March 19, 2018
Technology and Careers
It's easy to take technology for granted.
Sometimes the only time we really think about "technology" is when
it doesn't work, like when the Internet is down.
However, technology has completely changed the
way we live our lives. It has never been easier to find your way
around a city (using GPS) or connect with someone on the other side
of the world!
Today, we can even stream movies 30,000 feet off
the ground while hurtling through the air in a plane.
Just a few years ago, these feats would have
seemed impossible. Now they're available to us with the touch of a
finger! It's amazing, really, when you think about it.
Technology has also introduced many new careers
into the marketplace -- careers that simply didn't exist a
generation ago. Take all the Internet-related careers, for
instance. The Internet only became available to the public in the
1990s. That means that
online producers and careers in
telemedicine didn't exist before that.
Advances in technology have introduced new
scientific careers and made sweeping changes. For instance, the
DNA analysts has completely changed crime scene
At the same time, new technologies have paved
the way for alternative energy. This has led to "green" careers
alternative energy researchers,
fuel cell engineers, and
But technology hasn't been kind to all
Print shops and traditional
animators, for instance, have been hurt by changes in
Researching your career interests, including the
labor market information, is one way to stay ahead of the game.
With all the advances in so many fields, it's an exciting time to
be choosing a career!
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March 5, 2018
Salaries and Majors
This week, I was reading an article on a survey
conducted by National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
The survey looked at the college majors (for bachelor's degrees)
whose grads have the highest salaries in their first jobs.
There's no question: college is a big
investment. If you decide to go to college, you probably want to
make sure you eventually get some return on that investment. There
are many ways to consider the value of a college degree: the joy of
learning, the fun of the college experience, the discovery of new
ideas. Those are all worthwhile things -- but you probably want to
make some money at the end, too.
According to the survey, engineers are in luck.
The top three highest starting salaries were all from engineering
computer engineering and
Engineers might read that last paragraph and
argue with my use of the word "luck." And they would be right -- it
takes a lot of work to become a computer engineer! That's why we
also have to consider other options besides salary when choosing a
If you choose a major solely because of its
predicted salary, you might not have enough interest to really
succeed. And since salary is often based on performance, you might
end up making less than if you choose a job with a lower average
Let's consider some examples. The Salary and
Outlook section of each career information article contains the
annual average salary across the country. Check out the salary for
But what about Debbi Fields? She's the woman who
started the Mrs. Fields cookie empire. She turned baking into a
$500-million-a-year business. That's a lot more than the average
salary for bakers! She is an extreme example of how success can be
driven by your ideas and ambition
So how important are salary statistics? That's
ultimately a question only you can answer. If you're not sure
yourself, you might want to imagine your life in 20 years. Will you
only be happy if you own a lot of big-ticket items and expensive
cars? Or do your dreams focus on other things? Where do you plan to
live? Some cities are more expensive than others. What about
Before you choose a major, it might also help to
talk to people working in the field, since salaries will vary with
things like region, specialization and experience. Talking to
someone in your area will give you more ideas on what to expect
once you enter the working world. If you have salary questions,
talking to an expert can be invaluable.
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February 12, 2018
Imagine you and a friend are arguing about what
kind of pizza to order. You want the meat-lover's special, and your
friend wants to go vegetarian. You can't agree, so you decide to
flip a coin.
Is that a fair way to settle a dispute? After
all, you both have a 50-50 chance of winning. You could also draw
straws or play the classic game Rock, Paper, Scissors. Better
still, you could ask the pizza place to put veggies on one half and
meat on the other.
Choosing between two things can be tough -- and
it seems many of you are trying to choose between two careers. Some
readers ask about taking the double-sided pizza approach: they
wonder if they can work at two jobs at the same time.
It's hard to give one answer here. A lot will
depend on the careers. To start with, you want to look at the time
demands for both, the typical working hours and the required
training -- you can find these in the What They Do section of each
career article. You'll also want to consider your own
time-management skills and willingness to work hard.
Here's a good example.
surgeons often work long hours. Each career requires extensive
training and many years of study after high school. From those
simple facts, we can assume that it would be extremely difficult to
work as both a lawyer and a physician. I'm not saying it would
necessarily be impossible, but you'd have to do a lot of research
on how to make it work.
