Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Could I be a Vampire?

Many of you have probably taken those aptitude tests offered by colleges, high schools and even private institutions, but do they really work?  Can they really provide insight into that deep and dark secret as to what would be the perfect career?
     Worth the time and effort?  
     Sounds vague doesn’t it.  That’s because that’s what most of these tests offer.  Vague answers with vague options, some almost bordering on the ridiculous.  
     I once took a very expensive career aptitude test when I was thirty years old and looking for a career change.  One of my top five options was astronaut.  Yes, seriously it was.  And this was almost twenty years ago when the space program was much smaller.  And oh, I am a woman.  And oh, I was living in Canada at the time, with no space program to speak of.  
     Twenty years later I have yet to hear of anyone getting a career option they would actually consider.  Probably because the tests are old and don’t take into account the changing world.  They are too limited in what they actually test, your aptitudes.   And most likely are too general in their corresponding answers to those aptitudes to be of any value. 
     Should you take one?  Sure.  Why not?  Especially if it’s free.  But be sure you take the results with a big whopping tablespoon or two of salt.  
     But on your own, most of you probably know what you are good at.   What things come easily to you, and what things you could never stand to do.  This is a good start.
     Consider how many people want to be lawyers based on the fact they say they can argue well.  If this were all it took to succeed in law every teenager should become a lawyer.  But these same people will tell you they hate paperwork, reading or and don’t consider themselves good at detail work.   All things necessary in the law profession.
     Let’s consider some questions you could consider on your own that might help.

1. How many hours a week do you want to work?  You mean I have to be at my place of employment every weekday by 9am, sit there until 5pm in a cubicle with no windows?  Yes.  Even after that expensive and impressive engineering degree is earned.  But there are jobs out there with more flexible hours if that’s what you are looking for. 

2.  Do you want to sit at a desk all day?  Or do you want flexibility to work in different locations or at home?  Lots of careers today can be done from home.  That works for some people, self-motivated types.  Others might need the structure of getting away from the TV, couch, or fridge.

3. Do you plan on staying in your city, state or country?  So many people say they want to leave their hometown or state when they graduate college and if that is the case consider where you want to go and look for a job that is either needed in the place you plan to live or will give you flexibility to work almost anywhere.

4.     Do you play well with others?  I know you’ve heard this since kindergarten, but consider this in your career.  Do you want to work as part of a team?  In a large company?  Or a smaller company?  Or even on your own?

5.     Do you handle authority well?  Either telling other people what to do or being told what to do?  Now we all have to do some of this some of the time but consider in your career that you may have for 20, 30, 40 years of this.  How much of either bossing, or being bossed, appeals to you.

6.     Do you mind wearing a uniform, lab coat, or suit?  I guess we could all get 
         use to this and make it work, but for some (fashionistas) it may be a deal breaker?

7. How much vacation time?  Are sabbaticals available?  Or does everyone work through lunch, vacation time and sick days.  Believe me there are plenty of jobs like that.  Not necessarily a negative, but at least you should consider it going in.
These are all simple, generalized questions that you can consider and apply to that career you have chosen.  Or use your answers when evaluating a possible career choice.  Of course, you may not find the perfect career that fits all your criteria but you will have thought about them and know going in what you are willing to give up.  
 Get to know yourself.  Be honest in your answers and if the sight of blood makes you gag, might want to reconsider the medical profession, or being a vampire.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Career Forever and Forver... 'til Death Do Us Part

