Career Key

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2 Positive Steps to Handle Family and Friends’ Influences on Your Career Planning

Your relationships with family and friends have a big impact on your career choices and career decisions – and the holidays focus on these relationships more than any other time of year. Are you stuck in career indecision and feel your friends or family might judge you for it? Are you considering a career they might not approve of?

Especially in the U.S., where so much focus is on your job (think social gathering and the typical opening question – “how’s the job search?” or “how’s work (or school)?”), handling career questions or opinions about your choices from those close to you can be awkward.

Here are 3 steps to positively anticipate and handle those questions and influences using The Career Key’s High-Quality Decisions self-help article:

  1. Identify any pressure you feel from family or friends – positive or negative – about your career plans. To help you, download a free “Decision Balance Sheet” and complete it for the job or career options you’re considering. Check out this list of Career Choice Consequences to help you “see” what issues may be weighing on you. Your choice may be so welcomed by your friends or family that you feel uncomfortable pressure to be successful or “perfect.” Expectations may need to be lowered.
  2. Make a plan for how you will handle each person’s concerns or reactions to your career choice or career indecision. That way you’re not left unprepared (and maybe anxious).

For example, if you’ve been laid off and you haven’t decided if you will go back to school, then prepare and practice a script for how you will answer your mother’s well-meaning but loaded question at the holiday dinner table, “how ARE you?” Instead of saying “things are fine,” which you know will result in cool or hurt silence, wouldn’t it be better to say:

“I’m deciding on whether to go to grad school. I had two informational interviews last month with graduates of the ___ school I’m considering and I’ve got two more scheduled for after Christmas. It’s pretty interesting what’s I’ve learned about _______(the post-graduation job market, financial aid, interesting classes)."
Imagine how your mom will brighten at hearing about what you are doing. With mothers, sometimes giving them more information is better than less, right? (I hope my mother is not reading this post.)

Or if you are seriously considering a career change from a more secure (if such a thing exists anymore) career like a civil-service government position to starting a business – how have you planned for the risks or consequences and your significant others’ reaction to it?

Take advantage of family and friends well-meaning interest in you to make sure your career plans and research are as organized and “on track” as you would like. It may have the side benefit of forcing you to set goals for yourself – short-term, realistic and achievable – to get things moving in a positive direction.

Friday, December 4, 2009

New NCDA Article on Using Career Interests to Organize Matching College Majors, Career Clusters, and Career Pathways

If you're a career counselor, school counselor, or career development professional, please visit the National Career Development Association's Career Convergence web magazine feature article this month, "Relating Interests to College Majors, Career Clusters, and Career Pathways."

The Career Key's author Dr. Lawrence K. Jones and I wrote the article to discuss the challenge of this project (using Holland's Theory with these other classification systems not based on interests), its importance, and how it can be used. We also hope to get your feedback.

How one classifies or organizes occupations and educational programs by Holland interests and work groups can sound boring to many people (but not to us!) - and yet it is a major reason that The Career Key is so practical and useful. You can see our classification system for matching careers at our website article, "Match Your Personality with Careers."

We want to thank the NCDA and Career Convergence editors for working hard with us to make the article possible.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

3 Ways to Use Twitter to Explore Careers and Job Options

Now that I have been sucked into Twitter, I am surprised to discover some valuable ways it can be used for career exploration. I admit to being skeptical in the past, but I am starting to change my mind.

Just like “lurking” in a forum or following a blog, following someone on Twitter can teach you lingo, show you trends, and even get you contacts through direct email. You can use it as a way for you to follow your “community” of people interested in similar occupations or industries.

1. Find and follow Twitters who work in and talk about a career that interests you.

While you can use Twitter’s “search” box, I found it quicker and more helpful to use lists of Twitterers already generated by others that are organized by occupation or career interest.

For example, the social media guide Mashable has several lists organized that way, like:

Designers, broken down into subcategories like Web Designer, Graphic Designer, etc.
Environmentalists (for people interested in Green Careers)
You can see all of Mashable’s Mega Lists here.

You can also use your favorite search engine to find a list. I “googled” “best lawyers on Twitter” and got a useful hit, “20 Twitterers Lawyers Should Follow on Twitter” at the Legal Intelligencer Blog.

Using Bing, I found a result for “Twitter Lists for Journalism and PR” at the Journalistics Blog.
Talk about great information if you’re interested in becoming a journalist – this post alone tells you a lot about the industry and trends.

2. Find and use #hashtags related to your career interest.

According to Twubs, a #hashtag is:
A user-created standard for identifying tweets belonging to a topic. Simply include the tag in your tweet and other people searching for the same tag will be able to find it. A user-created standard for identifying tweets belonging to a topic. Simply include the tag in your tweet and other people searching for the same tag will be able to find it.
Sites like Twubs organize them into groups and allow you to search for #hashtags. So for example, there are #hashtags for everything from #photography to #astronomy. I just started one for #choosecareer.

3. Think about how you use Twitter (or the Internet for that matter) and what that behavior tells you about yourself.

What topics do you search for? Who do you “follow”? Who on Facebook do you “fan”? What political or social issues are you passionate about? For more activities, go to “Learn More About Myself” at The Career Key website.

Use what you learn about your interests and passions to move forward in your career exploration and decision. If you want more career choice tips and want to follow me on Twitter, please do! I'm "thecareerkey" - which you can see in the box at the top right of this blog's homepage. I welcome your feedback! Twitter icon above courtesy of

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks for Your Motivated Skills - Help Others Learn About Theirs

Take a few moments to identify your motivated skills - and ask a friend or family member to do the same for themselves. Ask yourself, what 2-5 "good experiences" in or outside of work have you had where:
  1. you feel you did something well,
  2. you enjoyed doing it, and
  3. feel proud of it.
And for each one, ask yourself:
  1. what did you do?
  2. how did you do it?
  3. what happened?
Voila! You now have a practical list of your motivated skills - for use anywhere - at home, at work, on your resume. And be thankful for your unique gifts.

Were you surprised when you realized there were skills you do well, feel proud of, but don't enjoy? It might steer you in some different directions - at home or at work. Please feel free share this positive, useful activity with everyone you know.

And for such a positive contribution to career development, thank Drs. Bernard and Jean Haldane and Dr. Jerald Forster for their work with Dependable Strengths, on which this activity is based. I just ordered Dr. Forster's new book, "Articulating Strengths Together" and will be reviewing it on the blog next month.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Putting together a Holiday List for Choosing Your Next Career Adventure

Have any suggestions? I'm inspired by my local radio station's "Desert Island Disc"- what would be the CD you would want to have if stranded on a desert island....

