Career Corner: September-October 2007

Writer: 
October 1, 2007

I'm a liberal-arts grad who graduated from Duke several years ago. Although I've developed many skills that my bosses have found useful and I've received good evaluations, I'm already on my second career and third job. Is this normal?

You're not only normal, you're typical of your peer group. In the past, students found jobs in their senior year and expected to stay with their companies for many years. But a recent study of Duke graduates discovered how much has changed. While 92 percent of the Class of 2001 was initially satisfied with their post-graduation career choices, 36 percent changed jobs within a year of graduation. And, within five years, 43 percent of the class had changed not only jobs, but careers.

It's clear that a certain amount of job changing is now acceptable, particularly in the years immediately after graduation. And, if those changes are due to promotions, you're golden. But move around too much in different companies and fields, and you'll discover that it becomes more difficult to find good opportunities. That's because few employers want to take a bet on someone who doesn't appear to know what he wants. If you're really confused about your career direction, consider working for a temporary agency. A year there looks much better on your résumé than a series of short-term jobs.

Most college grads in their twenties spend significant time thinking about their careers. If finding a good fit is important to you, step back and smell the roses. Assess your experiences so far, and evaluate what you love to do and the tasks you hate. Then start talking to people—particularly alumni—about their careers and how they got there. Build your networks, and your next move may be the start of a new career.

Send questions to career-alumni@studentaffairs.duke.edu.
The Career Center, in association with the Duke Alumni Association, provides career advice to alumni.
Call 919.660.1050 for more information or an appointment.