Yes, that does sound terminal, even horrific.  But never fear it’s not all that bad. As you know, forever and forever for death do you part,  doesn’t always work for the many couples that say those words in front of many witnesses in a church, so it reasons that they may not be true for many when it comes to career choice.
      Of course it would be nice if we chose our career and became that doctor, lawyer or engineer and lived happily ever after doing doctorly, lawyerly and engineer type things all our life.  But life isn’t that straightforward.  Yet, that myth of choosing one career and doing it until you retire or die which ever comes first still looms large.  
      Life isn’t static.   The world and its vast array of situations are constantly changing, including your own situation and it’s best to realize that early on.  
      Marriage, children, divorce, death of a loved one, sickness, natural disasters, bank collapse, company lay offs, all these horrible things happen on a fairly regular basis and believe it or not, they can affect our careers.  We would like to pretend they don’t.  We would like to pretend we will pick the perfect career and we will be exempt from all of the above.  But that rarely happens. 
      Today many people find themselves on their second, third, or even fourth career path.  A lot of women experience this after raising a family and coming back into the job market.  But that will be the subject of another day.
      So for now let’s use this constantly changing world to your advantage.  
      A career does not need to be a once and for all, set in stone decision. 
      Remember the example in my last post of the job of teacher.  It was easy to see how that career path could easily morph into several different paths, coach, principal, guidance counselor, government official and still remain a viable.   So you want to use that to your advantage early on.  Even as early as picking that college major.
      I hate to bring this up, but not all four year college degrees guarantee you a job worthy of all the time, money and energy you spend at your esteemed institution.  Yikes.
      Does that mean don’t go to college?  Of course not.   For most of you reading this  it means that you will need more than that four year degree.   And if you are one of those doctor, lawyer or MBA types you already know that.  
      But for all of you, why narrow the your career field the moment you enter college?  You don’t need to.  Stay flexible and maybe you won’t end up doing six years, or eight to get the four year degree you want or need to succeed out there.  
      For you further education types, get the perquisites necessary for your chosen pursuit and then branch out and explore some other options with your course selections.  
      I have stated that there exists in many colleges a degree that allows you flexibility and exploration while still getting that four year degree in four years.  And they don’t advertise it much because colleges make more money the longer you stay - changing your major, changing your mind, revising, deciding.  Don’t give your money away. 

      Many colleges offer  - Interdisciplinary studies, or some even let you make your own degree.   And these may work even for you doctor and lawyer types.  
       It used to be called a well rounded education.  Make your education plans with more flexibility so you’ll more options, now and in the future.  Don’t be pigeoned holed into a major because you think you have to.  You don’t.  Look at what’s required on that medical school, or law school application.  You may be surprised that you could get the prerequisites and still have some interesting off shoots just in case, your first plan  doesn’t pan out.  And you never know you may strike upon something else you truly enjoy when that Organic Chemistry grade comes in too low.
So try to stay flexible as long as you can.  It may save you tons of time, money and energy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Open Up the Box

Okay, so exploring career options appeals to you as much as an ingrown toe nail.  

And let’s face it we all want to get them, whoever your them is, (teachers, parents, guidance counselors) off your back.  So you listened to my advise in the last post and you picked a career.  And maybe you’ve even selected one of the three careers I have listed at the top, doctor, lawyer or engineer.   Look, you say, it keeps everyone happy and you don’t have time between baseball/soft ball, SAT testing, ACT testing, prom, graduation and a social life to surf the net, ask people, and figure out another option.  Everyone’s happy you say.  Maybe, for the time being.  But let’s use that chosen one to open up the box a little more.
We’re going to use an over-simplified example with everyone’s favorite -  the enviable career of teacher.  Now I am not a teacher, so don’t condemn me just yet.  But I do think all those vacation days are to die for.  Still, I know many of you will groan and say, teacher?   I never want to set a foot in another classroom as long as I live.  Okay, that’s fine.  Here’s a way to use even the negatives associated with a career to step outside the box and broaden your career options.
So using  the top 5 reasons -  Why you would never want to be a teacher. 
1.  You don’t want to deal with little kids
2.  You don’t want to be stuck in a classroom all day
3.  You could never speak in front of that many people
4.  The pay sucks
5.  You want to be the boss
Okay, number one, you don’t want to deal with little kids, I hear you, all those birthday cupcakes, field trips to the zoo, and stickers to handle.  But don’t rule out the teacher thing yet.  There’s  High School teacher, adult education teacher, how about college professor, no little kids.
Okay, you say maybe but being stuck in a classroom all day would feel claustrophobic and stifling.  Then consider physical education coach.  You get to be outside at least some of the time, or in a large open gym.  No suit and tie. 
Then Number 3.  Could never speak in front of that many people even kids.  So  how about guidance counselor.  You sit behind a desk with only one or two chairs in front of it.  I’m not sure what exactly a guidance counselor does, but your own office, no grading, and still all those vacation days.
The big one.  Number 4.  Pay sucks - maybe, but you might be surprised.  And you could use all those vacation days to write a book, be a fishing guide, etc. and if you calculate that into your wage you could be earning some big bucks.
And lastly - number 5.  You want to be the boss.  I understand this completely, so  how about Principal or even School Board Superintendent.  Often these positions are filled by teachers maybe with a little more education but still teaching degrees often.  
So even the dreadful job of a teacher can be used as a spring board to open up some not so horrible possibilities.  
And if you are charting a course toward a career in education there are still a boatload of options available should you decide to switch it up.  Yet, you would not necessarily have to go back to square one.  Saving you time and money on your path to your career.
Now, being the young, bold, creative types, you can see how easily you can come up with a host of other options related to any one career.  
Broaden your scope on the career you might have selected.  You might be surprised with what you come up with.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Make a plan... Select a Path... Pick a Goal

