Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Age-old occupation: communion bread baker

Many job titles lie hidden – waiting for people choosing a career to find or create them. I thought on Christmas Eve day, the communion bread baker would be a perfect example of a job title you won't find in any database. To be honest, I’d never thought about who makes this bread or how it’s made, but you can learn some interesting details in this NYT profile of a family business baking communion bread.

It just goes to show that you never stop learning about new types of work – and researching career choices is a lifelong project. You can never find all the interesting options because they are unlimited.

Whether you will be tasting communion bread this holiday season or simply spending time with friends, we wish you a safe and wonderful holiday season. Give yourself a well-deserved mental break from the “career project.” Your concerns about your future can wait for a few days.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Work/life balance – post recession career planning

For many in this recession, getting a job, much less a family friendly job, is the goal. But for those of you choosing a long-term career path, what does the current economy mean for your future flex-time schedule? Probably not much - time is on your side. While these positive benefits, seen by some executives as “frills,” may be cut back now, chances are they will return .

In her blog post, “Will Family Friendly Jobs Disappear?” NYT reporter Lisa Belkin describes some of the preliminary impacts of the recession on flex-time policies, on site child care, and nursing mom benefits. These types of family friendly benefits are mostly from large employers in the corporate world and some government agencies, not small businesses. See Working Woman Magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers. Of course if you’re self-employed, you can set your own rules; the only catch is you need to be self-sustaining.

If one of your primary career concerns is to have a family friendly workplace or flex-time for a favorite hobby, then you should include a strategy for achieving it in your decision-making. This recession won’t last forever.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowed in with the Muppet Show

Like many across the country, we’ve been snowed in here in the Pacific Northwest. You’d think I’d have lots of time to post to The Career Key’s blog – but my young son has had other ideas. Schools are closed so all of us, husband included are holed up at home. And my laptop is like a magnet for my son so having it open and working is impossible. Unless we’re watching The Muppet Show on the Disney website or YouTube….

This is one of my favorite Beaker skits for those Investigative personalities interested in a science career – The Banana Sharpener.

And for Realistic personalities interested in becoming a professional chef, The Swedish Chef Makes Donuts, is a great introduction.

This gives me an idea for a future post, how about matching Muppet personalities to careers? Dark times call for lighter measures… Stay warm!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Learn Something Colorful About Networking & the Corporate World

It’s hard to find someone who says something new about networking, but I found a new resource from which everyone can benefit. I just finished reading an excellent book by Pitney Bowes executive Keith R. Wyche called “Good Is Not Enough: and Other Unwritten Rules for Minority Professionals.

Intended for women as well as people of color (but useful for everyone), I found its suggestions unusually practical and useful, especially for Enterprising personalities interested in the corporate world. If you’re thinking about a career in business, you should read this book. It provides a lot of detail about how to succeed in that environment so you can decide whether that career option sounds right to you.

The book is not solely about networking, but includes tips on creating a career blueprint, goal setting, and specific suggestions for excelling in your current job. Mr. Wyche also discusses personality traits and how important it is for your career to match them. He gives an example of someone who switched jobs in a sales career from a supervisory to a non-supervisory position because he didn’t like and wasn’t good supervising people – and as a result ended up happier (and made more money). This person had the good fortune to have Mr. Wyche as a mentor, but also the smarts to sit down and think about his personality traits and what types of jobs matched them. In our words, “Know Yourself.”

I would also recommend this book to Caucasian men for a minority’s perspective on the corporate world in addition to the practical advice. If you haven't worked for, worked with or supervised someone of color - you will. Being able to work well with different types of people is one of the Foundation Skills (People Skills) described in our article Identify Your Skills. And knowing something about how people approach the world is part of learning that skill. I'm still learning...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Career Key Licensee, College Foundation of North Carolina, Highlighted in ASCA School Counselor Magazine

In “Career Exploration North Carolina Style,” 6th grade Waynesville Middle School counselor Annette Husson, Ed.D., highlights the online career center of an organization that licenses The Career Key, the College Foundation of North Carolina ( They also partner with another of our licensees, The article appears in this month’s issue of the American School Counselor Association magazine, School Counselor. CFNC is a nonprofit partnership between Pathways of North Carolina, College Foundation Inc., and the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.

Ms. Husson describes CFNC’s career center as “divided into four areas: Work, Learn, Life and My Portfolio. Student have an opportunity to take [The Career Key] that matches their interests with careers…”

After describing all of the career center’s benefits, Ms. Husson concludes, “[a]ll in all, this is one well-developed easy-to-use tool for educating North Carolina’s middle and high school students about career options.”

I also have a personal connection with CFNC, because they made it possible for me to attend Princeton University. In 1989, I graduated from the public school system in Raleigh, North Carolina and received financial aid and student loans sufficient to attend an Ivy League school (along with my parents’ help) – no mean feat. In the 10 years I spent paying off my loans, even after I needed a deferral once for unemployment, they were wonderful. I never felt bad about sending in my monthly check to them.

North Carolina students are very lucky to have such high quality educational resources, not just in career planning and financial aid options but also in its educators like Ms. Husson. I am proud to be a product of them.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dr. John L. Holland, 1919 – 2008

On November 27, 2008, one of our best known, influential and respected vocational psychologists, Dr. John L. Holland, died in Baltimore, Maryland. (photo courtesy of American Psychological Association) We are particularly sad to hear of Dr. Holland’s passing. The Career Key and The Self-Employment Key tests, as well as versions of The Career Key test adapted for use in different countries, are scientifically valid measures of the 6 personality types of Holland’s Theory of Career Choice. Dr. Holland's contributions have helped and will continue to help millions of people through our website, our licensees, as well as through other scientifically valid assessments based on his work.

In 2008, Dr. Holland received the Award of Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology from the American Psychological Association, “presented to a person … who has made distinguished theoretical or empirical advances leading to the understanding or amelioration of important practical problems.”

According to the November 2008 issue of the American Psychologist magazine, the award citation reads:
“For outstanding contributions to vocational psychology and personality. John L. Holland’s hexagonal theory of vocational interests and his research have shown the importance of vocational environment and vocational personality interactions. His research shows that personalities seek out and flourish in career environments they fit and that jobs and career environments are classifiable by the personalities that flourish in them.

Further, he was a pioneer in work on assessments of university environments and their influence on students and in the development of knowledge about nonacademic accomplishments. He also contributed significantly to research on originality and interpersonal competence. With wit, wisdom, and intellectual prowess, he has for five decades influenced and inspired students, colleagues, and practitioners of applied psychology.” [Emphasis added]
To read the complete citation and biography, please visit the NCDA website page here.

To truly realize the benefits of Holland's Theory and respect his work, it is important for people using career tests to choose ones that are scientifically valid measures. Unfortunately, most online career tests on the Internet are invalid and can harm you. If you are not sure whether a career test is valid, visit our website or please read this short article.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

4 Ways to Find Your Best Place to Work

Working with like-minded people, people with the same personality type or compatible types, leads to job satisfaction. I’m sure you’ve seen, either in yourself or in others, how this statement, part of Holland’s Theory of Career Choice, rings true. Even celebrities can serve as examples.

