May 13, 2019
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
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
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 counselor or a physician is a good
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 counselor. 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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April 29, 2019
Committing to a College
It's crunch time for many high school seniors.
This is the week they must decide which college to attend. I get
many questions about which is the "best" college. Before we get to
that, here's a quick quiz:
1) What is the best flavor of ice cream?
2) What is the best topping on a pizza?
3) What is the best book ever written?
And here's the bonus question: What are the odds
your entire class gave the same answer?
If you said that the odds are pretty low, you're
probably right. Take the first question, for example: I read that
the most popular flavor of ice cream is vanilla, with 29 percent of
ice cream lovers choosing it. That means 71 percent of people
prefer other flavors.
Saying something is the "best" can be tricky.
The best college for one person might not be a very good choice for
another. It's a very personal thing. Take the size of the school,
as an example. Some students thrive in small colleges; others want
to experience larger campuses.
If you're trying to decide which college offer
to accept, you may want to look at our article on
selecting a college or university. There are lots of factors to
consider. But in the end, the "best" choice is the one that works
best for you.
Each student's preferences are different, but
the key is to know the factors most important for you, such as
camps size, financial-aid or career development as you examine your
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April 22, 2019
Put Your Skills to Work for the Earth
A quote in our article
Alternative Energy Researcher caught my eye the other day:
"If you are thinking, 'I will never use this,'
during Grade 12 math, I can't tell you how many times I had to go
back to a textbook to remind me how to solve a problem," says Craig
Dunn. He is the president of a geological consulting firm. "Do your
math homework, it may help us save the world!"
Does that seem like an exaggeration to you?
Doesn't saving the world involve things like remembering to
The truth is that skills like math are an
important part of helping our planet. As more workers become aware
of their impact on the environment, we have to find new ways of
doing things. And that means using
math -- and
Math is a broad field. The skills you learn can
form the basis for a future in
ecological engineering or
waste reduction. Check out the Real-Life Math exercises in
these articles to see how eco-friendly workers are using their math
If your skills are more about reading and
writing than 'rithmatic, you can still put your talents to use.
political lobbying and even
journalism are just some of the fields in which you can use
your powers of persuasion to help the Earth. Those researchers need
to let the public know about their discoveries.
Artists are also using their skills to bring attention to the
Earth. Many are using recycled materials and environmental themes
in their work.
Fashion designers are also looking good in green these
So, if you think that sitting in a classroom
isn't really helping us reach the goals of Earth
Day, remember that you're acquiring tools that can help you
save the planet!
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April 1, 2019
April is Poetry Month
Do you have a favorite poem? If you do, write it
out and put it in your pocket for April 18. That's Poem in Your
Pocket Day. It's all part of National Poetry Month in April.
Celebrate by sharing your favorite poem with others!
Not sure if you have a favorite poem? 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
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
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
high schools or
colleges. Others use their flare for words in creative
writing greeting cards.
Even if you're not sure you want anyone to read
your poetry, writing a poem can be satisfying and even therapeutic.
Why not celebrate Poetry Month by writing about what's going on in
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March 18, 2019
Scholarships: Free Money?
Are you handy with duct tape? Planning a
post-secondary education? Wondering how you're going to pay for
If you answered "yes" to all three questions,
you might be interested to know that there are actually
scholarships that recognize students' duct-taping skills.
What's a scholarship? Governments, schools,
companies, social groups, and even individuals hand out millions of
dollars to deserving students for free through scholarships. That's
right -- free money. And some of it goes unclaimed.
Many people think you need a perfect academic
record to qualify for a scholarship. However, students who won't
qualify for an academic scholarship should investigate non-academic
scholarships. You may qualify for an athletic scholarship if you
are a great athlete with decent marks. Or you may be a talented
musician or writer. Or you may have shown a strong commitment to
You may also qualify for a non-academic
scholarship if you want to go into a certain profession, come from
a certain profession, win a competition, show severe financial
need, come from a certain part of the country - or have any number
of unique qualifications.
If you're interested in applying for
scholarships, you'll have to do some
research. You'll also want to keep an up-to-date record of all
your accomplishments and interests. A good starting point might be
taking an inventory of your
Be sure to talk with your school counselor if
you're researching the right scholarships for you. They might know
of scholarships that are a perfect fit. If you have a parent that
is or has been a member of the U.S. military, you might qualify for
a military scholarship or some other type of financial-aid
As with anything involving money, you'll want to
be a little cautious. There are scholarship scams out there. A good
rule of thumb is that you shouldn't have to pay money to get
Think about your skills and what makes you
unique. Invest some time in researching your scholarship options.
Develop a network, starting with your school counselor, to help you
research. The end result just might be some help paying for your
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March 4, 2019
Why would a
mathematician sit down to a big piece of apple pie on March 14
Math fans around the world have started a
tradition of eating pie on that date. The day was created to
celebrate the mathematical constant pi. The day falls on 3/14 since
three, one and four are the first three digits of 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. Enterprising
bakers take the opportunity to market -- you guessed it --
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.