Sounds so ominous.   So permanent.   So much work.  
        Okay hear me out.  So you’re undecided, or maybe you have decided on your career, college, major, etc.   Either way a plan is necessary, and anyone who has made one will tell you, it takes some of the pressure off.  And less pressure is a good thing.  Really, it’s not that scary.   You do it everyday.  
        Example: you want to hang out with friends.  You first decide  “Hey I want to hang out.”.  Then you text.  Then you decided where to hang.  Then decide how you’ll get there.  Drive (borrow car, mom drives - yuck), walk (Ha Ha), bus (Go Green).  Lots of decisions made there. 
       The only reason the bigger plan like career, college or courses seems to be harder is because you’re afraid you’ll pick wrong.  Yikes.  I’ll be a dental hygienist for the rest of my life, and I’ll become bulimic if I have to look into another mouth.
       It’s not that drastic.  Your plan will not be written in indelible ink on your forehead, unless you want it to be.  Think of the plan as more like a guideline, a possibility.  
       Back to the example:  you decide on the place to hang out with friends.  You go to the mall.  You get there and only one other person shows up.  Not so great, unless it’s the guy you’re secretly crushing on, but even then it’s awkward.  So you text some more and find out the movies is where people are.  You hop in a car (hopefully you don’t have to call mom back), get on a bus (Go Green) or walk (Ha Ha) with your crush to the movies.  Not so hard.  A little more work but it’ll be better when you get there.
      That’s how you can look at your plan for college, career or your major.  Sometimes it’s better just to pick one.  Of course, if you’ve been following the blog I hope you’re exploring lots of options, but go ahead, select the one that appeals to you the most.  Remember it’s not tattooed on your low back, unless you want it to be.  Don’t even worry who the plan will appeal to or offend, teachers, guidance counselor, parents, grandparents, or friends.  More about that later.  Just pick one. I guarantee once you select something will feel so much better. 
      If you have two, or even three ideas in mind that’s okay.  You can pick all three. 

      Back to example:  you didn’t know if you would go to mall, the movies, or somewhere to eat, when you started out but most likely you had to get in the car (with mom), take the bus (Go Green) or walk (Ha Ha).  Then when you got there, looked around, you changed your plan.  And got back on the bus (Go Green).  But at least you’re out of the house.  Do you see?
      So for now....  make a plan, select a path, pick a goal, or two or three.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Do what you love...