I recently saw Elvis Costello interview Sir Elton John on his great new talk show “Spectacle” on the Sundance Channel. Sir John said that early on he knew he wanted to be involved with music. If he couldn’t make it as a musician, he said, he would work in music publishing, songwriting, or some aspect of the business. And true to his goals, he got his start as a “tea boy” in a famous London music publisher’s office, carrying around tea and gathering up stray sheet music. He said that although the work was drudgery, it was exciting to be around and work around musicians and songwriters. We all know how success has followed him.

To find your best place to work,
  1. Read these 6 statements about Holland’s Theory of Career Choice.
  2. Learn what your highest two personality scores are and think about the types of people you’d enjoy working with. Past job experience and relationships may help guide you.
  3. Brainstorm how your life, both through a career and leisure activities, could incorporate your dominant personality types. In your day job, you might work in one environment (social work) and have fun “off the clock” in a different environment (fixing classic cars).
  4. Consider careers that combine your top two personality types. Ideally you would find an occupation that was the best of both worlds. For example, an art gallery owner combines the Enterprising and Artistic personality types. You may be able to create one through self-employment. Like a therapist who counsels businesspeople, lawyers, and other Enterprising people.

Using these suggestions to identify working environments that are compatible with your personality will help you choose a career likely to lead to job satisfaction. Why not work with people you like?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Have you given up?

News media is now calling rethinking your career options as “giving up” on the job market. Is the negative spin really accurate? I don’t think so. If you really loved your career path and it was perfect for you, I doubt you would be “giving up” on your job search. And unemployment, should you be lucky enough to receive it for more than a few months, is insufficient to live on. So “giving up” to sit on the couch with your TV is a limited option for most.

You may think, easy for her to be upbeat because she’s employed. But I’ve been unemployed, like most people, off and on during my working life. And I have no better job security now than anyone else in the private sector. There is also no surf and turf Career Key Xmas party in my future.

But I admit, the economy is worse than it has ever been in most people’s working experience – and it’s hard to stay positive. Especially if you have, like I do, a nagging suspicion that most people who profited on creating this mess are still sipping mai tais by a pool somewhere….

An optimistic, activist approach is still more likely to result in long term success. Reevaluating your career options is an investment in your future. As long as you avoid procrastination and disorganization by following this 3 step process to choose a career path, it will be the best time and money you’ve ever spent.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Get Creative with Self-Employment

How do you convert your hobby, dream, or passion into a successful small business idea? Even if you are not an artist, this excellent article in the NYT Shifting Careers column about Artistic entrepreneurs showcases artists who made the leap and lessons learned. Science has proven the connection between job satisfaction and matching your personality with self-employed careers. Once that match is made, you can work on starting your own business if that’s right for you.

In a self-employed career, whether it’s in art, social work, or as a scientist, here are some lessons learned from others’ success:

Embrace new technology and make it work for you. Getting started on the Internet is relatively cheap. But one of the biggest challenges to starting a business is the “Google” business model, where advertising is supposed to be the holy grail – and your sole source of revenue. With the proliferation of free Internet content, open source software, etc., making money can be a challenge when people expect everything for free. Not everyone can drive traffic to their site with the words “green, sex, cancer, secret, and fat.” Get creative about providing something of value people will pay for.

Business (making money) is not evil. I know it’s hard to say this after Wall Street’s implosion. But ideology only gets you so far (and so poor). I’ve written before about my late artist grandfather who was trained in the early 20th century to distrust and disdain commercial art. And yet it was his beautiful commercial work, America's first children’s moveable books, that supported his family during World War II. Making a living trumps ideology – but they need not be mutually exclusive.

Job experience in different fields can be an asset. For people who have changed careers at least once, your experience – working with different types of people and exposure to a variety of customer needs can really work to your advantage. You get needed perspective about what people want and need – which is what business is there to provide.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Career Key Canada Will Be at Cannexus in April

I'm glad to announce that in April 2009 we will be attending and exhibiting at Cannexus, Canada’s top career development conference, held in Toronto. We’ve been very pleased at the positive reception for Career Key Canada, our newest website launched earlier this year. We’ve created a special version of the popular Career Key test that matches users’ Holland personality types with Canadian job titles and up to date Canadian career information. Like the U.S., Canada has great online resources for career information, which we wanted to tap into for our growing Canadian audience.

I am now scheduling meetings with customers and look forward to meeting you in person. If you’d like to meet me there, I’d love to hear from you or just stop by our exhibitor table. I’ll be handing out free test codes for people interested in group discount purchases ($1 per test when you purchase at least 30).

I’m looking forward to going to Toronto, even though it will be a bit chilly. I was there about 5 years ago for a friend’s wedding and it was one of the most beautiful, cosmopolitan cities I’ve been to; don’t get me started on how great the food was!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Choosing a Career and Avoiding the Costly Impulse Buy

Just like shopping, many career choice mistakes are made from impulse buys – where you really haven’t crunched the numbers. Instead you react to feel good advertising messages, a desperate job situation, or the seductive admiration of friends and family. For example, think about well-intended but wrong money-saving choices – like the person who skimped on buying fancy soup (a few bucks savings) but bought new dog beds (hundreds spent). I suspect most of us have been guilty of trying to save money but spending more instead. Overbuys at big box stores anyone?

I’m not suggesting your financial situation or family opinions shouldn’t matter – they should. Just include them as part of a well-thought out career decision process. Poor impulses derail good career decisions.

Common poor career choice impulses:
  • you react to what you think people want you to do, but it’s not a career that matches your personality – “I always said I wanted to be a doctor, but I’m really more Social than Investigative…
  • you choose a career you think will pay you a lot of money and bring you prestige, but after factoring in school loans and little work/life balance, you end up in the “hole” – “my investment bank works me like a dog, I have to pay Manhattan rent – and people think Wall Street is evil”
  • you choose something with unrealistic expectations and are badly disappointed and discouraged, leading to lackluster work – “I thought being a park ranger would be perfect, but the pay is lousy and I hate all the government bureaucracy - I'm taking a 2 hour lunch to get away”
  • you act out of desperation due to money concerns, without mapping out a long-term plan to the career you really want – “I’ve been stuck in this customer service job for 5 years and gone nowhere…”
Here are 3 ways to choose a career without detours from costly impulses:

1. Choose your career using a high-quality, science-based decision making process. Get started with your matching careers and research on career options, and then make a good decision using our free website resources. As part of the process, you’ll be asked to include family and friend opinions and your financial situation.

2. View your career as a series of stages. It’s hard in an instant gratification society to be patient. But if you see school and/or a series of introductory jobs as part of a long-term plan to reach a specific goal, instead of just a place to be, the more likely you’ll be successful and to get promoted.

