I'm always surprised to read that "fame" is the
biggest factor in their career goals.
Some would argue that it's easier to become
famous than it used to be. Things like Youtube and reality
television have made it easier to become famous without having any
particular talent. But does that fame last? We all have different
goals, and some of us might want to be famous briefly for doing
something goofy on Youtube tryouts. We're all different.
A recent study gave students this list of
careers and asked which one they would pick:
CEO of a successful company
President of a top university
Which would you choose? Which do you think was
the top choice? The winner, by a wide margin, was celebrity
assistant. Note that it's not "celebrity," but an assistant to a
celebrity. There's no doubt that the world of celebrities is
attractive. But I think if students compared the average income and
overall sense of job satisfaction of the above careers to a
celebrity assistant job, they might find some surprises.
Is it better to know someone famous, or have a
job that gives you satisfaction, based on your own talents and
skills, even if you never rise above 12 Twitter followers? It's an
There's certainly nothing wrong with fame as a
goal! Why not aim high, after all? But focusing on the skills and
talents that will take you there may ultimately be a more
successful plan than deciding to become famous first, then trying
to decide how.
April 10, 2017
Hobbies to Careers
Do you have a favorite hobby? Most students do,
even if they don't realize it. We tend to think of hobbies as
things like basket weaving and model airplanes, but the reality is
that anything you do in your spare time can be a hobby. (I'm not so
sure about napping, though!) Think of things connected to sports,
entertainment and computers. The options for hobbies are almost
Some people see hobbies as a bit frivolous --
not as important as more serious things like school or work. But
many people say they learn a lot of life skills from a hobby,
skills that can transfer to your classes or the workplace. In fact,
just having a passionate interest in something can be great for
your self-esteem, ability to focus and even self-discipline.
Hobbies can also lead to careers. Working at a
hobby is a dream for many of us: imagine getting paid to do
something you love!
Not sure how hobbies can translate to careers?
Let's look at video games. Now, I'm not a gamer at all. I don't
even own a console! But video games are a huge source of employment
these days -- even bigger than the entertainment industry,
according to some stats.
Many video game fans are interested in working
as video game developers. Even if you think you know everything
there is to know about video games, you'll still want to focus on
getting a good education: this is a competitive field, so a video
game program can give you an edge. Having a solid background of
general knowledge (the kind of stuff you learn in high school) can
also help in this career. After all, when designing a video game,
you're creating an entire world: you need to know everything about
that world. That can require knowledge of things like physics,
language or geography.
Interested in the world of video games, but not
so sure about a technical career? There are many options to express
your creativity. The popularity of video games has created new
markets for writers and composers. And even though I'm not very
into video games myself, I do know what sets a truly great game
apart: the graphics.
One powerful trend affecting employment in the
video game industry is the increase in the number of women playing
games. That means video game companies are looking to hire more
Video games are just one example of how a hobby
can lead to a variety of careers. Try thinking about your hobbies
and how you can put them to work!
You Might be a Poet and Not Know It
Do you think
poetry belongs in dusty libraries, to be studied by serious
scholars only? That's a perception that poets would like to change.
Poetry is a dynamic, evolving art, and today's poets are writing
about events and feelings happening in the modern world.
If you've never written a poem, now is a good time to try. You
might be surprised to find it's a good way to get some feelings
out. Historians believe ancient peoples told stories in rhyme
because rhyming words were easier to remember -- ever notice it's
easier to remember rap lyrics than a political science text?
Poetry has a lot to offer today's readers, but are they
listening? Stats show that not many people are buying poetry books,
and it's harder than ever to
make a living as a poet. In the past, some poets were like
today's rock stars, adored by fans who followed their every
Maybe you love poetry: your journal is full of poems, your
rhyming dictionary is dog-eared, and you're starting to think in
iambic pentameter. Can you turn your art into a career?
Many of today's poets find they have to supplement their writing
with other higher-paying jobs. Some teach writing in high schools
or colleges. Others use their flare for words in creative positions
like copywriting. There's a growing demand for workers who can use
words stragetically for search engines - that's an art in
Slam poetry puts poetry on stage: if you like to perform, this
might be for you.
I get a lot of email from students wondering about careers in
rap music. If you like rap, try reading a little poetry to learn
more about rhythm and rhymes. You might be surprised to see the
One thing to keep in mind: even if you're not sure you want anyone
to read your poetry, writing a poem can be satisfying and even
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Why would a mathematician sit down to a big piece of apple pie
on March 14 every year?
Math fans around the world have started a tradition of eating
pie on that date. If you're wondering why, consider the date
closely: 3/14. Or: 3.14. Does that number look familiar? It's the
beginning of the number that represents pi, or the ratio of any
circle's circumference to its diameter. (The exact ratio for pi has
been calculated to 2.7 trillion digits -- but this blog only has so
Pi Day was first celebrated in 1988 in San Francisco. Schools
are starting to recognize Pi Day. I see a lot of ideas on Twitter.
