Career Key

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

Monday, June 29, 2009

3 Cheers for Student Loan Repayment Reform!

Good news for career planners looking at education options and financing their next career move. If you have or will have U.S. government guaranteed student loans, your repayment plan may be based on your income level. What a concept! – and hard to believe it has taken this long to implement. You can learn more about the new plan and eligibility at the website. Jonathan Glater also wrote an excellent article about the new plan in The New York Times today.

And please make sure you max out your federal loan eligibility before turning to higher interest private loans.

Yes, there may be more paperwork to fill out but if you want to go to school, you’d better be able to fill out paperwork. Maybe that should be a foundation skill!

You can learn more at The Career Key website about resources for financing your education – and also at the Career Key Canada website. Canadians: After checking on CanLearn's section on repayment, it doesn't look to me as if Canada has a similar income based option for repaying loans. Please let me know if I'm wrong about that. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Congratulations to!

Our newest partner,, just received a 2009 Webby Honoree award for their website in the Employment category. If you haven't checked out their Generation Y career discovery tool and professional social network, you should. It is truly unique and powerful.

They are the ONLY job search and networking website to use a scientifically valid test and career theory to match users with jobs and fellow networkers.

They also have a very cool user interface (hence their Webby award) to deliver this high-quality content. You can see video on their YouTube channel.

Yes, I'm biased because they are our partner but I've seen a lot of time-wasting junk out there and Zumeo really does a fantastic job. Okay, enough said.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting The Degree or Certificate

The dropping rate of degree completion is a growing problem, not just at 4-year colleges but at community colleges as well. According to a Futureworks paper sponsored by the Lumina Foundation, the rates of 2 and 4-year college completion have declined from the mid-1980s; two-year college completion rates have declined from about 44% to 39%.

A couple of weeks ago I attended an interesting forum, “From the Work Station to Graduation: paths to college success for Washington’s working adults” sponsored by the Seattle King County Workforce Education Collaborative and Port Jobs.

My primary interest in attending was to learn more about strategies to help students complete their programs.

There was an emphasis on what “best practices” public colleges can learn from private ones – a topic sure to provoke emotions and reactions, and it did – in a productive way.

I heard students need:
  • consistent, practical career and academic guidance and follow up from schools (a.k.a. “success coaches”)
  • flexible, predictable course schedules so people can enter and leave programs easily in a temporary life crisis (child care issues, divorce, etc.)
  • short term, clear academic paths to careers (certification or degree to do _____ job)
  • more training on soft skills (behavior, communication)
Career services plays a big role in helping students plan out their coursework, and yet either students don’t take advantage of what’s offered or career centers have insufficient funding or personnel to do their work. Or they’re sometimes related.

You can’t blame students for not going to Career Services if there is very little help or the help given is inconvenient, confusing or unattractively presented. By the same token, you can’t blame counselors for not being able to help students who give them the brush off or ignore them. Ultimately students need to take initiative and control over their own future.

I don’t begin to have all the answers to the degree completion problem. But what I do know is that there is a scientifically proven way to increase degree completion rates using Holland's Theory of Vocational Choice.

This Journal of Vocational Behavior study is just one of several recently published articles in national peer-reviewed journals that shows the impact of "interest/major congruence" - or a little more simplistic way of saying it, "personality/major match." By helping people choose a college major or training program early that matches their Holland personality type(s), you improve students' college success.

And now Career Key offers an affordable way to offer it to students choosing a career cluster, pathway or field and those choosing a college major or training program.

We’ve matched The Career Key test results to Career Clusters and Pathways and 1,500+ college majors and training programs in a way that can be adapted for any college or institution trying to guide students in the right direction. We’ll be releasing it to the public in a few weeks and updating the "choose a college major" link above.

If you want to learn more, please contact me. This is a topic I love to discuss!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bad Work Days in Perspective

Sitting on a Seattle (see the Space Needle in the distance) beach with my family this weekend, I had the pleasure of watching lots of people soaking up the sun and BBQing in the park. My 2 year old son, thanks to his father’s love of grilling, was really excited by the charcoal fires. He ran happily on the sand beneath the sea wall, giggling and dragging seaweed behind him. It was one of those moments when you catch your breath and feel the warmth, figuratively and literally.

In my careers, I have had a few days feeling cold, dread, and anxiety. They make me appreciate my warm, carefree days. From age 16 to the present, I’ve cried, been enraged, hated my life – my work – you name it. But everything passes – whether it’s because I hunker down and wait it out, or I leave a job or career.