3. If finances are an issue, consider starting your career in a supporting role. The Career Key organizes your matching careers by work groups so it is easy to spot similar and supporting occupations. Support and technician positions in certain careers require less financial and training commitment in the short-term and give you the advantages of:
  • learning more about what it’s like to work in the field,
  • putting you in a position to make a new professional network and develop mentors, and
  • teaching you new job skills that not only may get you into a better school, but give you a leg up in a future job.
When emotions and stress get involved, as they often will in choosing a career, it's easy to act on impulse. But slowing down and putting together a long-term plan will avoid most costly mistakes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

3 Career Choice Tips for Older Workers

A few days ago, I ran into someone (55+) who related his experience with age discrimination in hiring. When interviewing for a job with a small business, they told him point blank that despite his excellent qualifications, they probably couldn’t hire him because his health insurance would cost the company too much. So they went ahead and hired a less-experienced, younger applicant.

Unfortunately more and more older workers will face obstacles like these in getting jobs: the percentage of workers 65 and older in the U.S. workforce is projected to double in the next decade – from 3.6% to 6.1%.

In my previous career as an employment discrimination lawyer, I became familiar with the challenges older workers face. I recently wrote about layoffs and the older worker. Here are 3 more career choice tips for older workers:

1. Look at ALL your career options.
To narrow down your choice among careers matching your personality, consider your unique talents and challenges. If you find a career that really interests you but it has some requirements (physical or academic) you’re not sure you can or want to meet, do at least a couple of information interviews before you cross it off your list.

I find that career information, online or in print, does not always reflect reality. For example, experience may substitute for a graduate degree. There may also be a job title in the same career field with different minimum requirements, ones you can meet. Once you gather your information, follow this science-based process to making a good decision. Our ebook, “What Job is Best For Me?” contains helpful exercises for decision-making.

2. Look for career fields or employers that are friendly to older workers.
In addition to informational interviews, check other resources for career information specifically about older workers. JIST publishes some excellent books, many of which you can find at your public library. One of my favorites is Michael Farr’s and Laurence Shatkin’s “Best Jobs for the 21st Century.” Among many other resources, the book contains helpful lists of top jobs broken down by age. So you can see career paths that have more people your age – and perhaps more friendly to older workers. Also check AARP’s list of friendly employers on their AARP National Employer Team.

3. Network.
Networking is the best way to avoid being a target for discrimination. Having a personal connection with someone in the industry who can vouch for you or promote your talents behind the scenes will do more to get you started in a career than anything else. These connections will promote your strengths over negative stereotypes and biases. And the less you see yourself as a target and more of a player, the better chance you’ll have as presenting yourself as a confident, qualified, and pleasant person to work with.

Age confers many benefits our society is very slow to acknowledge: experience, wisdom, and skills acquired over a lifetime of learning. Looking at the big picture, doing your research, and networking are the best ways to showcase them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

5 Ways to Move Forward Using Job Skills

Your unique talents, interests, and skills lead to your best career options. Job skills move you forward. But insecurity lurks nearby, ready to demoralize you. It’s easy to focus on barriers and what you lack instead of what you have, and what you could learn in the future.

If you’re in high school or college, you may bemoan your lack of “real world” work experience and connections. If you’re changing careers, you may dread the prospect of starting from scratch again – and taking on student loan debt at the same time. Add more stress and physical discomfort to this list if you’re disabled or newly disabled. And in these difficult economic times, the term “transferable skills” may spell doom as part of an anxious search for an angle to get employed.

To be successful with choosing a new career, you have to be optimistic and realistic. Here are 5 ways to move forward using your skills:
  1. Lose the negativity and evaluate your skills as objectively as possible. Everyone, from high school students to retirees, has skills. And just because someone says you can or cannot do something well is not the end of the story. That person may be right or wrong, but you know your track record best. Start with this exercise to identify your skills.
  2. Decide on your short-term and long-term goals and list possible ways to reach them. Do you just want a new job ASAP to pay bills? Or are you looking for a long-term solution? Making a good career decision is a start. Dig deep for what the real issues are. It’s one thing to dislike your boss, it’s another to dislike the work you do and everyone you work with. One is fixed by moving employers, the other probably means you need a new career.
  3. Make a plan and make small steps to complete it every week. The 3 steps of that plan are knowing yourself, knowing your options, and making a good decision. More...
  4. Get organized with folders and start writing things down. Even with PCs and the Internet, it’s amazing how more concrete and satisfying something seems when it’s printed or written down. Buy inexpensive jazzy folders if it makes you more likely to use them.
  5. Connect with people who will help you. You may need to phase out certain relationships and start new ones. If you need convincing, think of someone whose accomplishments you admire. I guarantee that focusing on negative people around them did not make him or her successful. Informational interviews in career fields that interest you are a great way to start meeting new, inspiring people who can help you.
If you found this helpful, you may also want to read my post about how to add new skills to your list.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Social Media Resource for Career Planners

I’m always looking for ideas about how to use social networking and new Web 2.0 tools to help people make better career and small business start-up choices. Chris Brogan’s Blog is one of the best resources I’ve found for tips on using social media – not just for promoting your personal brand but also promoting your business.

When you click on his tag “LinkedIn,” you find a great post (among others) “Write Your LinkedIn Profile For Your Future.” This idea of presenting yourself with the future in mind reminded me of my recent post, “Choose Your Career First, Tweet Later.” Brogan drills down further by focusing on LinkedIn, with some concrete, practical suggestions for improving your profile.

He’s definitely more connected than I would like to be – you read his blog and wonder whether he tweets and sends messages 24 hours a day. But you can take some ideas and apply them to your situation – it helps to have a virtual expert on social media in your career planning toolbox.

Questions to Ask About Working for Free

To learn more about a career path or to get a foothold in a prospective career, I’ve suggested volunteering to get job skills or work experience in a new field; I’ve done it myself. But be cautious about giving away your time and hard work. In this excellent guest post on the NYT Shifting Careers blog, freelancing expert Michelle Goodman advises how not to give away the store, especially for freelancers in the communications field. (writing, public relations) Her advice can be extended to other career fields and people like you choosing or changing your career.

If you encounter a “free” opportunity, I suggest asking yourself a few questions before making a decision:
  1. Can you get paid to do the same type of work elsewhere? (have you really looked?)
  2. Would you gain skills you could not otherwise acquire? If so, how does the free work fit into your plan for how to get the paid job you ultimately want?
  3. Is looking for paid work a more cost-effective use of your time?
  4. Are the “exposure” and other touted benefits of the free job really worth it? (Can you talk/email with any predecessors to get their opinion?)
  5. Have you talked with people working in the field about where to focus your efforts? What do they think about the opportunity?
Spend your valuable time as mindfully and effectively as possible by carefully choosing your volunteer projects. Information interviewing in your field will help you focus your efforts and hopefully steer you away from known timesinks. Just plan on making a few mistakes that will waste your time and learning from them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What you do for fun and choosing a career

Never thought you’d hear the word “fun” again? Well, we recommend you include it in your search for the right career choice. In our article, 8 Strategies to Learn About Yourself, we suggest looking at how you spend your leisure time to identify your unique qualities – to help you choose a career that fits you. New research in the Journal of Career Development connects “leisure interests” with Holland’s Theory of Career Choice, which The Career Key test measures.