On the other side of the coin, working at two
careers is a popular choice for those pursuing creative careers
that are hard to break into. For example, many aspiring
singers work on their singing by performing in the evenings.
But when you're just starting out, singing doesn't always pay
enough to take care of your bills. That's why some singers work at
other jobs during the day. If you watch American Idol, you'll
notice that many of the contestants have other careers.
Sometimes it's possible to find related jobs to
support your artistic dreams. I have a friend who wants to be a
novelist, but is having trouble finishing his novel. He writes
every night and teaches writing during the day. That way, he's
still working in the writing world, but he's able to pay his
If you're thinking of having two careers, you'll
need to do a little research, perhaps starting with the career
orifiles in Career Planning. You should also arrange an
informational interview with people in the field to find out
how realistic the dual-career plan is.
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January 8, 2018
New Year, New You
"A New Year's resolution is something that goes
in one year and out the other."
That sounds familiar -- to me, at least. In the
past, I've filled an entire piece of paper with ambitious plans,
only to toss it in the recycling bin a predictable two weeks later.
Apparently, that's typical: I have read that the average resolution
lasts just two weeks.
Experts say that making small goals and breaking
them into achievable steps can increase your odds of success.
Instead of resolving to "get straight As," you might have more luck
by vowing to "study for an extra 30 minutes every night." Doesn't
"sign up for recreational soccer" sound more doable than "get in
the best shape of my life?" It helps to make your plans concrete so
they don't seem quite so overwhelming.
Self-improvement coaches help people define their goals -- and
follow through with them. This is a new career, but one that's
really taking off. It seems a lot of us need help when we want to
A survey found that the most popular resolution
is to spend more time with family and friends. This is one of those
resolutions that will vary from person to person. Like other
resolutions, it might help to make it a bit more specific: "Play
games with my family every Sunday night" or "Eat lunch with my
friends at school."
Running a close second in the resolutions race
is fitting in fitness. Anyone who's gone to a gym in January knows
this is a popular time for people to return to working out.
Unfortunately, many people start out by doing too much right after
the indulgent holiday season.
Personal trainers can help put together a workable fitness
Another popular resolution is to get more
Professional organizers help people get their stuff in order.
Obviously, you have to be pretty organized yourself to help others
with their organization. Anyone who's seen my desk knows that this
may not be the job for me, but perhaps next year I should resolve
to hire one.
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November 27, 2017
Predicting the Odds
Many students write to me asking about their
odds of success in a particular career. While I would love to give
them a firm answer ("Your odds of becoming a podiatrist are 3 to
4"), two things stop me from doing this.
To start with, I can't predict the future. If I
could, I would buy more lottery tickets and put more money into the
More importantly, so many factors contribute to
your success in any given career that it's impossible to come up
with a formula to predict success. History is full of these
surprises -- people who beat the odds and rose to success, often to
the shock of their teachers. One of Walt Disney's first bosses told
him that he "lacked imagination." That boss probably wouldn't have
predicted that Walt would go on to create an entire kingdom from
So how do you know if you'll succeed at a
certain career? Taking some time to
plot your career path is the most important thing. Knowing the
educational requirements, important skills and other things you'll
need will help you boost the odds.
Informational interviews are a great way to get insiders' tips
for succeeding. They'll have the sort of knowledge that you may not
learn in a classroom, the tried-and-true techniques to find
success. It's like knowing the
blackjack dealer. You'll have a big advantage over the
So, what are your odds of succeeding in any
career? Unlike gambling, you can control those odds. Ultimately,
only you can know your own odds of success!
November 13, 2017
How College is Different from High
You've seen movies about college, you've heard
stories from friends and relatives. But you're still nervous - can
you handle college? How will it be different from high school?
Relax. The good news is that many people love college because of
the increased freedom and ability to focus on the courses that
interest them. But there are some things to keep in mind. College
life is not like high school life. How soon you adjust depends on
how prepared you are.
Many students write me to ask how college is
different from high school. It's hard to give one answer, since
everyone a different experience in college. But there are some key
things to keep in mind.