If you had all the freedom in the world to choose your next career adventure, what are the tools and inspiration you need? Besides wine, women/men, and song - of course those help.

I've got some ideas and feel free to email or post your own. And spammers - don't waste your time and mine with my moderated comments.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

3 Principles for Helping You Learn a New Career or Job Skill

We all know career success is linked to lifelong learning. To remain competitive and adaptable, we have to be constantly learning new skills and knowledge. It’s the only job security we have. But how do we learn? What can science tell us about the best, easiest way for us to absorb and become proficient in a new career field or skill?

I’ve been fascinated by a new book, "Why Don’t Students Like School?” that offers some answers. In it, cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham looks at what techniques help students and adults think and learn effectively. I adapted some of his findings for people choosing or changing careers.

If you’re concerned about entering a new career or learning a new skill, keep these 3 principles in mind:

1. The Snowball Effect of Knowledge: Gain basic background knowledge of your subject or skill and it will become easier for you to learn more about it and practice it (see next step). Just dive in and start reading and talking to people who are experts in it.

2. “Sustained, Long Term Practice”: Practice your new skills so many times they become automatic. That means go beyond just mastering the skill. 3 strategies Willingham recommends (my examples):
  • Getting informative feedback (from peers, friends, supervisor);
  • Doing other activities that will improve your skill (like Toastmasters to improve public speaking); and
  • Consciously trying to improve (make a plan, set goals, ask for support).
3. Intelligence is nature (genes) AND nurture (environment) – so get to work. You can improve your intelligence – you need to believe you can improve and work on actually doing it. The fact your father was not a rocket scientist doesn’t mean you can’t be one. I wish I had known this about math and maybe I would have become an oceanographer instead of a lawyer.

To gain more knowledge and information about your career choice or a skill that will be required for a new job, several activities at The Career Key website will help:
Information Interviewing
Learn More About the Jobs That Interest Me
Identify My Skills
Free Agent Outlook on Work

This all just reinforces the fact that you are in the driver's seat when it comes to improving your career prospects and options. More work for the weary!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Job Outlook for Careers Matching the Social Holland Personality Type

It’s no surprise that careers matching the Social personality type are growing quickly with our aging population needing health care and our expanding community, education, and family needs.

Although school districts nationwide recently suffered cuts in both teachers and counselors, prospects vary sharply by geographic area. While tenured professor positions are as difficult as ever to get, college and universities are increasingly relying on adjunct and other non-tenured positions to serve increasing numbers of students.

These are just a couple of reasons to do your information interviews and research about careers close to home. For more tips about researching and choosing an education career, see my blog post about it.

To get started with the right personality type and matching careers, get your scientifically valid Career Key scores for the 6 personality types. Then look at your Career Key job matches and check the job outlook for each career that interests you.

From the Career Key test and website, you’ll find direct links to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) from each career you choose to explore. Each OOH description of a career includes a job outlook section, that in turn links to state specific labor market information. Career Key Canada provides the similar links to Job Futures with employment prospect information.

If what you see in the OOH or Job Futures is not promising or you want to consider other options, read on…

Top Social Career Key work group* picks for promising job prospects:

4.01 Social Services
4.02 Nursing, Therapy, & Health Promotion
4.04 Education & Library Services

* The Career Key organizes matching careers in unique, easy to use work groups by interests, skills, and abilities.

The Social occupations predicted to have the most new U.S. jobs through 2016 (listed with Career Key work group number, grouped by required education level – most to least) are:

Postsecondary Teachers (4.04)
Clinical Psychologist (4.01)
Counseling Psychologist (4.01)
School Counselor (4.01)
Clergy (4.01)
Physical Therapist (4.02)
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers (4.01)
Mental Health Counselor (4.01)
Educational, Vocational, or School Counselor (4.01)
Rehabilitation Counselor (4.01)
Elementary School Teacher (4.04)
Registered Nurse (4.02)
Dental Hygienist (4.02)
Nurse Aide (4.03)
Preschool Teacher (4.04)
Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse (4.03)

The fastest growing of all occupations are:

Postsecondary Teacher (4.04)
Clinical Psychologist (4.01)
Counseling Psychologist (4.01)
School Counselor (4.01)
Mental Health Counselor (4.01)
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker (4.01)
Marriage and Family Therapist (4.01)
Physical Therapist (4.02)
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors (4.01)
Physical Therapy Assistant (4.02)
Fitness Trainer or Aerobics Instructor (4.05)
Preschool Teacher (4.04)
Self-enrichment Education Teacher (4.04)
Athletes (4.05)

Use the Career Guide to Industries to learn more about Social occupations in:
Education, Health Care, and Social Services
Advocacy, Grantmaking, and Civil Organizations
and other industries that interest you.

In Canada, please see this list of the best Canadian job prospects in 2009:
This list contains the following Social occupations:
Family, Marriage, and Other Related Counselors
Dental Assistant
Nurse Aide
Occupational Therapist
Other Assisting Occupations in Support of Health Services
Dietitians and Nutritionists
Registered Nurses
Social Workers
Therapy and Assessment Professionals
University Professors

Next post: Job Outlook for the Enterprising Personality Type. Want to see the previous posts in this series, including those for other personality types? Start with my introductory post in Your Career Options Job Outlook Cheat Sheet.

Source: Tomorrow’s Jobs, 2006-16, U.S. Department of Labor.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

4 Positive Actions to Make Your Ideal Career a Reality

If you’re choosing a career or making a career change, infusing your decision-making with a positive approach will help you move forward. What are you doing right? And how can you choose a career direction that uses more of what works for you? Here are 4 actions to take in your positive approach:
  1. Find what “works” within yourself; each person has something that works.
  2. Focus on what you want your reality to be. Your focus = your reality.
  3. When making a decision about your future, take with you what was best about the past. You will be more confident and secure making a future career move when you take parts of the past with you. Even past disappointments can showcase your strengths like persistence, integrity, adaptability, etc.
  4. Use positive, forward-looking language about your decision; the language you use creates your reality.
I made this list based on the 8 assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry in The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry by Sue Annis Hammond. Appreciative Inquiry is an “organizational change philosophy” that looks at what works with an organization to make future plans and decisions.

If you’re interested in discovering what “works” about you, please try the activities in our Career Key article “Identify Your Skills,” in particular the “motivated skills” section. The activities in “Learn More About Yourself” will also help you.

If a strengths-based approach to your career appeals to you, we highly recommend the Dependable Strengths workshops; learn more at this non-profit's website: Dependable Strengths. As always, we do not get paid for recommending other resources.