To begin, write down what you do for leisure activities in the “big picture” and look for patterns and connections with Holland’s 6 personality types. For example,
if you spend a lot of your leisure time in community activities like church volunteering, tutoring young people, or working at ethnic/regional festivals, you can see the parallels between those activities and the Social personality type.

if you enjoy hunting and fishing, restoring old cars, or playing cards and games, these activities are more associated with the Realistic personality type.
No single leisure interest magically shows you the right career path. But when you think about your “off the clock” activities in light of Holland’s Theory, they provide you with more helpful, relevant information for your career decision.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Realistic meets Artistic beautifully.

I couldn't resist posting this photo I took of this beautiful park bathroom in Lincoln Park in Seattle. The Realistic personality type (architect, engineer) meets the Artistic personality type in true WPA Project (1930s) fashion. Unusual personality combinations like this can work out well.

We also nicknamed this the Hobbit bathroom because it looks like an underground house out of J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 children's book The Hobbit. The chimney-like tubes sticking up are skylights.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let's get to (satisfying) work!

Democrats and Republicans working together - let's hope the future holds progress in growing good jobs and career options for America.

Career development professionals have a few lessons to offer our government leaders and the American people about success. As Oprah would say, "this is what I know for sure”:
  • Self-confidence (self-efficacy, visualization, whatever you want to call it) increases our chances of success. It’s not naivete, it’s called goal-setting.
  • Stretch yourselves to reach higher, realistic goals. Low expectations result in low achievement.
  • Economic growth is the engine for better career opportunities. Whatever path you choose to encourage economic growth – know when to regulate and when to leave business alone. And please, grow more jobs outside the service sector. And while you're at it, improve access to training/education for people who want it.
  • We are all responsible for our own destiny. In the end, whether someone chooses to graduate high school, learn new skills, or put up with an unsatisfying job, the individual is the one to live with his or her choices.
With all the challenges ahead, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to (satisfying) work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Parents: activities to encourage your child's career awareness

As part of National Career Development month, the National Career Development Association (NCDA) has made available an excellent list of career awareness activities for parents and teachers to use. Just visit the NCDA website page here and download the free PDF under "NCD Month Resources" called "K-12 Activities." There are classroom and home activities broken down by age group.

Our website offers more expert help to parents, including Eight Positive Ways to Affect Your Child's Career. Your Child's Career is another helpful website that will give you more ideas.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween from Career Key

In luck, I found a career path depicted in pumpkin – fishing. I imagine most commercial fishers today use more than a rowboat, but I know that some Maine lobstermen still get their start in a small boat with an outboard. So maybe this isn’t so unrealistic…

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Watch out for your favorite career options

Make sure your eyes are open when making a career decision. It’s a long proven fact: we tend to disregard information that contradicts our perceptions or biases, and we welcome information that supports them. This prejudice exists whether you are choosing a career or trading in high-risk derivatives. See former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s Congressional testimony last week.

Translated for the person choosing a career: watch out for your favorite career options, especially if you have little negative information about them. Avoiding the tendency to shut out contradictory information by following an eyes-open process to making a good career decision. We give you the tools for this process (all science based), including a Decision Balance Sheet and a real life example.

As I wrote before about negative career information, no career option is perfect. You just need to be prepared to deal with the “cons,” as well as celebrate the “pros.”

If only our financial gurus would make good decisions!

Monday, October 27, 2008

4 Tips for Finding the Best Career Blogs

If you’re choosing or changing a career, the best career blogs help you learn about a particular career – ones that help you answer, what would it be like to be a _________? Many career blogs focus on general day to day work advice, the best of which are in our blogroll. But if you’re researching a specific career path, learn about it from someone doing the job or working in the industry.

Here are 4 tips for finding the best career blogs:
  1. Search your favorite engine or blog program (Google’s Blogger, Live Search, etc) using your matching career interest: like “veterinarian blog.” Be sure to include “blog," otherwise you get everyone’s post about a veterinarian.
  2. Look at the blogroll. Even if you find a blog that’s not exactly what you want, they often have links to others in the same industry that might be better.
  3. Don’t settle for just one. Seek out different viewpoints. One person might love her job, another might not.
  4. Be critical. Treat the information like anything on the Internet, consider the source and view it with a critical eye. Don't be surprised if some blogs may contain political/social views you disagree with. But that’s the workplace…
To give you ideas, I’ve listed some of my favorites for the Realistic Personality type, organizing them by Career Key’s groups. For more Career Key groups of matching careers, visit our online article "Match Your Personality with Careers."

Agriculture & Natural Resources
American Farm Bureau Young Farmer Blog
Life of a Farm Blog
The Tiny Farm (Organic Micro-Farming)
Blogriculture (check out their extensive blogroll of agricultural blogs)
The Beef Blog
Canada’s Forestry Blog
Steve’s Forestry Blog (U.S.)
Interested in groundskeeping? Love baseball or sports? What if you were in charge of a stadium grounds? Murray Cook’s Field Blog is for you….

I couldn’t find a good commercial fisher’s blog; if you have a suggestion, please email me. They’re probably busy out on the boat…

Safety & Law Enforcement
Community Corrections Officer Blog
The World Through the Eyes of a Paramedic
Firefighter Blog (California, Wildland) They also have an interesting fire related blogroll.
FirefighterHourly Blog (urban firefighting)
Diary of a Police Officer (U.S.)
Blues and Twos – Police Officer’s Blog (UK)
The Policeman’s Blog (UK and Canada)
Acadia National Park Blogs (Student Park Rangers)
Daicey Days: Baxter State Park Ranger Blog
Occupational Health and Safety Magazine: As I See It

eContent: Engineering Blog Quest 2008 (find reviews of non-commercial engineering blogs)
Civil Engineer Blog
Not Only Bridges
Curious Cat: Science and Engineering Blog
Chemical Engineering World
Ocean Engineering Blog
The American Surveyor Blog

Transportation and Distribution
Flight Level 390: America from the Flight Deck
My Flying Blog
A Pilot’s Blog
Captain’s Blog (Cornelia Marie); when searching for ship captain blogs, watch out for those Star Trek spoofs!

Crafts – Structural
The Carpetology Blog (yes, all about carpeting)
C-School Blog: Construction Management Education
Construction Contractor’s Digest

I hope this list inspires you to find other blogs in your areas of career interest and for your highest scoring personality types. Our goal is to help you make the best career decision and the more information you have, the better. Feel free to comment or email me with suggestions and feedback.

Career Key and Career Clusters

My excuse for a week's absence from the blog is that we have a couple of major projects going on: the largest is to match Career Key test results to the U.S. Department of Education’s 16 Career Clusters and over 900 O*Net occupations. Many government, school and college counselors would like a Holland Theory/Career Key link with the Career Clusters as their use becomes more widespread. We hope to have this complete by the end of November.

