I was speaking with a recent graduate who, after two years in the workforce, is exploring the possibility of going back to pursuing a Masters in Student Affairs and Higher Education. She was very concerned about the idea that because she didn’t go straight from undergraduate to a Masters program, the conventional path, that would reflect negatively on her when she does apply. As she was telling me this, I just had to smile because I was reminded of how early on in my career, several folks, well-intended, offered me advice about staying put in one place because going from one job to another will not be seen positively when I apply for jobs. I wasn’t following the conventional career path. In retrospect, my experiences in the start-up, corporate, and in higher education have provided me with a varied perspectives that have helped me appreciate and assess the realities of my job. I am glad I chose to listen to my instinct and not pressured into pursuing the conventional path I was advised to take.

Just as I believe industry best practices do have values in improving organizations, one must be cognizant of the fact that there are local contexts that needs to be considered when applying best practices. Local factors like tradition, politics, personalities, and other organizational constraints cannot be ignored. I liken best practices with the conventional career paths I was advised to pursue early on in my career. Just like best practices, advice about conventional career paths must be taken with some caution. I realized that early on in my career that’s why while I politely listened to the conventional career advice I was given, I knew I had to consider my unique experience, my background, skill sets, and aspirations. The folks giving me advice were successful in there own ways but there were challenges I faced as well as strengths I possessed as a first generation immigrant Filipino-American. My personal attributes and circumstances are analogous to the local contexts I mentioned above. Even beyond my personal attributes and background is that today’s economy and job skills have significantly changed from decades of the past.

In this world of every so dynamic workplace, how much of what’s considered conventional career paths are even applicable anymore? In the past, folks stayed in one job their entire lives but I’ve read many articles, including this one, that job hopping is the “New Normal” for Millennials. I wonder how many of younger professionals and students are still receiving career advice by well-intended senior professionals that are based on their experience a couple or more decades ago?

Personally, the prospect of where I may be in my career ten years from now is exciting. I don’t know what careers will be available for me and in our field in student affairs in the future. I suppose the best advice I will cautiously provide to anyone asking for career advice is to continue learning, be open to possibilities, and study trends that may provide some clues on where we may be heading. In other words, prepare for a career yet to be invented.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What conventional and so unconventional career advice have your received in your career?