Sometimes focusing on the obstacles that stand in your way is too de-motivating, resulting in discouragement and inaction. Try a more positive approach and see what happens – it can’t be worse than “I can’t do it!”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lobsters, Chefs, and Career Exploration

I just read an inspiring career exploration story about a would be chef and high school senior, Chelsea Ciomei, who lives on Deer Isle in mid-coast Maine. According to a story in the local newspaper, the Island Ad-Vantages, she helped organize student volunteers to prepare and serve a “top chef” fund raising dinner for the Island Culinary and Ecological Center (ICEC). Several very high profile chefs donated their time to this event.

ICEC’s “long term goal is to provide culinary and ecological education and training that will lead to job opportunities for Island young people, and open up new resources for adults.”

My family and I have been “summer people” on Deer Isle since the mid 1980s. It is a spectacularly beautiful place but with limited career opportunities. (Here’s a plug: please buy Maine lobster! It tastes so much better than other type of lobster - no offense to our Caribbean friends) So it takes a lot of initiative and creativity to explore careers on or close to the Island.

We can learn from and be inspired by others' creativity in combining their career interests with volunteer work for a good cause. With whom can you volunteer to learn more about a career that interests you?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Focus on What Career Interventions Work at CANNEXUS 2010

One of our scientifically valid assessments, The Career Decision Profile, will be in the spotlight at January's CANNEXUS 2010, the premier national career development conference in Canada. "Measuring the Impact of Career Interventions: How Do You Know It Works?" is especially relevant given this challenging budget environment. Every dollar has to demonstrate results.

Felicity Morgan and Joan McCurdy-Meyers from the University of Toronto Mississauga Career Centre will be presenting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning (Jan. 26) of the conference. I took the liberty of quoting the abstract below from the preliminary programme:

Measuring the Impact of Career Interventions:
How Do You Know It Works?

Career counsellors have developed many different types of interventions to assist their populations. Most of us check in with our clients as to their satisfaction with our work, but do we fully measure what impact our interventions have?

The University of Toronto Mississauga Career Centre has undertaken a multi-year project to measure the impact of our career planning workshops beyond the post workshop evaluation form. Using the Career Decision Profile and other measures, we’re analyzing what effect our workshops might be having, examining results for statistical significance and effecting changes to our interventions along the way.

Our session will explain the process we’ve gone through, the positives and the negatives, how we think we’ve benefited and some possible next steps.
I am also giving a presentation at CANNEXUS 2010 - the subject of a different post. Early Bird conference registration rates end on November 15 so make sure to register soon!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Career Counseling in Workforce Development is Cost-Effective. Who Knew? We did.

Linking the terms cost-effective and workforce development (or any government enterprise) is a risky business these days - but I'm going to go out on limb here because I'm armed with "think tank" report! Earlier this year, The Brookings Institution issued a report on how to make U.S. workforce development more cost-effective, focusing on One-Stop career centers. Among the conclusions:

One main ingredient to getting job seekers reemployed quickly in training programs giving a “high return” (in salary, benefits, skills) is:

Expanding assessment and counseling for potential trainees.

The Career Key has been an important contributor to assessment and counseling for over 20 years (10+ years online) so this conclusion is, frankly, no surprise to us or other professional career and school counselors.

For example, what do we know for sure in the health care debate? Incentives, incentives, incentives. If you don’t change them, people’s behavior will not change either. So it goes in workforce development. If you are evaluated on how many clients you see a day, the focus will be on quantity, not quality. So give counselors the time and tools to do their jobs and the long-term rewards (and taxpayer savings) will come.

Whew. Off my soapbox now.

Because of our public service mission, we offer the most high-quality, easy to use, affordable resources for workforce development. Workforce boards, agencies, and comparable nonprofits link to us and make group discount purchases from all over the country.

I decided to put together answers to the most common questions about The Career Key I get from Workforce Development professionals:

Does The Career Key test measure aptitude?
No, we offer a scientifically valid interest inventory based on Holland’s Theory of Career Choice, the most respected and widely used career theory in career counseling. We were the first to offer a scientifically valid career test on the Internet in 1997 and we remain one of the few.

What if our funding grant requires testing for aptitude and interests?
We are unaware of any one scientifically valid assessment measuring interests AND aptitude. (Please let us know if you find one). We recommend taking advantage of our group discounts (see below) to purchase our scientifically valid interest inventory and find a separate aptitude test that meets your agency’s needs.

What makes The Career Key different than other interest-based career tests?
  • scientifically validity
  • faster to complete than other comparable measures
  • the most affordable of comparable measures
  • our unique classification system for matching occupations makes it easier to explore more job and education options (250+ careers with a broad range of skill and education levels)
  • comprehensive, accurate information about each occupation from the OOH
  • we are the first and only scientifically valid Holland measure to match test results to all 1,400+ college majors, training and instructional programs in the U.S. See our new eBook The Education Key,
  • we are the first and only Holland measure to match test results to the DOE's Career Clusters and Pathways. See our new Career Clusters and Career Pathways eBook.
What if we don’t have Internet or computer access?
We offer a self-scoring, paper/pencil version of The Career Key test (see prices below). And for no extra charge your clients can use their test results at any Internet connected computer (home, public library) to explore more matching careers and career information at our free online article “Match Your Personality with Careers.”

How much does The Career Key cost?
Our website of professional quality career counseling articles: free – no license fee or registration required. We do not show ads or any kind of paid links or sponsorships.
Group discounts for tests and eBooks:
The Career Key test:
The Career Decision Profile: (same paper/pencil price as The Career Key test)

Popular eBooks with content found nowhere else:

The Education Key: Choosing the Right College Major, Training or Instructional Program eBook ($3 each when at least 5 are purchased)
5 Steps to Choosing the Right Career Cluster, Field or Pathway ($3 each when at least 5 are purchased)

Why shouldn’t I use the free O*Net Interest Profiler for measuring interests?
At $1 per test taking through our group discount, there is no excuse to use a free, invalid test like the O*Net IP. Please keep in mind that:
"Counselors [shall] carefully consider the validity, reliability, psychometric limitations, and appropriateness of instruments when selecting tests for use in a given situation or with a particular client." -- American Counseling Association's Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice
We love and recommend so many other free government resources like our favorite, The Occupational Outlook Handbook.

How can I afford (professionally and financially) to take a risk on trying The Career Key in my well-intentioned but rigid bureaucracy?
We can offer you a free trial, provide you with copies of and citations to independent research studies, and a list of groups and institutions nationwide that use our resources.