If you are a counselor or career development professional with interest in this project, please let me know. I welcome your input.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Career planning success whether you are 17 or 50

Learning about your career options and planning and preparing your career path are proven success strategies, regardless of generation. Top guidance and career counselors are trained to provide this kind of help. Ideally, you get realistic and practical advice along with encouragement to reach for higher goals.

A good example of top notch career guidance is Ilene Frommer, who was recently profiled in the New York Times. She is a guidance counselor at a public high school in Sonoma County California. Once you read about a typical day in the life of Ms. Frommer, you’ll not only appreciate the critical work she does, but also the work of thousands of other excellent school counselors across the country. Visit her high school’s online college and career planning resources to see what top quality advice she provides her students and parents. If you’re a working adult contemplating a career change, much of the advice is timeless.

Even if you do not have access to a counselor like Ms. Frommer, thanks to the internet you can take a page from her playbook (forgive the sports metaphor) and learn from her career planning approach, which is similar to ours. In fact, Naviance – the online course, college and career planning system her school uses, includes The Career Key as part of their product. Whether you are 17 years old or 50, the lessons are the same – research and planning, career information and preparation, are your tickets to success.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Second-guessing your career path

Having doubts about your career decisions is normal – at least for people I talk with about choosing a career and in my own experience. Like buyer’s remorse, you may feel a twinge of uncertainty as the financial aid office cashier takes your check and your decision to enroll in that master’s degree becomes final. Or when you attend your first staff meeting at a new job and you feel out of place – and out of your depth. Or opening your business doors and for the first few hours you don’t make a single sale.

These gut-clenching moments are a natural part of taking risks, a necessary part of career growth. Ideally, you want to be in a position to go back over, in your mind, the process you went through to make your decision. You want to be comfortable that you looked at all your options, learned about them, and thought about the consequences before making your decision.

One step we recommend in making a good career decision is to think of all the obstacles and consequences you will face from your chosen path, and to anticipate your responses to them. For example, if you know a significant other (family, friend, partner) will criticize you for your decision, decide how you will answer that criticism – before you receive it. (that school is too expensive, all lawyers are crooks, men don’t become nurses, etc.) Often, second-guessing your career path occurs when you receive negative comments about your choice. If you’re already prepared for criticism, then there is nothing new to think or worry about. You’ll be prepared, as I was, to cheerily say “not ALL lawyers are crooks – I’ll be the 1% exception!”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Self-employment and starting a business in tough times

Now may not feel like the time for taking financial risks, especially starting a business. But maybe you don’t have a choice. Leaving a job or being unable to find a job because of a poor economy sometimes pushes people into self-employment, whether or not it is something they dreamed of doing someday. That was my first experience with self-employment and I know the twin feelings of dread and excitement. How do you make the best of it?

Visualize success. Embrace self-employment, either as a short or long term career choice. The more you fight it, the less energy and enthusiasm you’ll apply to marketing yourself and your business. There is a reason that successful sports athletes visualize success; studies show visualization works.

Understand how your personality type influences your business success. By working in an environment that matches your personality, you’ll be more likely to achieve success. Know yourself and know your options.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses and adapt your business to them. If you’re a writer/artist/lawyer/salesperson who is not good with or interested in financial record-keeping, pay someone else to set up your bookkeeping and file your taxes. It may pinch your wallet, but you’ll hurt more in time and money later if you screw it up.

Effectively use your time, especially if you are still job searching. If you haven’t given up hope on landing a job but want to take on contract work to pay your bills, plan out your work time. You don’t want to do a poor job on both your job search and your business.

By carefully evaluating yourself and following a science-based process to make a startup decision, you avoid the mistakes many people make of reacting to crisis. By being optimistic and forward looking, you’ll avoid a paralyzing funk and take action instead.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Little Perspective on Survival of the Fittest

Walking on Seattle’s Alki Beach this morning, I came across several markers commemorating the first white settlers landing in Seattle during a November storm in 1851. Among other survival techniques, the native Americans taught the settlers how to nurse their babies on clam juice. To a mother like me, if this isn’t survival of the fittest, then I don’t know what is. These two pictures (courtesy of show the cabin the settlers lived in and the schooner “Exact” they arrived in. And then think about Seattle in November. For the most part, it's windy, wet, dark and cold.

So as we go through this economic crisis, it helps to get a bit of perspective on hardship. Most of us, like my Generation X, know nothing of the Great Depression; our grandparents’ money quirks are the only connection we have with that time. So the story of these settlers and the native people that helped them, reminded me of how fortunate we are to have electricity, warmth, and shelter - the basics. And puts our other worries and concerns in perspective.

Informational Interviews Book: A New Career Resource

I recently came across Michael Gregory’s new book, “The Career Chronicles” and found it a helpful addition to my favorite career information resources. I’ve read a lot of career books, and this one is an excellent resource if you are at the informational interview stage in your research. The author asks questions like "would you choose this career again?" and how school did or did not prepare you for your work? All excellent questions you should be asking.

Look at the list below of careers and if you are interested in one of them, The Career Chronicles covers it. I organized them by Holland personality types, and grouped the careers by Career Key work groups:

  • Engineering: architect, engineer, landscape architect
  • Life sciences: soil scientist
  • Physical sciences: geologist
  • Medical sciences: pharmacist, dentist, veterinarian, speech pathologist
  • Social research: psychologist
  • Mathematics & Statistics: computer engineer
  • Literary Arts: writer
  • Drama & Dance: television broadcaster
  • Social Services: social worker, clinical therapist
  • Nursing, Therapy and Specialized Teaching: nurse
  • Educational and library services: teacher
  • Finance: accountant, banker
  • Law: lawyer
  • Promotion: marketing manager, public relations specialist
  • Sales: real estate agent, insurance sales agent, financial advisor

You can match additional careers to your personality here. You can also see another review of the book on the National Association of Admission Counseling website. Mr. Gregory interviewed over 750 professionals to write this book and the information is helpful and insightful. I recommend it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

