If you are a college student, the process of applying for jobs is relatively simple. You go to your university's career service website, see what employers have job postings, click apply to any jobs that seem interesting and wait to see if you get a response from any of the employers for an interview. You could also test your luck at career fairs where hundreds of students pour into a venue to have really intimidating, forced and, for the most part, the same 1-3 minute conversation with recruiters at companies you think you might be interested. Performing both of these actions is relatively simple, and if you are lucky and have a good elevator pitch, you may land an interview.
During this time period of "oh, I should probably apply for jobs" to "Alright! I have 3 interviews," how much have you learned about any of the opportunities you have applied for? Sure, you may have read a brief 100-200 word description of the employers on a career service website, along with employers' location, and possibly jobs' starting salaries. You also probably have a perception of the prestige of the companies and how good having a company's name on your resume may look.
Are there other factors that you may not know about that might have a huge impact on whether or not you like your job? Factors like how much work is done in groups vs. individually, will you have creative freedom, are there leadership opportunities, will you learn new skills, is there direct access to senior leadership, how varied is the work, how diverse is the workplace, is there a lot of traveling, do you have your own workspace, along with even more factors that you may have no clue about before accepting a job.
As a college student, you have to decide how important these factors are to you and how much of an impact they will have on your career choice.
The difficulty in this task is that this work is purely self-motivated. There is no boss, there is no deadline. You are the only person who will derive the benefit, and have to be able to put in the effort to obtain this information. This is made even more difficult by the fact that the answer to each of these points of research is unique to each department of each company. The accounting department may have an entirely different environment than the marketing department, who are likely completely different from the HR department.
If you consider merely getting a job offer your pinnacle of success, then there is no point to put in the effort to learn whether or not companies possess these factors and how much you value them. But if your definition of success is having a fulfilling career, it might require some additional effort.
The toughest part about this additional effort is that it has to be motivated by you. To your parents and friends, just getting a job offer is wonderful news. The security of having a job offer feels awesome. However, having no clue whether or not you will like the job you have been offered is an issue you have to deal with. You can suppress it and tell yourself that you'll find another job if you don't enjoy it or you can embrace it and put in the time to fully understand what opportunities are available to you and which opportunities fit you best.
In high school, it was very clear of what to do to get to college. You get good grades. In college, it was very clear of what to do to get a job offer. You get good grades, internships and leadership positions in extracurricular activities.
But what about pursuing a career that is fulfilling? This path is much more vague, yet extremely important to achieving happiness in your career.
Ultimately, the more effort you put in to understanding a career before entering it, the more realistic your perception will be of the work. If you do this, you won't be surprised at the work culture and will be much more satisfied with the work you are doing. Because you knew what to expect, you will likely be happier, more productive and more engaged in the work you are doing.
Wonderful things can occur when perception meets reality.
Garrett Mintz is the founder of Ambition In Motion. Essentially, Garrett is a career coach for college students and young professionals. But what Garrett does goes beyond helping people get jobs. He helps young professionals understand what they want in their careers, learn pertinent information about what fulfills them, get their "foot in the door" via informational interviews and evaluate which career fits them best. Ultimately, Garrett's goal is to help young professionals build a realistic and thorough perspective of their potential occupations BEFORE accepting a job as opposed to after. Garrett believes that it is paramount to successful employment that young professionals gain clarity of what they want and don't want in their careers. When young professionals' perceptions of their careers meet reality, higher engagement, productivity, retention and job satisfaction follows.