Each career profile identifies the level of
math-related skills for the job. Check the Skills You Need
tab to know how math is used in the career. For some careers, like
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,
Not everyone likes math. But as you'll soon find
out, we draw on our math skills every day, often without even
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, apple, blueberry and/or cherry pie! If
you'd like to learn more, Pi Day is a good starting point.
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February 4, 2019
Easily Confused Careers
We have over 900 careers profiled in the Explore
Careers section, so it's not surprising that there is sometimes
a little confusion about which careers do what. Trust me -- it's
hard to keep them all straight! I've noticed there are a few
careers that cause more confusion than others. Sometimes the
spelling of one career is close to another. Other times, we can
blame the media for giving us the wrong idea. Here is a list of
some commonly confused careers to clear up any confusion.
Psychologist, Psychiatrist: This is a tricky
one. People in both careers treat mental health issues. But
psychiatrists are medical doctors with a medical degree. That
means they can prescribe medication. There are many different types
of psychologists since this is a broad field. In general,
psychologists study human behavior. Some diagnose problems and
emotional or mental disorders. Some may set up laboratory tests,
while others are involved in counseling. However, because they are
not medical doctors, they cannot prescribe medication.
Physiatrist: To further confuse us,
physiatrists are also medical doctors. They specialize in the
practice of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Personally, I
have to really look closely to distinguish between the words
psychiatrist and physiatrist but, as you can see, their specialties
are quite different.
Careers in Crime: If you watch a lot of crime
shows on TV, you might think the same good-looking person
investigates all aspects of a crime, from gathering evidence to
testing for DNA to interrogating witnesses. According to our
Track Down a Career in Forensic Science, there are actually
many different careers involved in investigating a crime. And most
crimes aren't solved within an hour!
Zookeeper, Zoologist: Again, these are similar
words, but different careers
Zookeepers., as you might expect, work in zoos. Their duties
may include feeding animals and cleaning up after them.
Zoologists could also work in zoos, but many do research. Their
work emphasizes the study of animals, and they might find work as a
director of a zoo or in a university. Many zoologists have
Radiologist, Radiologic Technologist: People in these two careers
both work with X-rays and other diagnostic equipment.
are the people who would work directly
with the patient getting the image.
are the doctors who analyze the results and make a
diagnosis. Obviously these two work together a lot, but there is a
big difference in the amount of education required: 13 to 15 years
to become a radiologist, and two to four years to work as a
Estheticians can do a lot of different things, so it's easy to
get confused about this career. Estheticians can also be called
cosmetologists. They can apply make-up, give facial and skin care
treatments and remove unwanted hair.
I hope I've cleared up a few things! If you have
other questions about careers you're not sure about, don't hesitate
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January 7, 2019
Thinking About Thinking
I was thinking about my brain the other day. (I
can't look at that sentence too much, or I get confused. Can a
brain really think about itself?)
Our brains are busy all day long, even when
we're just hanging out and staring into space. Think about it: just
reading this entry takes a coordinated effort from an army of
neurons, but it's something we usually take for granted. Our eyes
and our brains work together so smoothly that we're not really
aware of what's going on.
I heard a fascinating story that really made me
aware of how little we really know about this interaction. Don
Karkos is a veteran of the Second World War. In 1942, he was
blinded in one eye by a piece of shrapnel. In the following years,
many doctors looked at his eye, but nobody could cure it -- until
he was kicked in the head by a horse. The horse apparently kicked
Karkos in exactly the right spot to restore his sight. Now he can
Neuroscience, the science of studying the brain,
is a fascinating field. As Karkos' story demonstrates, there is a
lot left to discover. In some senses, the "final frontier" is
within us. That means there are a lot of career possibilities in
working with the brain. (Maybe that horse should be thinking about
a career in neuroscience....)
Neurologists treat problems of the brain, spinal cord and
nerves -- the central nervous system. As you might suspect, this is
a very complex field with a lot of responsibility. Since we're
always learning more about the brain, neurologists must update
their skills constantly. New advancements make this an exciting
Doctors who operate on the brain are called
neurosurgeons. Personally, I can't imagine the hand-eye
coordination that would require. (Of course, I have difficulty
hemming pants, so fixing someone's brain seems pretty
overwhelming.) In other words, you need a first-class brain to work
Some of the most interesting work on the way we
think doesn't involve the human brain at all.
Knowledge engineers create computer programs that are supposed
to think like human beings. This process involves something called
"fuzzy logic." Fuzzy logic does not refer to a really bad solution
to a murder mystery, but to the way that humans think. In contrast,
computers usually use "mathematical logic." Confused yet?
If you'd like to know more about how our eyes
work to take in the world, check out the field of ophthalmology.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who treat vision
After doing a little research on careers related
to the brain, I've started to develop a healthy respect for my own.
Sure, there are days when I wish it would do a better a job of
remembering where I parked my car, but it's served me well so far.
If you'd like to learn more about what makes your own brain tick,
check out some related careers!
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December 10, 2018
Culinary Careers and the Holidays
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
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
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
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
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
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 hope you have a safe, fun and delicious
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November 26, 2018
I'm a Word Nerd
There is a murder of crows outside my window as
I write this. Should I call a
crime scene technician? Or an animal
Actually, I would need an
ornithologist. A murder of crows is the way we refer to a group
of crows, just as we say a herd of elephants or a flock of birds.