5 Ways to Look at Negatives of Career Options

When you don’t work in a career, it’s hard to know what it would be like to work in it. In the process of choosing a career, it’s common to learn negative things about a career option like long hours, poor pay, few jobs, on the job stress, lack of job security, or physical demands. All careers have negatives so whatever you do, don’t ignore them. So how should you consider them? Here are 5 ways to look at negative information about careers as part of a good career decision.
  1. Consider the source. Is the negative information coming from one angry blogger? A friend who “heard” the information? A reputable resource like the Occupational Outlook Handbook? Someone with whom you did an informational interview? Multiple, reputable sources are better than just one or two who may lack the firsthand knowledge or objective viewpoint you need. Some people don’t like their jobs for a variety of reasons so the more people you talk to, the wider variety of viewpoints – and more accuracy, you’ll get.
  2. Dig deeper. Does a negative depend on what part of the country you’re in? (e.g., number of job openings) Or who you work for? Some employers make you work more hours than you would work if you were self-employed – or vice versa. Most careers exist in a variety of physical and social environments. Working for a nonprofit can be very different than working for a private company. Informational interviews will help you get the additional depth and perspective you need.
  3. Can you handle it? Based on your personal, past history, how well do you think you would handle the negative? Some people like flying by the seat of their pants. Others are more conservative. You may like physical labor and working outside – others don’t. Be honest about what you are willing to take on – your past behavior will help guide you.
  4. Are you willing to make sacrifices for long-term goals? If you want the admiration and fame of being a collegiate sports team coach, are you willing to put up with job insecurity (depending on the success/failure of your team) and moving around to different geographic locations? If you want the larger pay and prestige of a job in a big law firm, do you want to put in the grunt work, long hours and job stress to get there? Every job has its “dues” and are you willing to pay them?
  5. Follow the ACIP model of career decision-making. Take into account all the negatives and positives of the careers you’re thinking about and see how they balance out. The four steps are: consider all your alternatives (A), think about the consequences of following each option (C), get all the information you can about your options (I), and plan out your next steps of your decision (P).
Nobody said life was easy or money grows on trees (well actually, they did - see recent financial turmoil), but if you know what you’re getting into with a career choice and make plans for dealing with the challenges that come up, the more likely you are to succeed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

3 Tips for Making Career Choices in Volatile Times

A few weeks ago, I wrote in a post that we should “Stop Reading the News,” advice I continue to stand by as emotional, irrational swings take their toll on Wall Street. What are we going to do, take our money out of investments and banks and stick the cash in a mattress? Of course not, although the thought has crossed my mind…

What does all this financial turmoil mean to the person trying to decide what their next career is?
  1. Keep a clear head. Continue to think long-term, no matter what roller coaster financial markets are on. The need for nurses, occupational therapists, and schoolteachers is not going to evaporate even if half our banks melt down. Education and training costs are a long term investment, whether that means you’re in a career 5 years or 25 years.
  2. If you’re interested in an industry that enjoys wild ups and downs, make sure you're well-informed and adaptable to change. For example, would-be geoscientists (energy, oil/gas/mining) and financial analysts need accurate career information and comfort with change. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go into these occupations, just know what you’re getting into. So don’t be blinded by the current proliferation of hiring bonuses in the energy industry. It’s a cycle and if you’re lucky, you’ll get out of school at a high and not a low – but don’t plan on it.
  3. With great rewards, come great risks. High-paying careers likely carry high risks and low job security. Remember the unbelievable Wall Street bonuses reported for the last several years for investment bank employees? Often where there are soaring financial successes, there can be seriously low lows. See today’s headlines and a blogosphere full of advice for the newly unemployed.
Whether or not you believe “the sky is falling” right now, the reality is that you are making a career choice for the long term. You want to make a reasoned, good decision, not a decision based on panicky, volatile information. Which seems to be what is dominating the news these days - so turn it off.

Choosing a Satisfying Career in Canada

An article I wrote, "Choosing a Satisfying Career: Where Do I Start" has just appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Career Options magazine, published by the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers. If you are interested in a copy of the article, you can download it from the magazine website for free or contact me.

Career Key Canada, our companion website that provides up to date, accurate Canadian occupational information about matching careers using Holland's Theory of Career Choice, has been very well received. In addition to free professionally developed career guidance information, what distinguishes The Career Key from other websites is that we combine an easy to use, valid measure of Holland's six personality types, with accurate, up to date online career information.

Top Reasons for Job Dissatisfaction: Stress, Pay & Benefits

As you gather information in choosing a career, these recent Gallup polls may give you some perspective and suggest work issues worth researching further:
I was surprised at the level of job satisfaction, although Gallup cautioned in its analysis that people appreciate their jobs more in difficult economic times. But unsurprisingly, job-related stress, pay and benefits (amount of vacation time, retirement, health) top the list for creating dissatisfaction.

As you weigh the pros and cons of your career options, include these top three issues. Pay is always on everyone’s list of important career information, but job-related stress may be under your radar.

When you talk with someone about their career, make sure to ask them about how stressful their job is, and what factors cause stress. Is it a supervisor or employer that can be changed, or is it in the nature of the work? For example, a research scientist may need to seek financial support from the federal government through grants every 2 years. Having one’s job security or project depend on this kind of funding may be stressful. But people handle this type of pressure in different ways – how does the person you’re interviewing handle it? How do you think you might handle it?

Learning more about the negative aspects of a career and deciding how you will deal with them, before you make a choice, will help you avoid joining the ranks of the dissatisfied later.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Choose a Career First, Tweet Later

With all the buzz around them, you may wonder whether Twitter and other Social Networking wesites could be helpful sources of information in choosing a career. Other bloggers post excellent tips for using sites like Twitter for job search, business development (take note would-be entrepreneurs), and on the job. But what if you’re choosing a career or making a career change? Recently I did some research, trying to see if I could learn anything practical or valuable about careers and came up with very little - certainly not worth the time and effort.

While social networking websites can be helpful if not necessary after you decide on a career, your time now is better spent on learning about your career options. Because how can you market your “personal brand” when you don’t know what it is yet? The answer is, you shouldn’t, especially when information on the web has the shelf-life of a rubber tire dumped in the ocean. You don’t want to present yourself in a certain way or say things you might regret later. Professionalism is highly valued but easily lost.

If your goal is to get more information about career options, career specific networking is a better use of your time. In this type of networking, you use the Internet to meet in person new people to gather information about a career (informational interviews). Once you are in a career that satisfies you, social networking with peers through sites like LinkedIn for future job leads and mentoring is practically a “must."

One of bestselling author Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the End in Mind.” This fits perfectly with using online social networking. Decide what career you’re aiming for and then present yourself accordingly.

If you disagree and have ideas about how social networking sites help with career choice research, I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

5 Steps to Smarter Career Exploration: Leave No Stones Unturned

When choosing a career, it’s easy to have a narrow mind about your choices. We’re most comfortable with careers we’ve heard of and know something about, even if our only information comes from TV: think forensic scientist, real estate agent, fashion designer, crabfisher, those crazy Mythbusters guys making hovercrafts in their garage (job title anyone?) and the "usual suspects" doctors and lawyers.

But wouldn’t you hate missing out on a great career just because you didn't dig deep enough? Don’t be intimidated by massive databases of jobs or giant encyclopedias of career options. The internet makes exploration a little easier. Here are 5 steps to be smart and efficient in your career exploration – without leaving stones unturned.

1. Learn about Holland’s Theory of Career Choice and how identifying your personality type(s) helps you choose a more satisfying career. This theory will help guide your thinking about what careers might be right for you.

