found a job within the field for which you studied… and realize you hate it. Congratulations, this is something to celebrate!

You read that right. This is a major success so early in your career. Many professionals take much longer to come to this conclusion (if at all).  Take stock in the fact that, according to a recent Monster survey, 31.7% of 2018 grads don’t know what they want out of a career, and three out of four are still hunting for work out of fear of taking a misstep. Knowing  what you don’t what to do with the rest of your life, while being gainfully employed only gives you a leg up as you decide what is next.

Before you stand on a table and declare to all your coworkers that you are walking out, take a beat. You still have work to do before successfully finding yourself on a career path you love.

First, take your resume into consideration. Jumping ship quickly will raise an eyebrow to future potential employers. Staying with this first job for a year or two will help you build out your professional story and make you appear more dedicated and loyal in the long run.

Now it is time to create an actionable plan that will help you hone your skills and determine what you want to do next. Here are some thoughts:

Don’t shy away from a good old pro / con list. There is a reason you studied this subject for four years and applied to this company. Note what aspects of the job are rewarding, what you might want to do more of in the future, and what you will happily delegate if given the chance. By making yourself aware of the things you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to find a field for which you are better suited.

Find a Mentor. Being able to ask questions and learn new skills is crucial to professional development. Even if you aren’t staying with this job, having someone with a few more years of experience that can speak to your positive attitude and talents will be crucial to developing an impactful reference list.

Create a pack. Having a supportive network of colleagues to have your back can make or break your week. According to a survey by Virgin Pulse, nearly 40% of employees rank coworkers as the reason they love their company. Find individuals with whom you can be open and honest, but who will also lift you up in times of need.

Network like crazy. The best way to figure out what you want to do next is by getting out there and meeting new people and seeing what paths connect with your current industry. Hook into both personal and professional opportunities to meet new people. Join that professional network, talk to people at the gym, find out what the teammates on your recreational sports team are doing. The bigger your network, the wider net you can cast when you start to look for something new.

Take informational interviews. Once you start to get a feel for the direction you may want to go next, talk to people in that industry. Informational interviews will give you a chance to ask questions and really get to know what a job in this new field could look like.

Most of all – stay positive. Life may be short, but you are at the beginning of a long and fruitful career. Now is a great time to do your homework and get to know who you are as a professional.


Julia Holian & Associates provides strategy and coaching for career-focused professionals looking to have the career they always wanted. The San Francisco Bay Area-based company was founded in 2016 by Julia Holian, a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach with more than 20 years of experience in professional development. Julia Holian & Associates guides clients in any industry with job search strategy and career transition, resume and LinkedIn development,  interview preparation, and professional strengths coaching. For more information, please visit:

Liz Helton is a Personal Branding Expert and Resume Writer. She helps entry to senior level professionals step into the next phase of their career with confidence by helping uncover their unique stories, and providing the tools to develop a clear understanding of their skills, experience, talents and goals. Previously, Liz spent nearly 10 years in Public Relations, giving her the unique ability to craft concise messaging points and develop story-based resumes that spark action. Liz has a B.A. in Journalism (Public Relations) from California State University, Chico, and is an active member of the National Resume Writers’ Association. Learn more about Liz at and

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