Overall jobless rates are down these days and job satisfaction is much improved, at least according to nationwide statistics. Does that sound right to you? Too rosy maybe? I have two recent college graduates in my family, and neither are working in the field they chose when they first entered college. So maybe these statistics mean you simply have a job. Period. Full stop. You are employed, and thank heavens. But are you using your degree? Maybe the field of dreams turned out to be a nightmare in reality.

Finding job fulfillment in the career you chose—usually when you were just a teen-ager and had to mark a major – is quite a long shot, it seems to me. How do you even know what you want to be when you grow up when you are that young? How many of us today, at all ages, are happy with the field we chose? I’d like to see the percentage of how many of us are practicing in the same field as our degree. Wait! I can Google that. Hold on.

So, my internet search shows an old (2013) statistic that 20 percent of college grads are working in their degree fields. Last year, a study of apples to oranges (so not the same as the statistics in the first sentence) shows that 40 percent of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t even require a college degree and, in fact, they are still working in that same job a decade later. And you and your parents believe your college degree is worth it. Let‘s hope so.

Maybe you’re fulfilling expectations from parents, from peers, from your own ambitions for money or prestige. Or maybe you’re among those who discover, four or so years after doing your very best in your degree program and having good grades and experiences, you don’t love what you’re doing or where your career is leading? Looks like you are certainly not alone. Now what?
A good friend who is a doctor tells me almost every day that she hates her profession. The paperwork, the hours, the sadness, the cranky patients all make her days exhausting. She always, always wanted to be a doctor.

“I wish I’d never worked so hard to get somewhere I didn’t want to be,” she said recently. In her case, she sticks with her private practice because, ironically, her career path took her so long that her options are now limited. Also, she’s used to the money she’s making – no matter what long hours she puts in.

Lindy Tilger, who graduated from Texas Tech with a nursing degree, has found job fulfillment in other areas where she cares for people. She does counseling for her church, focuses on raising her own family and sometimes takes on foster children in need of temporary care.

“I was able to reflect on what drew me to nursing in the first place, which was individual care of people. Focusing on being able to do what I did love, even if it was paired with things I didn’t particularly care for was helpful in finding satisfaction in my career space.”

“If your college age kid doesn’t know what they want to do but parents still want them to get a degree, I would suggest business/teaching/nursing degrees. There are a lot of avenues to pursue outside of traditional desk jobs. They should particularly take the opportunity to travel the world. Travel is an education in itself,” Lindy says.

She is encouraging her four children to take a gap year.
“It’s hard to pick a lifelong degree as a teenager without a lot of life experience,” she says.