It’s cliché to say “life is a journey” – but ups and downs are what it’s all about. I wouldn’t give up those cold days for a comfy career in a cubicle with no demands or stress. Boredom would drive me crazy.

When it comes to your job and your career path, it pays to see your level of satisfaction with them in the proper perspective. Are you consistently in “hell” in your current situation? Or is it a rare bad patch? Is it related to personality conflicts with your work and coworkers or a temporary glitch? You can learn more about the different types of job satisfaction at The Career Key website.

As time goes on, I know more about what success means for me. Success is about being able to recognize those warm days and enjoy them. And being able to handle cold days when they come – by letting them pass, or taking action.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

5 Free Career Choice Resources You Should Be Using (besides The Career Key)

If you are choosing a career, make sure you are taking advantage of the high-quality, free resources available to you. We have a lot of great, professionally developed career advice articles at The Career Key, but we are only one stop on your career exploration itinerary. Below are my favorite free career resources (and no, I’m not getting anything in return for these recommendations):

Your Public Library. I’m continually surprised at the number of people who do not use their public library. 2 news flashes for nonusers: (1) the public library is for everyone – not just students or “down on their luck” people, and (2) libraries are carrying more and more eBooks, databases, and other resources you cannot get anywhere else for free. If you have a library hang up, get over it! First built for educators, this non-commercial resource has tons of great links for many different careers you won’t find anywhere else.

Occupational Outlook Handbook
. Yes, we recommend and link to it all the time on our site but there is a reason. It is the best, most up to date government resource that describes careers, related careers, and all sorts of helpful information.

National Career Development Association. Many of NCDA’s list of Internet Sites for Career Planning are from The Riley Guide’s Margaret Dikel’s well known and respected book, The Internet: A Tool for Career Planning. You can also get her book from your public library or purchase it online for $10 at the NCDA site. Not free, but very reasonable.

NCDA's site also has excellent advice for finding a career counselor and what to expect from one.

College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics. If you are researching your education and training options (all schools, from less than 2 year degrees to advanced degrees), this is a great site. Once you match your personality to careers and your course of study, and after reviewing our recommended free resources, use College Navigator to find schools that offer the degree you need.

I hope these suggestions are helpful and I welcome your feedback!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Incorporating “Reality” into Choosing the Right Career

Throughout my careers, I’ve struggled with balancing economic reality with my interests, passions, and life demands. Choosing careers throughout your life requires you to decide, again and again, how to spend your time, money, and energy – and prioritize them. A big task.

So I’m always looking for helpful ways to incorporate “reality” into choosing the right career. We suggest a number of activities to “Know Yourself” at our website and I recommend adding one more to this list.

I found a helpful resource in Chapter 7, “Align the Practical Realities” of Tamara Erickson’s book, “Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work.” Although the book is directed to Generation Y (people born between 1980 and 2000), it has much to offer everyone. I got it at the library but it's reasonably priced on Amazon too. Ms. Erickson also has an excellent blog “Across the Ages.

In this chapter, Ms. Erickson describes ways you might consider the following issues:
  • Time (how you want to spend it),
  • Rhythm (how do you like to work),
  • Economic reality (financial needs),
  • Challenge (willingness to take on learning new skills)
  • Responsibility (interest in taking on leadership and management roles)
When you’re evaluating career options that match your Holland personality, consider reading more in this book. It will help you fill in your decision balance sheet you can download for free as part of our “High Quality Decisions” article.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Evidence for Supporting Community Colleges

There's more ammunition in the fight to support community colleges and increase U.S. "degree attainment."

Jobs for the Future just came out with a report, "Cost, Commitment, and Attainment in Higher Education: An International Comparison" by Arthur M. Hauptman and Young Kim.

Among the recommendations is increased emphasis and support for community colleges. Although over half the students in the U.S. are enrolled in community colleges, these colleges proportionally receive a lot less public funding.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Protect Your Privacy and Money: from Career Choice to Job Search

Although we at Career Key do not sell or share user data (see our Privacy Policy here), many other websites do. Unfortunately there are many job search, business startup, and other Internet scams designed to get your personal information.

I include fake online career tests in the scam category because I believe they are harmful and in the private sector, almost exclusively used to get people’s email addresses and personal information for marketing purposes – not to genuinely help people to make a good career decision.

So it pays to be careful in your career planning online. The tips found via the links below apply equally to career planning and career advice websites as to job search websites. Although Career Key doesn’t require people to register to use our sites, many other websites do.

So make sure you read these tips before registering on any site:
I know this is tired advice but it never seems to go out of style. If it is too good to be true, it isn’t.