2. Narrow your choices to careers that match your top two Holland personality types measured by a valid interest inventory. Don't cross off a career because of concerns about your finances or abilities. You'll address those issues later when you have more information to make an informed choice. Ask yourself:
  • Are there any careers I think match my personality but are not listed? Write them down and do searches for their key words using our recommended resources below.
  • Am I interested in starting a business? If so, what kinds of business opportunities are related to the matching careers I see listed?
  • How do I combine personality types in a career? To see an example, read about how Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, the Career Key’s author, combined his top two Holland personality types or “differing gifts” in one job.
3. Start with, then go beyond the Occupational Outlook Handbook job titles for matching careers we provide on our website: doctor, lawyer, engineer, social worker, accountant (not that there is any wrong with them). Remember that any job title you see anywhere (not just on The Career Key website) has many versions. Think about “social worker” and how many different types of jobs do “social work” that would fit a Social personality type. Recommended online resources:
  • Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Outlook Handbook has “Related Occupations” links at the bottom of a career description. If you find a related career you like, click on it and it will have its own “related occupations” link – follow these links as far as you want.
  • DOL's Career Guide to Industries. Explore the industries that most closely relate to your personality. Don’t hesitate to look at an area about which you know little.
  • Use your favorite search engine. You might get more ideas from blogs, association websites, Wikipedia and Knol entries. Remember that just because it's on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true - so go to diverse sources, including real people (see next step).
4. Conduct informational interviews with people working in an industry that interests you, but ask them about jobs related to theirs within it because there might be one that’s a better fit for you. For example, a software developer career may be of interest to you, but software developers know a lot about other related occupations they work with like Program Managers and Quality Assurance/testing engineers, and can refer you to other people in those jobs to talk to. Don’t know any software developers? Read my previous post on career specific networking – it’s easy to meet some and interview them.

5. About each alternative, keep asking yourself, how does this job fit with my personality? Are there a lot of supervisory duties that make it more Social than I would like? Is there a way to combine my top two personality types in one career?

For more ideas, you’ll find over 12,000 careers organized by Holland personality types in your local library; go to the Reference section and ask for the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Titles by Dr. Gary Gottfredson and Dr. John Holland. Unfortunately you can only find it in book form, not online. But although it’s a large book, you’ll only be looking at a few sections and just skimming through it will spark some ideas.

Don't be overwhelmed by the options you have; celebrate them by narrowing your search in a thoughtful way. By doing your online and book research and talking with people working in interesting industries, you will broaden your options. Only then can you say you’ve left no stone unturned – and you can make a decision you won’t regret.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Setting Personal Career Goals Ensures Success

Always on the lookout for new, helpful career resources, I read Hearst Magazines' head Cathie Black’s new book “Basic Black” over the weekend and would recommend it to career seekers and would-be entrepreneurs. Many career/business books contain much of the same, recycled advice, but I found Ms. Black’s book a fresh read because of her down to earth writing style and practical, real life “case studies.” It’s like reading the text of an engaging informational interview. Anyone from high school seniors to midlife career changers will get something valuable out of this book.

Career Key’s mission is to help people make the best career choices so I found her chapters about Drive and Passion particularly relevant. “Knowing yourself” takes more time than some people in this fast paced world are willing to spend; but for speed you sacrifice quality. Ms. Black reiterates the importance of taking time to set specific personal goals; you’re more likely to reach them. She also recommends finding authenticity for yourself and “figuring out what kind of work will be most satisfying for you.” In 2006, Ms. Black was named one of Forbes' “50 Most Powerful Women in American Business,” so I suspect she might know what she’s talking about. Fortunately Holland’s Theory of Career Choice offers a scientifically proven way of finding work likely to lead to job satisfaction. Learning what your Holland personality types are will help you set those personal goals likely to lead to future career success.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Money and Career Choice: 5 Questions You Must Ask

A career you enjoy and a career that meets your financial goals are not mutually exclusive if you look before you leap. When making a career change or choosing your first career, consider your personal finance goals. After narrowing your career choices to those likely to lead to job satisfaction based on your interests and personality, ask these 5 money questions about each career option:
  1. Is this career in demand? Get the geeky answers and the real world answers. Find out how many job openings are forecast by the economists, and talk to people working in the career where you live. Also do the exercises recommended in our article Learn More About Occupations.
  2. What flexibility does this career path offer? How transferable will your education and skills be to a variety of jobs? If you don't like being a corporate lawyer, what else can you do with a law degree that would cover your bills? Think skills, not job titles.
  3. Is the starting salary sufficient to meet my current financial needs? To answer this, you need to know what your current household budget is – add student loan debt repayments, if any (see below). Notice I said “starting” salary not hoped for/dreamed of salary. Again, information you learn from people working in your target career may be much more reliable than estimates on websites.
  4. What education or training is necessary for this career and how much would it cost? Don't assume certain degrees are required; do your research and talk to people doing the jobs that interest you. Maybe a $100,000 MBA is unnecessary – choosing jobs strategically to gain specific experience might substitute for it – and you'll be making money instead of spending/borrowing it.
  5. How would I pay for it? Look at your financial aid options. Don't forget to consider how you'll pay for living expenses along with tuition.
Many people go with their gut feelings, hoping that “do what you love and the money will follow” will hold true. That phrase should say, “...and the money may follow.” By narrowing your choices based on the best science of career counseling and asking hard financial questions before making a career choice, you'll evaluate money concerns in a mindful, knowledgeable way – not hoping money will follow you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Getting the best career information: Meet new people

Doing a lot of research about your career options is one of the most important steps to making the best career decision. When starting out in your career or making a career change, you probably won't know as many people in the careers you are considering for the future. Otherwise you wouldn't call it a career change or start, right? And why limit your options to only those careers you know well? I have some tips on how to increase what you know about careers. While LinkedIn deservedly gets a lot of attention for helping people find jobs, the better source for career information will be people you meet in career-specific networking groups, particularly in your geographic area.

I suggest finding groups online and then meeting people in person; just like online dating, there is no substitute for personal connection. I like's philosophy: "use the internet to get off the internet." You also don't need the education or training required for a career to meet people working in that career. In fact, talking with people about how to choose the right education option before you do it, would be ideal. Maybe a B.A., professional degree like an MBA, or higher degree isn't necessary for what you want to do – if not, save yourself money and time! And most people will like to talk about themselves and the career they've chosen.

For example, Seattle has an excellent web portal for finding networks in different careers, called the Seattle Networking Guide. If I was interested in graphic design, under the “Arts and Culture” section I would find a link there to the Seattle Graphic Artists Guild, which holds monthly networking lunches. I would go to one, meet people and start doing casual informational interviews. I might get some business cards for potential future job search contacts if I ultimately choose this career path.

