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 an undergraduate to a Master’s program, the conventional path would reflect negatively on her when she did apply. As she told me this, I just had to smile because I was reminded of how, early in my career, several well-intended folks offered me advice about staying put in one place. After all, 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 start-up, corporate, and higher education have provided me with 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 be pressured into pursuing the conventional path I was advised to take.

Just as I believe industry best practices have value in improving organizations, one must be cognizant that local contexts must be considered when applying best practices. Local factors like tradition, politics, personalities and other organizational constraints cannot be ignored. I liken best practices to the conventional career paths I was advised to pursue early in my career. Like best practices, advice about conventional career paths must be taken cautiously. I realized that early on in my career. Hence, while I politely listened to the conventional career advice I was given, I knew I had to consider my unique experience, background, skill set, and aspirations. The folks giving me advice were successful in their ways, but there were challenges I faced and 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, today’s economy and job skills have significantly changed from decades ago.

In this world of every so dynamic workplace, how much of what’s considered conventional career paths are applicable? 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 younger professionals and students still receive career advice from well-intended senior professionals 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 in our field of 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 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 you received in your career?