Scary Times

How perfect to end the month’s theme of Timelines on Halloween with a topic of Scary Times.  But if you are a senior in high school or a senior in college you are facing scary times.  There is enough uncertainty in the world to create plenty of anxiety in those who are in pivotal transition points in their lives.

Actually, anyone who is trying to make decisions about college and career direction is facing scary times.  But you can reduce the stress by arming yourself with tools that enhance your decision making and place yourself in better positions for opportunities.

In a time when information is key to success, resources can be your most important tools.  Here are some key resources for you to pay attention to regularly:

1. Athletes in any sport – www.collegesportstrack.com – a terrific resource for understanding the college sports recruiting experience and communicating with coaches to secure your opportunity.  Hans writes a great blog with specific how-to information.  Bookmark it!

2. College Bound Students and Parents – www.sat.org – a must for registering for the SAT, pacing your self with a prep program and usually the first indicator of college cost increases.  An underused resource.  Bookmark it!

3. Anyone thinking about career opportunities – www.bls.gov – a wonderful resource for looking at trends of jobs, sectors of employment and demographic availability of employment.  Another underused resource.  Bookmark it!

Scary times can be made less frightening when you arm yourself with effective tools.  Knowing your options, how to manage them and knowing more about yourself enables you to make more effective decisions and capitalize on opportunities.  Need a great resource to learn more about you, choosing a college, college major or your career direction?  Contact me.

Careers, Trends and Timelines

I started the month by talking about the importance of students paying attention while they are in middle school and high school to the occupations that currently exist. Family discussions might initiate from careers in the news or people around you in daily life that spark an interest with the student.  I also talk frequently about the importance of career exploration, career shadow experiences and internships.

This week, I want you to take action!  Click here to follow the link to the Bureau of Labor Statistics interactive website for students and career exploration.  You’ll find information that is organized by subject areas associated with school curriculum as well as descriptions of career paths, occupational outlooks through 2018 and careers related to those you originally selected but perhaps hadn’t given consideration.  It’s a great tool and one I hope you will bookmark!

Remember, it is never too early to start exploring.  The more you do, the better equipped you will be to make decisions about your own career path and create an opportunity for increased satisfaction and success.

 

Informed Decisions for Future Success

Have you ever noticed how much time, focused energy, and money goes in to preparing to take the SAT, ACT or a re-test to get a better score?  So much of it is driven by the desire to have qualifying scores for a specific university or college of choice.  Imagine the hours invested in AP or IB courses for the purpose of positioning one’s self for that perfect college.  In making the selection to take a prep course for these tests, students and parents use their network of other students and parents to get recommendations for individual tutors or organizations.  They will spend countless hours to go on-line and search options.  So much effort and resource is spent on this one piece of preparing for college and the bigger picture of a career direction becomes a second priority or maybe third or fourth.

With the national average being six years to get a four year degree, the indicators point to students not being prepared to make a decision about their career direction and therefore the result is greater use of personal resources or student loans and lost earning potential.  That’s not to say that students can’t change their mind about a career major once they are in college, but they can make informed decisions that use both their time and their resources wisely and reduce the potential of increased time to get a bachelors degree and increase the likelihood that they will be happy with their career choice.

Making informed decisions means collecting the best possible information in multiple directions.  In order to do that with a career decision, the information needs to include personal interests, an assessment of values, an inventory of skills and a quantified measure of natural abilities.  If there are influencing factors like family legacies or expectations, those need to be addressed as well.

Adults in the workforce or preparing to return to work should also pay attention to these factors.  Making decisions about career changes whether it is a promotion opportunity or a totally new direction should be carefully and strategically structured.  Too often adults stay in a career field they discover to be less than satisfying and not rewarding financially or personally.  Yet they are paralyzed to make a move and often due to lack of information.  According to an Unknown Author, “Indecision becomes decision with time.”

Don’t be paralyzed by indecision.  Collect the information, assess your situation and goals, and if you need assistance, send me an email.  I can get you going in the right direction!

What is It Worth?

When I write each week, my goal is to bring you thought provoking information, calls to action or information on tools that can help you make informed decisions about your major area of study or career direction.  Last week we talked about choosing marketable majors and the week before was about spending your education dollars wisely.  I’ve provided websites and insight to watching trends for careers.   Asking the question, “Is my degree marketable?” is effective, but you also have to know where to begin to find the answers.  That’s where watching trends becomes effective in knowing, What is It Worth?

In the Winter 2011 edition of Kaplan Newsweek, there is a great article that lists the “Top 10 Undergraduate Careers by Salary.” Here they are:

Rank                                        Median Starting Salary         Midcareer Median Salary

  1. Engineering                           $61,000                                             $105,000
  2. Economics                                50,200                                                101,000
  3. Physics                                       51,000                                                  98,800
  4. Computer science                 56,400                                                   97,400
  5. Statistics/Math                      48,600                                                   94,500
  6. Biochemistry                          41,700                                                   94,200
  7. Construction Manag.           53,400                                                   89,600
  8. Finance                                      48,500                                                   89,400
  9. Information Sys.                    51,900                                                   87,200
  10. Geology                                      45,100                                                   84,200

The important factor to remember when reading articles like this one is to pay attention to the source.  Where is the data coming from and are there any qualifying circumstances?  In this case, there are, click here to read the brief but beneficial article.

Is That Degree Marketable?

Making a decision about career direction is one of life’s bigger game plans.  After all, it is the way in which you will spend at least 8 out of 24 hours for 30 years and in some cases much more.  Some career paths won’t be defined by traditional work hours and will shift directions in the course of a lifetime.  How will your values influence your choice of a career path?  How will your earning potential influence that choice?

