Survey: 40% of Us Aren’t Where We Thought We’d Be in Life and Career

Where We Ended Up CareerRecently, Bellevue University released the results of a nation-wide survey on perspectives of career-success attainment. I interviewed Dorothy Graham, Career Coaching Manager at Bellevue University, for her insights on the survey results. Following is that interview.

Me: With 40% of the respondents saying they’re not where they want to be in life, let’s look into the factors going into that response. Do you think that is a financial comment about their paycheck or is it more about the type or level of job they have?

Dorothy Graham: I do think it’s at least partially a financial issue. With today’s economic conditions, many people are staying in or accepting jobs that don’t necessarily match their salary expectations but at least allow them to pay the bills. This, of course, also relates to the type or level of job they currently hold. Their current job may not be where they expected or hoped to be, but economic conditions are influencing their decision to stay with their current job rather than look for something that is more in line with their career aspirations.

Me: With 60% of the respondents saying they can’t put a finger on exactly what holding them back from achieving their goal: What has your experience been when speaking to people that might say the same thing? What do you think is contributing to a lack of goal achievement?

DG: While many may have developed general career goals during their high school or college years, I think they have lost sight of those goals or only have very vague ideas of what they want to achieve in their careers because of the everyday demands of working, raising families, etc. And again, today’s economic conditions may also be holding them back.

Me: What contributes to a lack of career goal setting? With 1 in 3 saying they don’t know if they have the right education to achieve their goals, this sounds (again) like they don’t have specific goals or clarity about what they want to achieve. My thinking is that if your goal is to be a nurse, you can easily figure out if you have enough education. What’s your interpretation of that data? Also, it sounds like a lot of people kind of grope around with the issue of what to do or how to figure out what they want for a career. Why do you think such a big life decision is such a mystery to so many people?

DG: Again, I think people have lost sight of or have forgotten what they might have learned in high school or college about setting career goals and developing action plans to achieve those goals. You are right, in that certain degrees, like nursing or accounting, lend themselves more readily to identifying the education needed to succeed in those fields. It’s much more difficult to define career goals with majors like business administration, communications, etc. Too many people aren’t willing to take the time or don’t know how to really look at what they are seeking in a career. Setting career/educational goals requires a great deal of self-assessment and research—something many people are just not willing to do.

Me: How does this survey drive the work that your university does?

DG: Make It Happen was launched to provide helpful tips and support to individuals who want to advance their careers, complete their education, and overcome obstacles that get in their way. Guest writers give advice, strategies and tips to help individuals define their career/educational goals and serves as a resource for conducting effective job searches.

In addition, our Career Coaching Center offers individual coaching, services and resources to help Bellevue students and alumni with both career planning and job search. Most of those resources are available on our website as well, We also publish a blog that includes tips, strategies and inspirational messages on virtually any career-related topic,

Dorothy J Graham, Manager, Career Coaching at Bellevue University

For more career tips and advice – FREE newsletter and eworkbook:  From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from and

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