Please email me at julietjones at And if you mention this blog post, I'll email you a free copy of the newly revised professional Career Key Manual, a $14.95 value. You can see our free abbreviated online version at our website here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

5 Ways to Spark Your Creativity In Choosing a Career

If you want to be creative when choosing your career and consider what truly makes you happy, try these 5 ways to spark your creativity:
  1. Explore and watch episodes of this inspiring PBS documentary series. In a big green RV, students go on a roadtrip meeting new people and talking with them about their life and work. This series is fun and thought-provoking to watch, whatever your age.
  2. Watch Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestselling book "Eat, Pray, Love," talk on TED about creativity and nurturing the “genius” in each of us. She’s funny and original.
  3. Identify Your Skillsat The Career Key website, paying special attention to “Motivated Skills,” those skills you enjoy using. Often people make the mistake of only focusing what they know how to do, instead of what they enjoy doing.
  4. Read Yes! Magazine’s “10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy.” Most of these strategies are directly related to what you choose to do for a living. What do you truly "need" to make you happy? You may find self-employment or rewarding, meaningful work makes you a living you can afford after all.
  5. Do one activity this weekend that is outside your normal pattern. For example, go have a coffee or meal at a place or part of town you would not normally go to. Go to a park you’ve never visited before. Attend a community event you would normally not attend. What kinds of people did you see? What did you learn about yourself and what you enjoy doing? Can you do something similarly “out of the box” related to work that interests you? Call someone up for coffee or an information interview you might not normally approach.
Do you have other suggestions for jump starting your creativity when it comes to choosing your work?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Career and Job Outlook for the Artistic Personality Type

Careers associated with the Artistic Holland personality type are some of the hardest to pursue – and the most rewarding.

You won’t find any purely Artistic careers on any fast growing occupations lists. Competition is high and money-making opportunities slim.

But if you are open-minded and creative, look for ways to combine your two highest personality types – Artistic and [your second top personality type] in a promising career field.

Examples of putting together Artistic interests with high demand career options:

Scientific Photographer
Teaching, [your artistic interest here - dancing, sculpture...]

Commercial and Industrial Designer

Art Director

I know compromise is a tough sell, especially to someone with a dream of artistic freedom. I’ve blogged before about my grandfather’s struggle with commercialism and making a living while fulfilling his artistic potential as a sculptor. (see his legacy at I’m not saying give up on the dream – there are plenty of examples that persistence pays off – but to keep your options open.

To get started, get your scientifically valid Career Key scores for the 6 personality types. Then look at your Career Key job matches and check the job outlook for each career that interests you.

From the Career Key test and website, you’ll find direct links to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) from each career you choose to explore. Each OOH description of a career includes a job outlook section, that in turn links to state specific labor market information. Career Key Canada provides the similar links to Job Futures with employment prospect information.

If what you see in the OOH or Job Futures is not promising or you want to consider other options, read on…

Top Artistic Career Key work group* picks for promising job prospects:
3.02 Visual Arts
3.05 Communications

* The Career Key organizes matching careers in unique, easy to use work groups by interests, skills, and abilities.

These Artistic careers are listed as “InDemand” by the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net. See the Career Key work group in ( ):

Commercial and Industrial Designer
Graphic Designer (3.02)
Interior Designer (3.02)
Multi-Media Artist or Animator (3.02)
Technical Writer (3.05)

Use the Career Guide to Industries to learn more about Artistic occupations in:
Advertising and Public Relations Services
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
Motion Picture & Video Industry
Publishing (except software)
and other industries that interest you.

In Canada, please see this list of the best Canadian job prospects in 2009:
For Artistic occupations, see
Managers in Art, Culture, Recreation & Sport
Managers in Architecture…
Web Designers & Developers

Next post: Job Outlook for the Social Personality Type. Want to see the previous posts in this series for the Realistic and Investigative personality types? Start with my introductory post in Your Career Options Job Outlook Cheat Sheet.

Source: Tomorrow’s Jobs, 2006-16, U.S. Department of Labor.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Best Way to Choose a College Major or Training Program

There are a lot of websites that talk about choosing a college major and tell you what to major in. But The Career Key is the only website to offer majors advice based on solid science and independent research proven to lead to a successful education decision. We just launched the most comprehensive resource out there - and it's affordable and easy to use.

Why does The Career Key offer the best way to choose a college major or post secondary program? Unlike other approaches it:
  1. Uses a scientifically valid career test to match your interests and personality with majors and training programs;
  2. Offers you the most education choices (all of the 1,400+ college majors and training programs listed by the U.S. and Canadian governments);
  3. Shows you careers related to educational programs that match your personality;
  4. Shows you accurate, comprehensive, up to date information about each career;
  5. Organizes all the programs and careers in a unique way developed by recognized vocational expert Dr. Lawrence K. Jones that is easy to explore; and
  6. Links you to a description of each major and program that interests you.
  7. All this information only costs $14.50 when you purchase the eBook, The Education Key: Choosing the Right College Major, Training, or Instructional Program, and The Career Key test together. And we offer a special, affordable group discount for both.
To learn more, read the full "Choosing a College Major, Training, or Instructional Program" article at The Career Key website and visit our eBookstore.

But don’t take our word for it. Independent published research with over 130,000 students at 112 colleges and universities link college success (higher GPA, increased graduation rate, and higher post graduation earnings) to matching one’s Holland personality to majors. Download our Summer 2009 newsletter to see the studies and links to them.

And last but not least, we are the only career guidance company to donate 10% of our sales to charity. Learn more by clicking on Donations at Quick Links on The Career Key home page.

I know I am being majorly guilty (pun intended) of self-congratulations here - but it's hard to not be proud when you offer such a high quality, unique, and affordable product that does good in the world.

Please spread the word to friends and colleagues because we do not do direct advertising or onsite ads (we give money to charity instead).

Thanks to iPhoto for the great photo above.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Theory vs. Reality in the Grad School Decision

Because I'm interested in education, I read the recent NYT's Room for Debate online panel discussion, "Do Teachers Need Education Degrees?" Basically it spiraled into education reform arguments: what makes a good teacher? A degree or experience? Views were so passionate that one writer even used the word "baloney!" Wow.

And never mind all the theory and abstract discussion. If my predominant Holland personality type is Social and I decide that I want to be a middle school teacher, what does all this mean for me?

This controversy leads to 3 observations:

1. Research your state and local teaching certification requirements.
2. Informational interview at least 3 teachers in your geographic area at different types of schools (public, private, charter) who work in the subjects that interest you. Do they have a grad degree? What impact does it have on the hiring process? Where did they get theirs? What lessons did they learn?
3. Be critical when evaluating educational programs' claims and promises. As noted in the NYT article, school administrators do not view all programs as created equal.

We suggest many more activities to learn about the jobs that interest you at our website.

