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Faith's Blog

May 8, 2017

Summer Jobs


What's your dream summer job?


A) Ice cream flavor  tester.

B) Sun screen tester, with a moonlighting position as a  sandcastle architect.

C) Anything that will help you advance towards your goals and explore the possibilities for the future -- and a little extra cash would be nice, too.

There are many ways to spend your summer (and that includes lying on the couch watching Brady Bunch reruns). If you're ready to start with a summer job, check out our Get a Job section for some tips on landing your dream position.

If you have an entrepreneurial streak, summer could be a great time to start your own business. No, you don't have to be Mark Zuckerberg to run your own company. Today, many teens are starting businesses.

Not sure about working just yet? Volunteer work is a great way to dip your toes in to a career, while still leaving enough free time to really dip in to the sand and surf. If you choose an interesting volunteer position, you can also gain valuable job skills.

If you're considering a summer job, remember that there are laws about the minimum working age. There are also rules about working hours, wages and the types of jobs young workers can do.

The laws vary from state to state. It's best to check out what restrictions apply to you.


April 24, 2017

Aiming High in Life

Many students send me messages like this:

Dear Faith:

I want to be famous! What should I do?


Ima Starr

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:
U.S. senator
CEO of a successful company
President of a top university
Celebrity assistant

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 individual thing.

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 unlimited!

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 women.

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!

March 20, 2017
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 move.

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 itself.

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 connections.

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 therapeutic.


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March 4, 2017
Pi Day

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 much space!)

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 day.

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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January 25, 2017
Easy Careers

"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 answer.

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 trends!

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 singers, musicians, recording engineers and even music critics!

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 the 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 Buzz.

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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December 17, 2016
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 question it.

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 favorite 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 don't.

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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October 10, 2016
The Lessons of Failure

I read about an interesting museum the other day: the "unofficial" name is The Museum of Failed Products. And it's exactly what it sounds like: a warehouse filled with products that seemed like good ideas at the time, but that didn't exactly fly off the shelf when they went to market. One of my favorite examples is a cucumber-flavored cola drink.

An innovative research company has collected 12,000 of these products - and they charge a hefty fee for people to see them! Product designers and market researchers can tour the facility to learn lessons in what makes some products sell while others don't move at all. There are a lot of lessons on those shelves! Starting your own business always involves a bit of risk. Sometimes, those risks pay off, and sometimes they don't. It's all part of being an inventor and an entrepreneur.

We tend to think of failed products as personal or professional disgraces, but we can learn a lot from things that don't work out as planned. After all, "the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." Henry Ford said that -- and he ended up with some impressive successes.

There are some lessons in here for anyone whose grades have ever fallen short of their goals. A lot of students e-mail me concerned that their grades aren't going to be good enough for their career plans. For many of them, this is a real concern. They don't want to fail at realizing their dreams.

According to behavioral analysts, knowing you need to make a change is always the best first step. Let your teachers or your school counselor know you have goals for your future and you want to improve your marks. They can help you put together a plan.

There isn't a set formula for succeeding in high school. It takes some effort to find the formula that works for you. A bit of soul-searching will also be important. What's holding you back from doing your best? Are you getting enough sleep? Paying attention in class? Keeping up with homework? Asking yourself these questions and answering honestly can help you sort out your next steps.

But what if you just can't get the marks you need for your dream career? Medical school is a good example. Many students write to me worried that they won't get into medical school with below-average marks. While every student is different, in general, you'll need strong marks to become a doctor. But that doesn't mean you have to forget about a medical career.

The career clusters provide a good framework for looking at careers that share similar characteristics. For example, a student may decide medical school just isn't for them, and that's a perfectly valid decision. But they might like many of the other careers in the Health Sciences cluster.

When you're not doing well at something, it's hard to think of the positive side. But consider the words of another successful entrepreneur, Bill Gates: "It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."

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September 21, 2016
Fear Phobias and Careers

I came across a great word the other day: phobophobia. Do you have any guesses about its meaning?

You probably recognize the last part: phobia. A phobia is an intense, often disabling fear of a specific thing. I have written about my own arachnophobia before -- that's a fear of spiders.

Almost everyone is afraid of something. Some common fears include fear of speaking in public (glossophobia), fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) and fear of flying (aviophobia).

There are many strategies to cope with fears. Take fear of speaking in public as an example -- I am not crazy about it myself, but I have learned some ways to become an effective speaker.

Fears can interfere with a person's life. Many students write to me wondering how their fears could affect their career plans. Some are afraid their fears will hold them back from succeeding at their chosen career. One student wants to be a pediatrician, but is worried about a fear of blood. Another wants to be a singer, but is afraid of performing.

Does that mean they should put their plans on hold? It's an individual thing, of course, but I believe that doing a little research can help. Each student could talk to someone in their chosen career to find out about strategies for dealing with their fears. If they have really intense fears, talking to a counsellor or a physician is a good idea.

