Career choice and relocation
myths and stereotypes
to travel? Be a travel agent!"
and other life stereotypes
You've probably been taught
not to stereotype people based on race, religion or sex. But
when you make a career or other life choice, do you still make
decisions based on stereotypes?
reps must be gregarious." Hal,
a successful insurance agent for many years, has developed a
portfolio of loyal, happy clients. Hal can be described as an
introvert. He rarely speaks unless spoken to, and then he speaks
briefly and softly. His clients have learned that he's a caring,
dedicated agent who never misses a detail.
quietly and crunch numbers."
These days, accountants, especially those in the large firms,
have to become experts at client relations. Often they're expected
to steer business towards the firm's consulting division.
"Want to travel?
Be a travel agent!"
In my younger days, when you could get on a plane with zero screening
and enjoyed more than an inch of legroom, I loved to travel.
When I sought ideas for advancement, people would shrug and say,
"Be a travel agent!"
Surprise! Travel agents rarely travel. After
all, someone has to stay in the office and answer calls from
clients. A major perk involves the "fam" or familiarization
trips, when they're invited as a group to preview a new resort
or discover a new locale. There's rarely time for leisurely
These days, a corporate
travel agent is more like a traffic cop than a friendly guide, charged with enforcing regulations
of the company who pays her commission: "The non-stop flight
is two hundred dollars more than the connecting flight with the
two-hour stopover. Looks like you've got two hours in Cleveland."
After dealing with hundreds of less-than-thrilled employees,
one agent told me he was quitting the industry, probably for
the more serene life of a bill collector.
"Big cities are unfriendly:" Any place seems hostile to newcomers.
I've lived in several of the largest cities in North America
and found helpful, caring people everywhere. Often businesses
are more helpful simply because there's more competition.
"The desert is all
sand and cactus."
In the high desert of New Mexico, where I live, we have green
trees, flowering plants, and snow in the wintertime. We have
abundant fruit trees and sometimes we have to rake leaves in
"Small towns are
conservative, you have to join a church and country club, and
you must be married."
Probably some are. My town has less than twenty thousand people,
yet I know lots of very happy residents who forego churches and
country clubs in favor of coffee shops and art galleries. We
have many single people and a sizeable gay population. Generalizations?
Well, nearly everyone has a dog or cat and most people share
a home with more than one.
you avoid stereotypes?
Traditional career tests
often are based on outdated or stereotyped visions of careers. Stereotypes of locations tend to
be perpetuated by folks who have never visited, let alone lived
I encourage anyone contemplating
a life change to follow the Rule of Six.
Talk to at least six people who have real, hands-on experience
on the path you want to follow. If they clam up and say they're
too busy to talk, you've learned a great deal already.
Most people will begin with
a happy, party-line spiel. Dig deeper till you start uncovering
negatives and warnings.
On the rare occasions you
hear a lot of negatives, keep going until you discover a positive.
Harry almost gave up on his goal when four people talked about
problems getting clients for a unique consulting business. After
we talked, he realized they had all used the same time of marketing
-- and they weren't very good at it. He broadened his search
to gain a new perspective.
I'm always amazed at how many experts base recommendations on
stereotyped versions of careers and places to live. Often career
assessments are based on outdated stereotypes. That's why you
may be advised to become a funeral director or a florist when
you really belong in outside sales.
There's no substitute for
gathering your own information from people who have been there
and back. If something sounds too good -- or too bad -- to be
true, it probably is.
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
Author, Career Consultant, Speaker
*Fast Track to Career Freedom*