I’m sure you’ve heard this more than once  in regards to choosing your all important career.
        Sweet.  I love to play X-box, hang out with friends, eat and sleep late.
        When you find that job let me know, I’ll apply.  
        Not many careers offer that job description.  For those of you creative enough, you may find this job and hopefully it pays enough to keep the electricity on for your X-box.
        For the rest of us doing what you love is an anomaly.  It simply doesn’t apply to most jobs or for most people.  
        Let’s take a look at that coveted Medical Doctor career that so many of you entering college seek.  So using the phrase above, do what you love means.... that many of you, who want to be doctors, would love to spend time with up to twenty to thirty sick or in pain people everyday.  Deal with disease and death most of the time.  Battle insurance, malpractice, and governmental health care policies.  Hard to find what’s to love in that job. 
        So let’s revamp the saying.  Instead of do what you love, let’s try... 
        do what you like.  Well, that’s not much different from the love.  
        How about... do what doesn’t fill you with dread every morning when the alarm goes off.  Getting better.  
        How about...  do what you would be willing to do at least eight hours a day, five days a week and hopefully get paid enough to pay for the pizza you plan to order when your friends come over.   Now we’re getting warmer.
        Seriously though, there aren’t many people that say they LOVE THEIR JOB, and are being completely truthful.  So what’s the answer.     
        Someone entering college told me he was looking for a job that pays well enough so he could do all kinds of fun things on the weekend.  A job that doesn’t leave him so stressed out he can’t enjoy those fun weekends.  A job with enough vacation time to travel and do other cool things.  Sounds like the right idea to me.  And if you could have more days off, longer vacations, and the big bucks it could be the perfect job. 

       Something to think about next time someone say  “oh just do what you love.” 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I want to be a dinosaur....

That use to work.   Probably from the time you could talk until you lost your front tooth.  Then about first grade things got serious and the dinosaur answer didn’t work anymore.  I’m talking about the answer to that question you’ve heard millions of times, okay an exaggeration, but you know the one.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

It started out simple enough.   You remember the scenario, most likely in the grocery store.  It goes something like...  “Oh what a cute little boy/girl.   And what do you want to do when you grow up.   If you notice the be now changed to do, so dinosaur doesn’t work.  Fire fighter was good.  Police Officer worked.  Teacher.  Or Nurse. Chip N Dale dancer/stripper not so much.  

Then things got trickier.  Starts around the time you enter high school.  You’re standing around after Uncle Phil’s funeral with a plate full of gooey casseroles and a plastic glass of kool aid, in a too tight suit and  Aunt Flora has to say....  What a nice young man.  So tell me what do you want to do when you finish high school?

Okay.  You finish chewing trying to think, even though the tie is cutting off circulation to your brain.  Going to college always works as an answer.  But that could lead to which college and where,  which could bring up the heated discussions of family alma maters.  Would fire fighter work?  Probably not.  Not enough pay.  Too dangerous. Hardly worthy of college or your family legacy.  The Chip N Dale answer might get her to leave.  You stare down at the cup of kool aid and wish they were at least serving Red Bull.

Way back in the dark ages there use to be the most politically incorrect rhyme known to man that went Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief.  I tend to think of that when I hear the answers so many young people still spout when asked the dreaded question.  What do you want to do when...  Why?  Because most of the time I hear Doctor, Lawyer and Engineer.  Even though I don’t know what a Tinker is if you at least recited that rhyme you’d have more options available. 

Where’s all that creativity education is supposed to impart.  Where’s the imagination.  Where’s all that information that’s supposed to be floating around in this information age.  

Okay, maybe you don’t answer with one of the three listed at the top of the blog.  Good.  You’ve taken the first first step.  I hope you don’t say, the next most popular thing I hear....  I want to do something with computers.  I never do the eye roll even though almost every job known involves a computer today, and if it doesn’t probably will in the future. 

This blog was started to simply help point out that there is an almost infinite amount of answers to that question  “What  do you want to do when you grow up, graduate, etc.  So I hope you begin to consider opening up the box that contains those answers.  How? 

You ask the questions .  Ask people.  Anyone, anywhere.  What do you do for a living?  A living -- serious stuff. Or if you’re ready to do something on the computer... google.    Interesting careers.  Bizarre careers.  Well paying careers.  Least education careers.  Sports careers.  Any of  a million other options.  Okay, another exaggeration -- but maybe not.