How do you find these groups? Here are four tips:
  • Do an online search for a directory of networking groups located where you live. For example, try “seattle networking groups”
  • Narrow your search to the career you are targeting for research (e.g. graphic artist). Be specific in your search terms. For example, “seattle graphic design networking” turns up “seattle web design organizations” and other interesting options. Similarly, a “chicago graphic design networking group” search will lead you to an active Meetup group.
  • Try other sources for career specific groups: Meetup, Craigslist (narrowed to your city), Yahoo, MSN or Google groups, The Riley Guide, etc.
  • Attend at least one group event and get more suggestions of other groups. If you're not able to find more than one group related to your career option or you don't like the people at one group, ask for other suggestions and recommendations.
I think you'll find this type of career research very rewarding - and frankly more fun depending on your personality type (Realistic types may find it harder to do but no less helpful). Developing your networking skills in this way will help you later with your job search - career specific networks and job search go hand in hand. Website information about a career path's job duties, salaries, and education are a great place to start for research. But meeting people is the best way to refine your research and get real insight. The more people you meet, the better your chances of a well-rounded perspective of a career option.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Learn from Olympians - Keeping the Business Alive

Now that his life is under a microscope, I just about choked on my diet pudding snack reading that in competition, Olympic champion Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day. And he eats omelets and pizza, not nasty energy bars that melt in your car and taste vaguely like chemicals. I don't know about you, but that kind of caloric intake seems unreal - and enviable. Having a sedentary job and being a woman, I'm supposed to eat less than 2000 calories a day. Pizza is a luxury not a staple. Granted, Mr. Phelps works off his behind - literally - for a living. Not that I've been looking...

But to link this to career choice and self-employment (you knew that link was coming), this Wall Street Journal article on Phelps' business prospects reminds us of the "flash in the pan" danger that confronts many would-be entrepreneurs like this champion. You receive some press or momentary attention for your product or personal brand and then it fades. How do you prevent that from happening? According to his agent, by being patient (long term goals) and strategic; he described the marketing efforts in the lead up to Beijing with an uncertain payoff.

And as pointed out in this New York Times article, resilience and flexibility in the face of change are some of the best methods past Olympic champions like Bruce Jenner have dealt with the silence after the gold dust settles. And where have we heard this before? The top two personality dimensions that correlate most with entrepreneurial success are openness to experience and conscientiousness defined as:
  • Conscientiousness "indicates an individual's degree of organization, persistence, hard work, and motivation in the pursuit of goal accomplishment;" and
  • Openness to Experience is seen in a person "who is intellectually curious and tends to seek new experiences and explore novel ideas."
I would make a risk-free guess that Mr. Phelps is high in Conscientiousness. And in adopting the new advances in swimming technology, I'm thinking he can stretch that search for innovation into business ideas. My bet is on Michael Phelps to do what he puts his mind to: be a long term commercial success and to elevate swimming's visibility. 14 gold medals can't be wrong.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In considering self-employment, think of flames ... and artists.

Would-be business owners can decide whether to be discouraged or educated by crash and burn stories about other entrepreneurs. What do you do when you suffer a major business flameout – like when your name, a fashion business you've built over 24 years, and the ability to do something you love are all taken away from you – at least until your non-compete agreement expires in 2010? This morning I felt myself cringe as I read about the entrepreneur and fashion designer Sigrid Olsen's business demise. All I know about this situation is what I read in this NYT article “Forced Retirement,” but it seems like both a cautionary tale and an uplifting example of restructuring and optimism. I can't imagine how stressful it must be for her. But Ms. Olsen appears to be picking herself up and choosing new business directions.

In restructuring her career, Ms. Olsen serves as an example to would-be business owners and the self-employed. Be tough, optimistic, and keep going. Even experienced, talented artists like Ms. Olsen must make a living and how best to exercise your creativity than by being your own boss? In deciding whether or not to start a business and become self-employed, it's helpful to read others' stories and consider how they relate to the industry they are in.

Artists, like Ms. Olsen, are mostly (62%) self-employed. In fact, you'll find many artists, like my late grandfather Julian Wehr, who do not like others' limits on their creativity. Mr. Wehr was a sculptor and “father of the American moveable book,” a self-employed artist and paper engineer whose children's books were popular in the 1940s and highly collectible today. While his passion was sculpture, he designed these books as a way of supporting his family. A disdain for commercial art, and by extension working/designing for others, was embedded in his NYC alma mater Art Students League's education in the 1920s. And looking at the Department of Labor's numbers, this artistic view of one's employer is still alive and well.

So if you're considering self-employment, include in your decision-making process the cautionary tales of others' experiences, like Ms. Olsen's, while researching the industry you may enter. With the right industry, you may find a home for yourself with like-minded people with a similar personality – and an ability to face adversity and continue their success. Artists are more resilient than you may think.

Monday, August 11, 2008

3 Easy Tips for Using Job Outlook in Choosing a Career

Knowing the job outlook for careers that match your personality and interest you is critical to making a good career choice. While job salary is very important, it's not much use if there are only 50 job openings in the U.S. with that salary (think “supermodel.”) From job outlook and growth projections, you can learn how many jobs there will be in your chosen career and where they'll likely be located. But you don't need to be a math whiz to understand these numbers. Here are three easy ways to include this important information in choosing a career:

1. Choose the best, unbiased source of job outlook numbers – the U.S. Government. Shortcut your research by using the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for career exploration – it provides easy to read analysis and links to job outlook data for each occupation you research. The Career Key website organizes OOH occupational information by matching Holland personality type so once you match your personality to careers, you can easily access a job's outlook via our links to the OOH. Rely on original, government sources for job growth statistics because just like politicians, other sources may quote them out of context to sensationalize a point or sell an education/training program.

2. Learn what basic job growth terms mean and how they relate to one another. The OOH makes this easier because they do the analysis for you. Take, for example, the OOH entry for “Teachers – Preschool, Kindergarten, and Secondary.” Click on the heading at the top of the page called “Job Outlook.” The first sentence under “Employment change” reads:
"Employment of school teachers is expected to grow by 12 percent between 2006 and 2016, about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, because of the size of the occupations in this group, this growth will create 479,000 additional teacher positions, more than all but a few occupations." (emphasis added)
I italicized important terms. Employment growth is how many teacher positions are being created in comparison to other jobs. Additional positions are how many total new jobs are projected for creation (in the time period 2006 to 2016). The best part is that the OOH puts it all into context. An occupation can have higher than average growth but fewer job openings nationwide overall. Employment or job growth takes on a different meaning when you consider how many jobs are being created and other factors like geography (see next tip).

3. Narrow your job outlook research to the geographic area you want to live in. Don't stop your research at just the overall job growth numbers. The number of job openings for software engineers in metropolitan Boston will be very different from those in Tuscon, Arizona. In addition to linking directly to state websites for labor market information, look again at OOH's “Job outlook” entry for teacher you'll see under “Employment Change”:
"Fast-growing States in the South and West—led by Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia—will experience the largest enrollment increases. Enrollments in the Midwest are expected to hold relatively steady, while those in the Northeast are expected to decline. Teachers who are geographically mobile and who obtain licensure in more than one subject should have a distinct advantage in finding a job."
You can link to even more useful geographic information from the OOH by clicking on “Earnings,” and going further for state information by clicking on “For the Latest Wage Information” by teacher category (i.e. preschool) that will show, among other helpful information, the top 5 states with the highest numbers of preschool teachers and the top 5 states with the highest-paid ones.

So as you can see, finding out how your career options measure up for future job growth is pretty easy: you just need to know where to find it, consider how it fits into the “big picture,” and apply it to your specific geographic location.