“Pathways”—It’s Plural!

DSC00766“Pathways” is used as a title for several career resources. Some companies call their internships or rotational programs “Pathways.” The word “pathways” is sometimes a label for information sessions or bridge programs that organizations develop as introductions to industries or companies.

At Penn’s Career Services, we call our career guide “Pathways.” This manual is a printed book, a downloadable PDF on our website, and an online ebook. It is full of articles about exploring career fields and searching for internships, jobs, and graduate/professional schools. Employers eager to hire Penn students advertise in it, and we provide lists of companies that actively recruit on campus.

In all the career uses I’ve seen of this word, it’s plural. “Pathways.” This is intentional for two reasons. First, there are many different career paths available to Penn students and alumni. Second, each individual student will almost certainly pursue more than one career path during her/his professional life. (According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most people stay in the same job for under five years.)

Students are sometimes anxious when considering career fields to pursue, which internships to seek, or which opportunity to accept after graduation. Should I take this job offer, or should I go to graduate school? Yes! Both (although usually not simultaneously).

Of course you can’t embrace two full-time opportunities at the same time. The option you pursue will affect your professional life now and in the future. But you will make changes. It is unlikely you will still be in your first position after several years. So sometimes the question is not “Which path will I give up?” but “Which path will I pursue first?” (Experience may be the necessary ingredient to selecting one’s next pathway. John Krumboltz has explored this in his happenstance learning theory.)

Remember, there are multiple pathways in your future. It’s plural!