The word "murder" is the collective noun we use to refer to a group
Some of my other favorite collective nouns
include a sleuth of bears, an ostentation of peacocks and a
mischief of mice (if you've ever had mice in your house, that one
will really seem appropriate).
I think learning new words is fascinating. For
one thing, building my vocabulary helps my Scrabble
game and makes it easier to complete crossword
puzzles ! But it's also great to look at language and how it
evolves and changes.
Lexicographers study new words. They're the people who decide
to add new words to a dictionary. Did you know the word "zoodle"
was recently added to the dictionary that I use? That addition was
the work of a lexicographer. They would also write the definition:
a long, thin strip of zucchini that resembles a string or narrow
ribbon of pasta.
Linguists also study language and how we use it. More high-tech
companies are calling on linguists' knowledge as we incorporate the
concepts of human speech into new technology. If you think
the rules of grammar are stodgy and outdated, just look at how
speech patterns can be incorporated into things like robotics.
Now... what goes inside a zoodle casserole?
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November 5, 2018
Staying Professional Online
What was the last crazy thing you did? What
about the most embarrassing thing you've done all year? Is there
photographic proof on Instagram? Would you show those photos to a
parent? What about a college admissions officer?
Do I sound paranoid? I prefer "realistic."
Believe it or not, more colleges are checking out students online
when they're making their admissions decisions. They're reviewing
social media, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - but don't
forget they can also access sites like Ask.fm. If it's on the
Internet, it's public. Admissions officers say they're seeing more
posts online that make them reconsider applicants. That's right:
what you put online can impact your chances of getting into
Does this mean the best approach is to stay off
social media altogether? Experts say there's no need to throw away
your phone. Teens socialize and have fun, and in today's world,
it's perfectly normal to document those experiences online. Just
Posting content that shows your interests
outside of school can show colleges and potential employers that
you're a well-rounded person. You want your online presence to be
something you can be proud of down the road.
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September 17, 2018
Did you know that September 21st is recognized
as the International Day of Peace? I didn't know about this day,
but I'm glad to learn it exists! The United Nations established
this day in 1981, and devoted it to "commemorating and
strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes peace
as "a state of tranquility; freedom from civil disturbance; harmony
in personal relations; a state of accord and agreement between
Everyone understands the importance of peace.
But we know that living in harmony takes effort. So, the
International Day of Peace is a good reason to explore careers
devoted to keeping things calm.
In the business world, peace-relations skills are used in
all areas of government, private industries and non-profit
It is a common practice for companies to hire a
mediator to resolve disputes about employment, business
contracts and other claims. Many public and private institutions
ombudsman whose duty is to investigate and resolve
complaints made by individuals. They play an important role in
helping an organization maintain the public's trust. Large
corporations might hire a
labor relations negotiator or an arbitrator
in an effort settle disagreements and avoid
In the community at-large,
police officers are often referred to as "peace
officers". Their duties are to maintain law and order. Often, the
mere presence of a police officer is enough to bring peace to an
Ever hear of a
justice of the peace? This is a type of judge who hears cases
that involve civic complaints, like small-claims court, or minor
criminal complaints and also performs marriages.
On a global level, there are thousands of
peacekeepers assigned to troubled areas around the world. They
navigate between conflict and peace to help countries and their
Are you interested in a peaceful career? If you
enroll in a peace and conflict studies program, you will learn the
art of tact, diplomacy and negotiation--crucial skills when
handling negotiations between people.
Here's to peace! Let's pursue it and appreciate
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September 3, 2018
Back to School Resolutions
I don't know about you, but I always loved the
start of school. At first, it was all about fashion and
socializing. Returning to school was a time for new clothes in
richer colors and cozier fabrics. It was the chance to reconnect
with friends and fill my social calendar with plans and
Then classes started. Shopping and mingling gave
way to studying, and before I knew it, I was a student again --
albeit a better dressed one.
Fortunately, I liked school and loved learning
things. However, it always took a while to figure what worked for
me when I was studying. Sometimes, I learned the hard way, like the
time a bad mark on a physics test taught me that studying while
watching Wonder Woman reruns wasn't the best idea.
Now is a great time to make some resolutions
about your own study habits. Try thinking back to last year to
figure out the areas in which you can improve.
Did you allow enough time for studying? If not,
you might want to have a good look at a typical week's schedule,
perhaps starting with your TV viewing. (I speak from
Were you able to concentrate on your work? If
focusing was a problem, think about your study environment -- are
there a lot of distractions? Get some tips on making the most of
your study time from our article
Successful Study Techniques.
Did you have trouble keeping up with your
schedule and were you often surprised by due dates? Learn to manage
your time with the article
Time Management 101.
Did you have a hard time figuring out "the
point" of an assignment or required text? It could be time to brush
up on your critical thinking skills. Find out what this means in
How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills.
Take it from me: a little thought now can go a
long way towards a successful academic year. Good luck!
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