Both my parents were teachers so I can appreciate the complexity and challenges (and rewards) of this career choice. Along those lines, any typos or grammatical mistakes you find in this blog are not my parents' fault!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Online Chinese Career Key Found Effective & Helpful in New Study

The online Chinese Career Key has been found effective and very helpful to public high school students in Hong Kong in a new study described in the September 2009 issue of the Career Development Quarterly, the official journal published by the National Career Development Association.

"A Preliminary Study on the Effectiveness of the Chinese Career Key Online (CCK)" was conducted by Dr. Siu-Man Raymond Ting, Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education at North Carolina State University.

The study found:
  • "[p]reliminary evidence that the CCK Online has an acceptable internal consistency with the RIASEC scales..."
  • "The CCK Online measures very similarly to the CCK paper-and-pencil version."
  • "When compared to SDS scores, the CCK Online scores show moderately strong to strong criterion validity with the RIASEC Score correlations..."
  • "...students seem to be highly satisfied with the technology, usability, and helpfulness."
"This study suggests that the CCK Online has good preliminary reliability and validity for exploring and screening occupational interests..."

Full citation:
Ting, S.-M. R (2009, September). A Preliminary Study of the Effectiveness of the Chinese Career Key Online. Career Development Quarterly, 77, 80.

For more information about the study, please contact Dr. Ting using the link above. For more information about using the Chinese Career Key, please contact me: julietjones at

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Using Your Interests to Choose the Right Career Clusters and Career Pathways

Are you a student about to choose a career cluster, career field, or career pathway? Do you want to know how the 16 career clusters and 81 career pathways are related to your interests and what you want to study in school?

Are you a counselor or parent looking for an affordable, scientifically valid assessment that will help students make a good choice?

The Career Key is proud to announce the release of the first and only resource to match the results of a valid measure of Holland’s 6 personality types with the U.S. Department of Education’s 16 career clusters, fields, and 81 career pathways.

Please read more about this new affordable ePublication (PDF) in our eBookstore:
5 Steps to Choosing the Right Career Cluster, Field, or Pathway.

You can also see a preview at our website article, "Choosing a Career Cluster, Field, or Pathway."

Finally, we created a RIASEC/Career Key map of Career Clusters and Career Pathways - the first of its kind. It's included in our website article.

These are the product of years of research. When used with The Career Key test, 5 Steps is the first and only resource to,
  • Be based on a scientifically valid career test of the Holland personality types;
  • Explain, in clear language, the meaning of the Career Clusters and Pathways;
  • Match the results of the career test to promising jobs;
  • Identify the career clusters, pathways, or fields likely to prepare you for them; and
  • Lead you step-by-step to making a good decision – a method that is simple and based on sound scientific practice.
You can purchase an individual copy for $8.95 or add The Career Key test for a total of $14.50 - a 23% savings.

Like all of our popular ePublications, we offer a substantial group discount to enable counselors, non-profits and educators to use our high quality career guidance products. Using our $1 per test group discount and this ePublication ($3 each copy when you purchase at least 5); you can administer both for only $4 per student.

And we are the only career guidance company to donate 10% of our website sales to charity. Learn more by clicking on "Profits and Donations" at our Take the Test page and reading about our public service mission.

To evaluate this ePublication (or any other) before making a group discount purchase, please email me at julietjones at I'd love to hear from you. Besides, it's pretty scary to be excited about Career Clusters unless you can share it with someone...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Career and Job Outlook for the Investigative Personality Type

If one of your top 2 or 3 Holland personality types is Investigative, you’ve hit the job outlook jackpot. In this economy, growth jobs with “liveable” wages are in technology, health care, and computer science - fields with many jobs matching the Investigative personality.

And you can choose from promising options requiring a variety of skill and education levels - a phD or medical school is not required for most jobs (not that there's anything wrong with those).

To start out, look at the Career Key career matches for you and check the job outlook for each career that interests you.

From the Career Key test and website, you’ll find direct links to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) from each career you choose to explore. Each OOH description of a career includes a job outlook section, that in turn links to state specific labor market information. Career Key Canada provides the similar links to Job Futures with employment prospect information.

If what you see in the OOH or Job Futures is not promising or you want to consider other options, read on…

Top Investigative Career Key work group* picks for promising job prospects:

2.02 Life Sciences
2.03 Health Sciences

2.04 Laboratory & Medical Technology

2.05 Computer Science & Technology

* The Career Key organizes matching careers in unique, easy to use work groups by interests, skills, and abilities. To learn more, click here.

The Investigative occupations predicted to offer the most new U.S. jobs through 2016 (listed with Career Key work group number, grouped by required education level) are:
  • Medical Scientist, except epidemiologist (2.02)
  • Physicians & Surgeon (2.03)
  • Pharmacist (2.03)
  • Veterinarian (2.03)
  • Dentist (2.02)
  • Biochemist and Biophysicist (2.02)
  • Computer and information scientist, research (2.05)
  • Management analyst (2.08)
  • Computer software engineer, applications (2.05) This career will grow more than any other Investigative career.
  • Computer systems analyst (2.05)
  • Computer support specialist (2.05)
The fastest growing of all occupations are:
  • Veterinarian (2.03)
  • Pharmacist (2.03)
  • Chiropractor (2.02)
  • Optometrist (2.03)
  • Medical Scientist, except epidemiologist (2.02)
  • Biochemist and Biophysicist (2.02)
  • Computer & information scientist, research (2.05)
  • Actuary (2.06)
  • Network systems and data communications analyst (2.05)
  • Computer software engineer, applications (2.05)
  • Veterinary technologist or technician (2.03)
  • Environmental science and protection technician, including health (2.04)
  • Cardiovascular technologist or technician (2.04)

For informative snapshots of the industries that involve the careers that interest you, use the OOH's companion Career Guide to Industries to learn more about health care, software publishing, computer systems design, scientific research and development services, and other industries. These government websites are surprisingly readable and thanks to internet - the info is much more accessible than it used to be.

In Canada, please see this list of the best Canadian job prospects in 2009:
For Investigative occupations, see:
  • Civil Engineers
  • Electrical and Chemical Engineers
  • Dentists
  • General Practitioners and Family Physicians
  • Medical Laboratory Technologists and Pathologists’ Assistants
  • Medical Technologists and Technicians (except Dental)
  • Optometrists, Chiropractors and Other Health Diagnosing and Treating Professionals
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacists, Dietitians, and Nutritionists
  • Specialist Physicians
A word about the other Investigative CK work groups:

2.01 Physical Sciences
The growing scarcity of water, environmental regulation, climate change make the careers in this group a positive bet for job outlook.

2.06 Mathematics & Data Analysis
Statistics and data analysis is a growth area for jobs, as recently pointed out in this recent New York Times article by Steve Lohr.