For many students, college is their first real
taste of freedom. But the lack of outside guidance can lead to
problems. Your teachers won't be monitoring you as much, which
sounds like a good thing, doesn't it? But it also means fewer
reminders about finishing your assignments. You have to keep track
of your own work.
You'll need to learn to manage your time. You
might only be in class for 15 hours a week - that also sounds
great, right? But you need to account for homework and study time
on top of that.
Another major difference between high school and
college is how the courses are set up. In high school, classes are
fairly small and generally meet every day. College courses might
have 100 students and meet two or three times a week, or even once
College courses can also have both a lecture and
a lab component. High school teachers and college professors also
have very different approaches to teaching. A university teacher
might have hundreds of students, so they may not take the time to
make sure you're not falling behind!
One thing to remember is that it will be tough
at first. But when you finish high school, you will have learned
the skills you need to succeed in college. By starting to focus on
time management and responsibility now, you will ease the
transition to college life and set yourself up for greater success
in years to come.
November 1, 2017
I had an e-mail from a student the other day. He
had just reviewed his Career Finder results. One of his suggested
careers looked like it was worth researching further. It matched
his interests and skills, the job outlook was stable, the education
within his reach, and the pay was decent. The problem? He was
worried that it would be boring.
We all have different ideas of what's boring.
Take movies for example: one film critic's snoozefest might be
another's Oscar contender. And there are some sports I find boring
(I'm not going to say which ones!), but my friends find them
In other words, I can't predict whether or not
this student would be bored with a certain career. However, he
could get a sneak peek by participating in a job shadow or
informational interview to find out more.
When you're researching careers and wondering
about boredom, you want to look at the work you'd be doing to see
if you find it interesting. But you also might want to do a little
soul-searching. Are you the kind of person who likes a lot of
variety and change? Or, do you look for stability and find that too
much change makes you nervous?
Some careers throw workers into new situations
every day. Take paramedics, for example. When they wake up in the
morning, they don't know what the day holds. That can be the
ideal way to defeat boredom for some people. Personally, I want to
crawl back under the covers unless I have a concrete schedule for
"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There
is no cure for curiosity."
The writer Dorothy Parker said that, and I think
it's a good lesson on boredom. Learning new things keeps us from
I've found this in my own life. A couple of
years ago, for example, I was finding myself growing a bit bored
with some of my hobbies. I still liked what I did in my spare
time, but every weekend was starting to seem the same. So I took up
karate! It's completely different from anything I've done before,
and kicked any boredom right out of my life.
Learning a new hobby can be a great way to get
out of a rut, if you're feeling like you want to try something new.
Step out of your comfort zone and try something completely
Parker's advice can also apply to careers. In
any career, opportunities to learn new things can keep a job from
becoming boring. If you're genuinely curious about a career and
strive to learn more about it all the time, odds are you won't be
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October 16, 2017
Avoiding Exam Anxiety
Do you get nervous before an exam? Based on the
number of students who e-mail me with questions about exam anxiety,
you're not alone if you do. I would guess that almost every student
gets nervous at some time when they're facing an exam. In fact,
studies show that between 25 and 40 percent of students experience
some chronic test anxiety.
Being nervous isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Those nerves can inspire you to study and even motivate you to
focus during the test. However, anxiety might be lowering your
scores if you consistently find your exam marks are lower than you
expect. Talk to a teacher if you are wondering if this is a problem
There are many proven techniques for
conquering test anxiety. I always find that I feel more
confident if I know I've studied effectively. (For some proven
study tips, check out our article
Successful Study Techniques.)
We've also gathered some tips to help you face
exams: check out our list of
top test-taking tips. You might also want to do a bit of
soul-searching to figure out what is holding you back. I like to
start with the basics: Are you getting enough sleep before an exam?
Are you taking a test when you are hungry? Those things might seem
minor, but they can make a big difference.
If you always feel as though you're capable of
doing well on tests, but find you fall short of your goals, try
taking a look at your studying and test-taking routines. Need more
inspiration? Consider these words from Albert Einstein: "It's not
that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." In
other words, don't let any bad test scores from the past discourage
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