In making a decision about a college major or a return to school for job changers, it is important to consider your skills, interests, natural abilities, your passion and values, and is there a market for what you see yourself doing in the future?  Paying attention to the trends can be a valuable tool in determining if that degree is going to be marketable.

There are great tools to help research the trends of career markets.  One is career articles on careerbuilder.com.  In a recent posting they addressed the issue of marketable careers, college majors and projections of job markets to 2018.  Click here for the entire article.  Another is the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/oco/.   This is a great website for watching the trends of careers from six months to ten years in the future.  When sites like these post their forecasts, they are depending on data to make the predictions.  That data comes from experts in the field watching and collecting information from the national census, job growth or losses, geographic influences and a host of other data sources.

Recently, I have had a number of families ask, “Is it really a good idea to become a teacher if the market is so difficult and so many teachers are being laid off?”  Without even beginning to talk about the student’s ability to be an effective teacher, my response was strictly about the trends.  This was essentially my response…”Over 30 years I have experienced the pendulum swing from shortages of teachers to laid off teachers.  When the economy of the country gets challenging and education budgets get cut, jobs are in jeopardy.  But the pendulum will swing the other direction and jobs will increase.  In addition, within education are the specialty areas in which there seems to always be a need…math, science and exceptional student education.”  The bottom line is this, for a student entering college today; the job market today is difficult.  But the market of opportunity four years from now will look quite different.  By paying attention to the trends, you can begin to get a sense of where the greatest opportunities will exist both in a career field and geographically.

When you choose a college major, consider your interests, passions, abilities, values and ask yourself:

  • Is that degree marketable?
  • What are the career directions I can go in to use that base of knowledge?
  • What are the trends for that career in one year and five years?
  • What internship opportunities will be available for me to “test the waters” during my college experience?

Affirmations of Getting It Right

I love my work!

Can you say the same thing?

I have loved my work for over 30 years!

Can you say the same thing?

An article came across my computer recently and just lit up my day.  It was yet another affirmation for the work I do and love.  How wonderful that a major entity writes about the relevance of choosing majors wisely when my blog addressed it just a few weeks ago.  Is this a case of the chicken and the egg?

Life’s transitions affect us all.  Whether we are high school students transitioning to college, college students transitioning to the workforce, or already working and questioning our direction, the process remains the same.  Creating a plan for a career that will lead down a road of satisfaction, fulfillment and reward is not easy.  But it is do-able.

This article reiterates the importance of understanding yourself, the trends and making good decisions.  I love it!  I hope you will to.  Read it here and tell me what you think.

Paying Attention to the Trends

Throughout history there have been individuals who proved they have a great sense of vision.  Not the 20/20 vision, but the kind that requires an ability to foresee what the future may look like in a particular frame of reference.  People who are visionaries in given fields have contributed significantly in the development of businesses and organizations in our country.

Peter Drucker was a business management visionary.  He was able to see the possibilities of individuals and organizations and lead them to greatness.  In his final book, Managing in the Next Society, he spoke about the factors that would be important in the “Information Age” as individuals considered career options.   One of those factors….look forward 50 years and imagine how your career will change.

Most of us do not possess a crystal ball nor have the capability to foresee the future.  But we do have the ability to access resources.  A great resource for keeping current on job trends is the website for the United Stated Department of Labor Statistics, http://bls.gov/home.htm.  This site provides information on the outlook of jobs and what the trends look like quarterly as well as long term.  This kind of information can assist in the process of “looking forward 50 years.”  While it shouldn’t be the only data used in decision-making about a career, it is an important factor to consider and worthy of spending some time checking out the website.

Six Considerations in Choosing a College Major

1 – Family Influence – Throughout our lives, parents and family members influence our considerations for college, advanced degrees and career outcomes.  Their involvement and discussions may or may not support specific areas of study the student finds of interest.  The work done by parents or extended family members may set an expectation for the college student and therefore the selection of a college major is predetermined by family dynamics.   Knowing where family influence comes from can support an open range of major areas of study or it can create an expectation that may or may not fit.

2 – Media Impact – Television programs like CSI, Law and Order, or The Closer have created increased demand for degrees in Criminal Justice.  However, enjoying a television program doesn’t make it a good career fit.  Understanding the requirements of the courses and the potential career opportunities that are related to these courses can help in determining a good fit and major area of study.

3 – Values – Knowing yourself and what you value is an important factor in choosing a major area of study.  Whether it is time management, making a difference for others, religion, recognition, physical challenges or spending time with family or friends, these and many others are key factors in considering career directions and major areas of study.

4 – Interests – Interest surveys are great tools for beginning a process of determining career direction and major areas of study.  Because interests can change due to our experiences, it is good to take them periodically.  While interests may shift, you may also find a trend develops with one or two.

5 – Natural Abilities – Natural Abilities are the way in which we are hardwired.  Like our fingerprints, they are part of who we are and they do not change.  They appear as the things we do naturally and easily.  They impact the way we learn, interact with others, the environment we feel most comfortable at work.  Natural abilities are driving forces within each of us and can be capitalized on for maximum performance and satisfaction or we can work against them and question why we are not as happy in our chosen careers.

6 – Goals – Having clearly defined goals can help in choosing college majors.  Do your goals require 4 years or 8 years of school?  Do you have a financial plan to support those goals?  Will the outcome of your major area of study provide career opportunities based on labor trends, where you choose to live and your social or cultural expectations?  Clearly defined goals along with a financial plan will assist in meeting the challenges of completing an “on time” degree as well as reduce potential costs associated with changing majors and prolonged graduation dates.