Perception vs. Reality

It always interests me to hear what others think of certain professions or careers when trying to help them pinpoint a field of interest for themselves. There’s always a gap between their perceptions of a career vs. the true reality behind it. And what’s more interesting is to see that this is not limited to just high school students –– I see this with college seniors or adults too.

The gap that exists is through no fault of anyone’s, of course (at least not completely). You can’t expect anyone to truly understand the intricacies of every career out there simply because there’s only so much one can know without actually doing it themselves. But what IS interesting is to see just how many individuals –– regardless of whether they’re in high school or adults in their mid-40’s –– base their entire college or career decisions on incomplete information about a career without fully investigating it. A lot of times, decisions are based off of their own assumptions of what people do in certain career fields.

A popular one I always hear goes like this: “My parents told me that I should go into sales because I love to talk and interact with people.” While it could be true that the person would be ideal for sales, it could also be equally true that they’d be miserable in that role.

First, just because you love interacting and speaking with people, it doesn’t mean you like to push a product or service on them. In fact, you may not possess the mentality to close people on a sale because you just simply like talking with them and developing that relationship. Having to sell them on something would alter the nature of that interaction so much so that it’d make you miserable. In other words, you need to be a deal-closer who doesn’t take “no” in order to be an effective sales person. If you’re just a nice person who likes to speak to people, you’re actually the worst type of sales person…someone who talks to lots of people a day but never sells a thing.

Basically, there’s a behavioral style disconnect when a lot of people evaluate careers based on their initial perceptions. Even though you may be good with people, you may actually not possess the mentality to close lots of people on sales all day long. At Hobnob we use an assessment called DISC that measures people’s behavioral styles to this effect…but I digress. 😉

Aside from not possessing the right combination of behavioral styles, there’s a second big reason why there exists a gap between people’s perceptions of a career vs. the true realities behind it: lack of information from the people who actually do the jobs day in and day out.

It’s sounds pretty straight-forward and common sense, and it is. Unfortunately, it always strikes me to hear students (and adults) who base their perceptions of various fields off of very subjective “he said/she said” statements made by people who aren’t even in the field of interest to begin with. One of the best things you can do to fill the gap between your perception and reality is to intentionally seek others out who work in that career every day. Once you find them, talk to them. Learn as much as you can about the field.

Of course, getting insight into either of these is easier said than done. You have to be intentionally seeking out opportunities to discover more about your behavioral style (i.e. knowing whether you can excel in an role that requires you to sell to people vs. just interacting with them). You also have to spend the time to speak and learn from the professionals in the career you’re interested in.

These aren’t the only ways to close the gap between your perceptions and reality…but understanding these two things will go a long way towards helping you figure out some of the questions you’re trying to answer regarding a career. The question is whether you feel it’s worth the effort.


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