Enterprising bakers take the opportunity to market -- you guessed
it -- pies. Schools have contests on the best way to mark the
Who would have thought a holiday could arise from a mathematical
concept? It's a good example of how people like mathematicians can
make math come alive.
If you're skeptical that math could ever come alive for you,
even with a piece of pie, check out our < Real-Life Math
exercises. They show how math is used in every career, and you can
find them in the Insider Info career profiles. For some careers,
like statisticians or accountants, the use of math is obvious. But
we've discovered that even the most unlikely careers draw on math
skills. I was a bit surprised that auto racing mechanics can use
the concept of pi in their work, for example!
Not everyone likes math. But as you'll soon find out, we draw on
our math skills every day, often without even realizing it.
Next time you drive across a bridge or through a tunnel, you're
relying on the work of civil engineers who worked with pi. That's
another incentive behind Pi Day. It's not just an abstract concept
or an excuse for a piece of coconut cream pie!
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"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in
your life." - Confucius
I have been thinking about that quote recently because a lot of
students have written to me to ask whether their favorite career is
hard. I think Confucius gives us a good starting point to find an
Is he saying that if you find a good job, your good luck will
continue and you'll win the lottery next? That the salary will be
so high, you'll be able to retire early?
Or, maybe he's saying that with the right job, you'll enjoy
going to work so much that it won't feel like work. If you love a
job, it won't feel hard. It might be challenging, it might take a
lot of education, it might be competitive. But if you love it,
those obstacles won't feel like work.
Think of your favorite class in school, and then your least
favorite class. Which feels more like work? Being interested in
something makes it easier to do what you have to do.
We're all different, though, so there's no one answer when it
comes to the difficulty of a career. I hate being on stage, for
example, so singing would be a hard career for me. (It would also
be hard for the audience to listen to me, but that's another
entry.) If someone loves performing, it wouldn't be nearly as hard.
It really depends on you!
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might notice
that I say that a lot. It's not an easy way for me to finish a blog
entry or answer a question. The first step to career planning is
always a little soul-searching to figure out what you want from
your career. It really does depend on you!
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January 13, 2017
The Lowdown on Remedial Courses
High school graduates with weak academic records often have to
take remedial college courses when they start college to help them
catch up to the rest of their classmates. But even high-achieving
high schoolers may score poorly on college placement exams - and
end up in remediation to bring their skills up to par.
One in four college students ends up in remedial classes in
college because their reading, writing or math skills are
discovered to be below an acceptable level, according to a 2016
report from Education Reform Now. That could be because those
students took time off before college and their skills got rusty.
It could be because their education got disrupted by illness or
other special circumstances.
Or it could be due to the structure of their high school
curriculum itself. Students in Iowa, for example, only need three
years of math to graduate high school. That math-free senior year
can play havoc with students' numeracy skills. At Eastern Iowa
Community Colleges in 2014, 69 percent of students coming from an
Iowa high school had to take a remedial math course.
Remedial courses can bring you up to speed, but they cost money
and don't count toward your degree. That means you have to spend
money on extra courses (nationally, college freshmen borrow an
extra $380 million a year playing catch up in remedial courses,
says Education Reform Now) and wait even longer to graduate.
So how can you avoid such a fate?
Here are a few tips from Mark Boggie, the assistant dean of
student services at Cochise College in Arizona:
- Take challenging classes in high school. Push yourself to do
what's difficult. Take AP or dual credit courses. It's important to
stretch your mind and expand your skills.
"Although this does not guarantee the students' success in
postsecondary courses, it better prepares students in having the
skills and knowledge needed to be successful," says Boggie.
- Don't give in to senioritis. It can be tempting to coast
through your senior year, especially if you've already completed
your math requirements, for example. But you need to keep your
knowledge - and your grades - up.
"It has become common for students to take an 'easy schedule'
during their last year in high school," says Boggie. "This practice
promotes degrading of knowledge and skills needed to be successful
in the college environment, making it more likely that students
will waste time and money in remedial coursework."
- Prepare for placement exams. You know they're coming, so be
ready. Review your coursework and hire a tutor if you need extra
help. See if practice tests are available.
"Some institutions base placement on a single test score (either
a placement exam or a national test like ACT or SAT); others have
more holistic methods to place students while taking into
consideration students' coursework in high school, level of rigor,
GPA, etc.," says Boggie. "Once the student knows the method of
placement they should practice and prepare to take any placement
test that is necessary
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January 6, 2017
Change, Careers and the New Year
Happy new year! I am excited about the start of a new year
because it's a great time to look back - and ahead!