2.07 Social Sciences
There are no fast growing jobs on the list from this group. A few months ago I wrote a post about choosing a career in the humanities that is related to social sciences' challenges. But that doesn't mean a economist or historian career choice would be a mistake. Talk with people now working in the fields that interest you - do informational interviews and other research to learn more practical information about job outlook.

2.08 Engineering
Environmental engineer is the highest growing engineer job, while the largest number of engineer jobs created will be in civil engineering. Overall, the job outlook for engineers is positive. Like anything else, your location will dictate job opportunities so research your local job market.

Next post: Job Outlook for the Artistic Personality Type. (in progress) Want to see the previous posts in this series? Start with my introductory post in Your Career Options Job Outlook Cheat Sheet.

Source for U.S. Job Outlook: Tomorrow’s Jobs, 2006-16, U.S. Department of Labor
Sources for Canadian Job Outlook: Job Futures, 2009; Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
For more suggestions and activities, read our website article, Learn About Occupations.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Career Key Author at Work

I couldn't resist posting this photo of Career Key's author, Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, relying on his Realistic interests to keep his house ready for the winter elements. You architecture buffs out there will recognize the "Mansard" roof.

He's written before about his unusual combination of Realistic and Social Holland personality types.

To oversimplify, liking to work with tools and with people is an unusual combination. Are you an unusual combination?

If your highest score is in the Realistic personality type, you might be interested in my latest blog series on job outlook by personality type. I blogged about Realistic job outlook last week....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Matching Careers Now Updated

Over the weekend, we uploaded to our websites in the U.S. and Canada a complete update of our classification system for matching careers by Holland type and our unique Career Key work groups. We added more careers and updated some job titles. Links to comprehensive career information (salary, job description, job outlook) for each career were also updated.

The paper/pencil version of The Career Key test (and Canadian version) available in our eBookstore already shows the updated classification system.

We wanted to get this done before the beginning of the academic year, when many of our customers at colleges, universities and schools use The Career Key the most.

To learn more about how we organize occupations, please visit our online professional manual. Please also feel free to email me your feedback. I'm always listening.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Career Prospects for the Realistic Personality Type

If one of your top 2 or 3 Holland personality types is Realistic, then you might be a little depressed by some of the job growth trends over the last 20 years. Many typically “Realistic” industries and occupations have suffered big losses: manufacturing and production of all kinds, farming and fishing, and even construction in the recent recession. The automotive industries and their suppliers have particularly been hard hit.

But there are many other Realistic careers with positive job outlook. And even within battered industries there are some bright spots.

Things to consider:
  • Look at the Realistic occupations related to high growth industries like health care, social services (childcare and elder care), retail and restaurant, science and technology, and computer systems. Technicians and mechanics that fix medical equipment. High-skilled manufacturing like pharmaceuticals or green technology. Think outside the box. Are there any companies near you in these industries? What types of Realistic jobs do they have?
  • With any career requiring a significant physical activity (as many Realistic occupations do), consider long-term consequences and your own abilities. Will you be able to hang windows when you are 60 years old? Can you plan a transition from an entry level, intensely physical job, to a less physical one that matches your interests? Again, talk with people working in the field. What are the common injuries? Physical demands?
  • Location, location, location. If you really are interested in a particular career, regardless of what the government or “conventional wisdom” says about job outlook, talk with local people working in that career to get the real story. Maybe your area is the exception to a nationwide trend.
To get started, look at the jobs that match your interests using the Career Key test. Then check the job outlook for each career that interests you.

From the Career Key test and website, you’ll find direct links to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) from each career you choose to explore. Each OOH description of a career includes a job outlook section that links to state specific labor market information. Career Key Canada provides similar links to the Canadian government's Job Futures with employment prospect information.

Top Realistic Career Key (CK) work groups* for promising job prospects:

1.02 Safety and Law Enforcement
1.03 Engineering
1.05 Construction Crafts & Support
1.06 Crafts – Mechanical
1.07 Crafts – Electrical-Electronic
* The Career Key organizes matching careers in unique, easy to use work groups based on interests, skills, and abilities. To learn more, click here.

The Realistic occupations predicted to have the most new U.S. jobs through 2016 (listed with Career Key work group number) are:

Automotive service technician (1.06)
Carpenters (1.05)
Cooks, restaurant (1.09), and
Police officers and sheriffs (1.02)

The fastest growing is:
Audio and video equipment technician (1.03)

In Canada, please see this list of the best Canadian job prospects in 2009:
For Realistic occupations, see (with the CK work group number)
Paramedics (1.02)
Civil engineering technicians (1.03)
Mechanical engineers (1.03)
Medical radiation technologist (1.03)
Technical occupations in dental health care (1.12), and
Underground miners, oil and gas drillers, and related workers (1.11).

A word about the other CK work groups...

1.01 Agriculture and Natural Resources
Farming and fishing have taken significant hits to jobs. Support positions in forestry, mining, and farming are slowly growing, but overall technology and overseas competition makes this a stagnant or declining area – except mining, oil and gas in Canada. Small “boutique” farmers with specialty seeds and crops are making a positive go of it – but you have to find your niche to make it work.

1.04 Transportation and Distribution
While there is an overall increase in transportation operator jobs (mostly in trucking), these occupations have overall seen a jobs decline. The number and quality of the airline pilot opportunities are much different now than they were 20 years ago.

1.11 Equipment Operation
Construction is rebounding is some places as the residential and commercial real estate markets loosen up. Opportunities to drive heavy construction equipment will follow a similar path.

1.12 Manufacturing and Production
Health science related jobs like dental or ophthalmic laboratory technician can be a bright spot in an otherwise dim outlook for manufacturing and production.

Next post: Job Outlook for the Investigative Personality Type. (in progress) Want to see the previous post in this series? Start with my introductory post in your Career Options Cheat Sheet: Job Prospects by Personality Type. It also has my recommendations for best Internet links for labor market information.

Source for U.S. Job Outlook: Tomorrow’s Jobs, 2006-16, U.S. Department of Labor
Sources for Canadian Job Outlook: Job Futures, 2009; Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Increase Your Chances of Keeping your Salary Post Layoff

Want to land on your feet post-layoff? You might want to take the "lessons learned" approach to some new sobering statistics. According to new research discussed in this New York Times article, many laid off workers take years to recover and get back to their previous salary and most, on average, will not return to their pre-layoff incomes.