Other students have a different fear. They're afraid of committing to a specific career path. That's an understandable fear. After all, it's a big decision! Here is another instance when a little research can be a good prescription. The more you know about a career, the less scary it will seem. If you're afraid to choose a career because you're not sure you will make the right decision, do some research! Talk to other people, read our articles, consult with your school counsellor. You don't want fear to hold you back.

So what is phobophobia ? It makes sense if you think about it: fear of phobias!

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September 12, 2016
Becoming a Professional Athlete: Playing the Odds

Do you know your odds of winning the lottery? What about being hit by lightning? The National Weather Service says your odds of a lightning strike are one in 700,000 in a given year.

What about your odds of becoming a professional athlete? I know my odds -- let's just say I'm far more likely to be struck by lightning. I like sports, but I know I'm not exactly a natural athlete.

But what about a student who is a natural athlete? For example, if someone loves tennis, works hard and is the star of their league, what are their odds of becoming the next Serena Williams?

Actual statistics on the odds of a career in pro sports vary a bit - the National Collegiate Athletic Association has published some stats here. But the truth is that statistics don't necessarily tell you the full story. (And if we actually paid attention to statistics and probability, nobody would buy a lottery ticket.)

Many students write to me asking about their chances of succeeding in professional sports. Unfortunately, I can't predict their success over e-mail. Even if they included a streaming video of a winning touchdown, I wouldn't be able to calculate the odds.

If you're wondering if you have a future career in professional sports, your best bet is to have a heart-to-heart talk with your coach. They'll know more about your playing ability. They'll also be able to talk to you about those intangible qualities that separate sports stars from weekend warriors, like your ability to stay focused and make the necessary sacrifices.

If you do plan a career in pro sports, keep in mind that the average retirement age in many sports is pretty young. (It might not seem young now, but it's actually a small percentage of your working life.) And many careers are cut short by injuries. You'll want to do some career planning to look at life beyond the gym or playing field.

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September 5, 2016

"What keeps me going is goals." -- Muhammad Ali

Do you have goals? Many people have some things they'd like to accomplish, whether it's a career goal or a personal goal. Others prefer to deal with things as they come up, without having any clear plans. Personally, I like to think that having goals is what makes things happen in our lives. Knowing how to set goals is the first step to taking action to be successful (no matter what your idea of success looks like).

That's why we've added a new goal-setting activity: My Goals and Action Plans. You can find it in Your Portfolio. Just click on the Your Portfolio tab, then Your Profile, then the Looking Ahead link. You'll see the My Goals and Action Plans activity - a clearcut way to set some goals and reach them!

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August 29, 2016
Career Olympics

I had a great summer! I didn't travel too much, but I conquered some home repair projects I had put off for too long. It felt good to get them out of the way!

When I wasn't trying to build things, I was watching the Olympics. I don't know about you, but I love the Olympics. I enjoy living vicariously through the athletes, imagining what my life would be like if I possessed supernatural strength or lightening speed. Trust me, I don't have either of those in real life -- although I'm now pretty good with a power drill after my renovations.

Not everyone involved in the Olympics is a world-class athlete. You'll also find world-class cooks, event planners and sportscasters in the Olympic village, for example.

Each team works with a comprehensive support system: sports doctors, dieticians and even sports psychologists.

In other words, it's possible to go to the Olympics even if you're uncoordinated. There are plenty of opportunities for the clumsy!

That goes for professional sports too. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes careers in the sports world. Professional sports are a massive business, after all, and someone has to keep that business running. For example, if you love sports but your skills are more mathlete than athlete, remember that balancing all those big sports salaries requires accounting knowledge.

I hold out hope that sandpapering and painting walls will one day become Olympic events and I'll have my chance at the podium. But in the meantime, there are lots of ways to get involved.

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August 22, 2016
All You Need to Go Back to School

Welcome back! I hope you had an excellent summer. Are you ready for another school year?

The start of school always seems like a new year to me. New classes, new activities, hopefully some new clothes...and new school supplies!

I loved shopping for school supplies when I was a student. I was always convinced that new supplies were the secret weapon in my battle for academic success. A hot pink ruler would help me conquer math, a purple pen with a fuzzy koala on top would lead to excellent essays, and all that separated me from PE stardom was the right pair of athletic shoes -- also hot pink, of course.

We all know that the key to academic excellence isn't found in your locker, or the back-to-school section of the mall. Personally, I think doing well in school is all about time: managing your time wisely, making the most of your time in class, and having a sense of your goals over time. Learning to balance school with the rest of your life is an important part of success.

Having goals for your future studies can help you stay on track. Try finding some time this week to make a list of your goals for the year: What do you hope to learn? What will be different from last year? How will your studies this year help you towards your eventual career?

Want to learn more about connecting your time in school to your career goals? Check out the high school planning section. Each pathway in this section contains a suggested course plan to help you prepare for the careers connected to that pathway.

Knowing the direction your studies are heading can be a more powerful force for a good school year than a new pack of fluorescent highlighter pens. (I think I'll head out shopping this weekend anyways, though! I still can't resist those new school supplies.)

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