One thing that I can predict about 2017 is that there will be
changes in the world of careers. That's because every year brings
changes! Just consider the music industry. Only a century ago,
people could listen to music live or on a gramophone record. That
might seem like ancient history to you, but it's not too long if
you consider the course of history.
Since that time, there have been many exciting changes to the
world of careers. New careers have appeared, some have changed
dramatically and others faded into the land of eight-track
cartridges. Not sure what an eight-track cartridge is? It is
another one of the ways we used to listen to music, before you
could listen to music on your phone, before CDs, even before
cassette tapes. They went out of existence in the early 1980s. Next
time you download a song, think about how far music has come.
When it comes to technology, the world changes quickly. That
means careers in
information technology are constantly evolving. If you're
planning a career in this field, you have to keep up with the
But technology isn't the only field where changes can come fast
and furious. Let's go back to that eight-track cartridge. The way
we listen to music has changed the roles of
recording engineers and even
Almost every career has been impacted by technical changes.
Think of your favorite careers and how they might have changed
since your grandparents' generation -- if those careers even
existed back then. I would bet your grandparents wouldn't have been
able to plan for a career in
nanotechnology, for example.
How can we be ready for those changes? No matter what your
field, education will keep you aware of what's happening. Studying
labor market will help. So will talking to people in each
field. It also helps to know about opportunities and trends -- the
sort of information we talk about in the
Having information will help you get ready to meet the next year
and make your goals come true. Where will you be 10 years from now?
We can help you think of the possibilities.
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Food, Holidays, and Careers
When you think of certain holidays, do you think of some
favorite foods? Birthday parties and chocolate cake, July the 4th
and potato salad, Hanukkah and latkes, Christmas and eggnog... I
could go on, but then I would have to go and get a snack!
This a great time of the year to indulge in some delicious
meals. Not only are there are lot of social gatherings, but
something about the colder weather makes me want to head into the
kitchen to whip up some comfort food.
In my family, we somehow started a tradition of eating trifle (a
yummy concoction of custard and cake) on New Year's Day. I can't
even remember how this started, but I like trifle enough not to
It's interesting: for most of the year, food can be very trendy.
Any chef will tell you that it's tough to keep up with
food trends. But on holidays, many people like to stick to what
they know. That's one reason why my mother gave me a cookbook she
created filled with family favorites. What a great gift!
The first cookbook appeared in Rome about 1,600 years ago. A
print edition of this book called De re coquinaria (Latin for "on
the subject of cooking") came out in 1483. The recipes apparently
involve a lot of salt and honey -- most likely because the chefs of
the past didn't have refrigerators.
The directions in ancient cookbooks were pretty vague.
Historians don't think they were intended to give specific
directions for cooking meals. And that makes sense if you think
about the structure of society back then. People who could read
well were often in the upper classes, so they hired cooks. Cooks
talked about various cooking techniques amongst themselves, rather
than reading about them.
The recipes gave directions like, "Walk 20 times around the
field," instead of giving specific cooking times. Once the cook
circled the field 20 times, the dish was finished.
We've come a long way since then! Today's chefs study in
culinary programs, where they can expect a healthy serving of
theory and hands-on learning.
After their training, they can labor over boeuf bourguignonne or
flip burgers. Chefs can create works of art in chocolate (and
hopefully send some to me) or develop vegetarian delights.
Entrepreneurial sorts can even build a business around their
family recipes! Food lovers can specialize in any number of
culinary styles: the world is hungry for cooks and chefs!
I am going to take a short break, but I will be back in the New
Year. I hope you have a safe, fun and delicious December, and I
will see you in January.
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December 6, 2016
Careers Fighting the Flu
So, how are you feeling this week? If you're a little under the
weather, you're not alone! I saw a map of the country with the "hot
zones" for the flu colored in red, and guess what? The entire
country was red. That means there are a lot of runny noses,
pounding headaches and coughing attacks happening out there.
How do we know when there's a flu outbreak? Epidemiologists can
study disease outbreaks. They are interested in the health of a
community, instead of an individual person's health.
Epidemiologists are scientists who figure out what causes a certain
disease, and why some people get the disease while others
Public health concerns are creating a demand for
epidemiologists. We need people to study things like the Zika
virus, or even the effect of things like natural disasters, aging,
obesity and gambling on our health.
Of course, when we're sick with the flu, we're usually not
focused on the community. We just want to get better! We might head
to our family physician, pharmacist or naturopath in hopes of
getting back to normal.
Unfortunately, there is no sure cure for the flu. Clinical
research physicians and virologists have tried for years. I'm sure
if you were able to invent a cure, you could retire on a nice
tropical island somewhere. But you would need to do a lot of work
to get to that point. It takes 10 to 13 years to develop a medical
drug from start to finish -- at a cost of about $500 million. But
when you're sick with the flu, that might seem like a small price
to pay for health.
I hope you're all escaping the winter flu and are healthy enough
for some serious career exploration!
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