This new working paper by Columbia University economist Till von Wachter and two other economists found that from 1984 to 2004:
  • most workers do not return to their pre-layoff salary within 15 to 20 years;
  • starting over with a new employer and/or a new industry reduces your salary;
  • largest long-term income losses happened to those with the longest tenures at their previous employers;
  • stability at a company may lead to over-specialization of skills, making it less likely those skills can transfer to another company;
  • workers who are laid off are more likely to be laid off again;
  • older workers suffer more income decline than younger workers;
  • workers with college degrees do slightly better than those without them.
These statistics don't apply to everyone - the research was done with companies laying off at least 30% of their workforce and the laid-off workers had been with the employer at least 3 years. And most employees were men. I would also say that this research included more of the old style, cradle to grave type of career paths that no longer exist (except in government, perhaps).

What can we learn? It's a reminder that getting too comfortable in your career can damage your ability to survive a layoff with your income level intact.

Our article "The Free Agent Outlook on Work" has a number of suggestions on how to avoid, when possible, the outcomes described in this research. I also wrote a blog series earlier this year on each of the 6 principles guiding the Free Agent Worker. And finally, a few more ideas:
  • avoid too much specialization, locking yourself into work with one employer;
  • continue updating your education throughout your career; even if it's part-time; and
  • take advantage of employer-provided training.

Your Career Options Cheat Sheet: Job Prospects – by Holland Personality Type

Can’t decide on a career? Evaluating which career options will have better job opportunities? I’ve done the work to get you started with your decision. The biggest problem with researching how “in demand” a career will be is that there is a lot of information about industry growth, job creation, etc. that is hard to digest.

So I created a cheat sheet of job outlook organized by Career Key Work Group/Holland Personality type. A work group is the helpful way we organize careers within a personality type. Each group is based on skills, abilities and interests developed by Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, a recognized vocational expert. For example, “Literary Arts” is the first work group for the Artistic personality type.

First, take The Career Key test (Canadian version) and learn what your strongest Holland personality types are and choose careers that interest you.

Then, read this 7 post series (Intro + 6 personality types) to learn more about the job prospects of the work groups and careers you chose.

Job Prospects: Realistic Personality
Job Prospects: Investigative Personality
Job Prospects: Artistic Personality
Job Prospects: Social Personality
Job Prospects: Enterprising Personality (in progress)
Job Prospects: Conventional Personality (in progress)
You can also click on the label "job outlook" on the righthand menu of the blog.

To begin, a few facts and trends to keep in mind:
  • In the U.S. and Canada, the goods-based economy is transitioning to a service based one. We are making fewer things and consuming more services. And the things we do make are more complex and require more skills to produce. A high-school diploma will no longer get you a living wage production job without more training. A lot of poorly paid, low skilled jobs are being created: low-end retail, food preparation, etc. So just because a job is high growth or "in demand" does not make it a great job or the best long term choice.
  • Technology, environmental concerns, and automation are changing the way we consume energy, handle paper, and our productivity (how many people it takes to make a widget). Whole occupations are disappearing (stock clerks) while new ones are created (networks system analyst).
  • A greater proportion of the population is getting older and our skilled health care needs are rising.
  • Law enforcement and security jobs are increasing in a post 9/11 world. And the industries that support them are expanding (weapons, specialized clothing).
  • How money is made in publishing and entertainment industries is driving big changes in many Artistic and Enterprising careers. Journalists, publicists, singers and actors are just a few occupations in a state of rapid change.
What does this all mean for you as you consider your career options? Take a look at the Career Key work groups and careers that interest you the most and then check our cheat sheet over the next 6 posts. Note to Canadians: where Canada differs, I’ll bring it up. And please email your feedback – I welcome it.

Helpful Links to Job Outlook Data
In the U.S.
Tomorrow’s Jobs, Occupational Outlook Handbook
O*Net OnLine’s List of InDemand Careers, in order of highest to lowest growth, with links to more information about each occupation. You can even download and save it as a MS Excel spreadsheet or a CSV file (for anyone without MSOffice).
"Learn More About Occupations" article at the Career Key website

In Canada:
Job Futures’ list of occupations with the best job outlook in 2009
Labour Market Information by occupation and your province/territory
Industry Profiles by geographic area that includes employment prospects
"Learn More About Occupations" article at the Career Key Canada website

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Career Key Central is Hot

I am literally roasting here in the Pacific Northwest. At this moment, it’s over 100 degrees. This is a place where very few people (including us) have air conditioning. If you want AC, you have to get in your car – which is what I did with my young son after work yesterday. Barnes and Noble train table here we come! It appears the whole week will be like this and I will spend a lot of time in B and N after work. Meanwhile Career Key author Dr. Jones is in Maine with the cool fog and rain. Right now, I envy him.

I’m in the midst of launching exciting new products like 5 Steps to Choosing the Right Career Cluster, Field and Pathway. It is the only valid career test and the only measure of Holland's 6 personality types to be matched to the Department of Education's Career Clusters and Pathways. You can see the new, free web article here:
Choosing a Career Cluster, Career Field or Pathway

And I'm just about to release the The Education Key, that will match Career Key test results to over 1,400 college majors and training programs in the U.S. and Canada.

But right now all I can think of is a cold beverage….

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Take the Best Career Test on Your iPhone or Handheld/Smartphone

On your iPhone or handheld/smartphone, you can now take the best, quickest, and one of the few scientifically valid career tests on the Internet, The Career Key. You can access our website, take the test, and access your saved results and matching careers anywhere you have wi-fi or 3G access.

We haven’t yet developed an iPhone or mobile phone app but you technically don’t need one. An app would make it a little easier to read, so I’m looking into creating one. But using double screen taps to enlarge the text, you can answer test questions, download and read our color PDF “What Your Test Scores Mean” and look at your saved career list and links.

I’m ashamed to admit that I just got a handheld. I had a Blackberry when I worked at the State Patrol but I never used it for Internet access (back in 2003) because the interface was so slow and difficult to read.

Last weekend, the Apple sales guy looked at my 6 year old cell phone (only capable of making a phone call) and said cheerfully, “Hey, I had one of those in high school!” Talk about feeling old and cheap at the same time – what could be worse? But my new iPhone immediately made me feel better, prettier, younger. Just like the marketing said it would! Viva la handheld! And forgive my preoccupation with age today - it's my 30 something birthday...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Career Key Websites Graduate to a New, More Powerful Server

The Career Key's popularity is a blessing, but has also resulted in gradually more load - requiring a server upgrade. Over the weekend, we migrated our websites to a new, more powerful server. Not only did the upgrade make our sites and tests at least twice as fast, it also brings improvements to how the tests work.

I want to thank our programmers: Nate, Joe, Whit, Will, and Andrew and our web designer Jeremy Bishop of Jeremiah Designs for making this upgrade and migration possible. There is no way we could have smoothly accomplished this big task without such talented people. And I really appreciate all the time worked at night and on weekends.

