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
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.
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!
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
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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March 4, 2017
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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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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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
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
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
Actual statistics on the odds of a career in pro sports vary a
bit - the National Collegiate Athletic Association has published
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
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
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
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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
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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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