Migrating to a new server takes a lot more work and is a lot more complicated than you might think. It's not just a matter of copying a bunch of files over onto a new machine. (wish it was!) I spend a lot of time with programmers and technical people (I'm married to one) so I definitely appreciate the work and expertise required more than most.

Our technical team really cares about helping people without the promise of big bucks. So I am even more grateful for their help. Thank you!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Free Online MIT Courses Are Great Career & Brain Boosters

If you are looking to experience a free undergraduate or graduate education at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), it’s only a mouse click away. MIT and their Sloan School of Management, through their OpenCourseWare website, offer over 1,900 courses in the sciences, management and humanities for free. Wow. They also offer resources especially useful for high school students and teachers.

It’s like a free course audit without the commute (or paperwork). No registration is required. And many of these courses have been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and other languages.

I came across it because a friend of mine was preparing for job interviews in the sciences and was looking to boost and refresh his knowledge of some topics that interest him and are relevant to his work.

You don’t get to put a degree from MIT on your resume, but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt in your next information or job interview to say, “I am interested in [career relevant topic] so I found that MIT offered an online course in it – I learned/remembered a few things, like ______?”

OpenCourseWare is yet another way to increase your knowledge and skills in a particular area – or refresh old principles long forgotten in your high school or undergrad haze…

Thursday, July 9, 2009

5 Ideas for "Off the Clock" Activities that Help Your Career

Time to give your career some help. Whether you are a victim of job dissatisfaction, unemployed, or discouraged that your career is not as fulfilling as you'd like, you can still improve your career choice "off the clock" or "off duty." Why not enjoy yourself and improve your career prospects at the same time?

Here are my top 4 ideas for making your "off the clock" time enjoyable and helpful to your career:
  1. Learn more about yourself to find the activities you enjoy doing and skills you enjoy using.
  2. Learn how Holland's Theory of Career Choice applies to you, both at work and at leisure. If needed, make some new career goals to bring positive, forward looking direction to your life.
  3. Identify new skills you'd like to have and your future career goal requires.
  4. Find activities that teach and use these skills. You may have little extra time, but even the right volunteer position can be limited in time-commitment - once a month, once every few months...
  5. Play with the Internet - but focus on your career interests, not your Facebook page. What is going on with your account on "LinkedIn"? Are you signed up for Google News Alerts related to your career interests? What's new with any professional organizations you belong to? Use the Internet to find ideas for local activities and projects to get involved in.
For example:
You're a Social personality type, working as a social worker but feeling overwhelmed, underpaid, and unsure whether you're making a difference. You use the phrase "burned out" a lot. Your second and third highest Holland personality types are Investigative and Enterprising. You've thought of trying to get into management so there is less face to face contact with clients, but more control over strategic direction. A higher salary would be great!

You enjoy helping people and have great communications skills, are good at earning people's trust and developing rapport, and have a lot of experience in navigating bureaucracy.

You might be interested in a second job or volunteer project that involves:

- helping write a grant proposal;
- a project where you supervise other volunteers or staff;
- mentoring or serving as a Big Brother or Big Sister;
- providing support to a local university social science department doing a study on a social issue of interest to you; or
- other activities with a clear, positive outcome that involve helping people, managing others or investigating a social problem.

If you have enough money or a tuition reimbursement program at work (lucky you), are there classes in business management, grantwriting, or social sciences that help advance your career, teach new skills, and/or keep you updated in your field of interest? You can learn more about choosing a training and educational program at The Career Key website.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson and My Career Flashback

I was pretty shocked when Michael Jackson died – not because I thought he was in the best of health, but he was such a big part of my teenage years. I wasn’t a breathless fan with his poster on my bedroom wall but I did enjoy his music.

In 1992, I remember listening to a concert of his in Munich from a nearby hilltop, with several thousand other penniless fans. It’s one of those memories that takes you back to where you were in your life. I can clearly picture the stormy evening sky, warm but a little threatening. Unable to afford study abroad, I found a way to pay for my summer in Europe as part of a university work abroad program. I worked in Siemens' corporate legal department. That summer was lonely, wonderful and a big influence on me.

At that time a junior in college, I hadn’t decided whether I wanted to be a lawyer or a professor like my father. I’m now surprised how few career options I gave myself. It was an exciting international time – the Berlin Wall had come down and I had recently returned to Checkpoint Charlie, 12 years after I’d lived in West Berlin as a child. Gone were the mines and anti-tank “crosses” and in their place… grass.

I can think of a lot of school and career advice to give myself back then – be more confident in yourself, take a little more time to smell the roses, give yourself more options, don’t be too influenced by what your friends are doing, etc., etc. – the usual cliches. But if I knew all those things from the beginning, then life so far would not have been as interesting. Being too wise would’ve been predictable and boring.

I didn’t tune into the Jackson memorial service today; I’ll stick with my own memories of that time period in my life and how his music was a part of it. The funny thing is that the energy his music brought out in me is still there. So I'm confident that 2 career paths later – and more to come, it will be there to power me forward.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Should you go to graduate school?

Many people are now considering whether to attend graduate school - recent college grads facing a poor job market, people considering a career change or upgrade, and unemployed B.A. holders looking for something to tide them over until the recession ends. If you do it, make sure you have a clear, well researched career goal in mind for how to use it.

In the early 90s, I was in the first category - a college grad facing a job market where it seemed like a Liberal Arts B.A. was no better than a high school diploma for getting a good paying job. But I had a clear career goal - being a labor or maritime lawyer. I took several valid interest inventories like The Career Key, worked as a clerk in a law office during college, did informational interviews with other lawyers - to learn more about it and to be sure it was right for me. And it was - for 10+ years - I still work at a legal clinic.

I came across a great "pros and cons" discussion that you should read if you are thinking of going to graduate school. "What is a Masters Degree Worth" is a June 30 NYT blog panel discussion, with more links to other resources like MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston's column "Is your degree worth $1 million - or worthless?"

The big mistakes that people make with grad school is that they enroll because (1) they think they have no other options and don't know what else there is to do, and/or (2) they don't have a clear, well thought out and researched career goal in mind.

Here is an example of such a mistake: say you decide you want to work in Washington D.C. as a policy researcher for a think tank by getting a masters or Ph.D. in political science - without doing a lot of research about how much you would be paid, how long it would take to pay back your loans, and where you (seriously) would have a good chance of getting a job. And without talking with several people in the job of your dreams to get the real story about it.

You avoid these mistakes by choosing a career that matches your personality using a science-based process for making a decision. It takes a little work, but it is straightforward and intuitive. My choice to go to law school wasn't perfect, and it wasn't like I didn't doubt it in tough times. But I knew I'd done a lot of soul searching and research to make the decision - that ultimately proved to be the right choice and one without regrets. I hope you'll do the same.