Career Key

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to Improve Job Skills - Part 1 of 6: 3 Reasons to be Optimistic and Get Started

How strong is your foundation?

This 6-post blog series will help you improve and strengthen Foundation Job Skills.  Whether you are just starting to explore your first career or an adult changing careers, all jobs require the 17 Foundation Skills (free download for non-commercial use*).  In the series, one blog post will cover each of the four groups of Foundation Skills, recommending free or low-cost activities to strengthen them:
- People Skills; and

Look at each Foundation Skill – do you think they are accurate? How would you rate yourself for that skill? (Compare yourself to others of the same age)  How does someone use that skill in a career you’re considering?

Start thinking about Foundation Skills, how you can improve yours and show an employer you have them. By the end of this blog series, you’ll also be able to identify your motivated skills, those you enjoy using most, and how to choose a career that makes the most of them.

Even if you have little job experience or have been under-employed, you’ll be surprised how adding to and improving your skills result in a big payoff.

3 Reasons to be Optimistic

1. People want to help you. Family, teachers, counselors, community volunteers, religious leaders, and workers want to help. You just need to ask.  Ask them about their jobs, the skills they use, and people they know.  If you don’t ask, no one can help you.

2. Learning requires action – and the good news is taking action is under your control. If you don’t do anything, you won’t improve and nothing will change.

3. Each activity you do, each week, you will improve.  You will feel more confident and have something to show for your work.

In case you need more motivation to improve your skills, take a look at median pay for these occupations with different skill levels:

(High School Diploma or Less)

Amusement & Recreation Attendant $18,650
Cashier $18,820
Food Service Workers $19,270
Driver/Sales Worker $22,770

Medium Skilled 
(on the job training, vocational school or associate’s degree)
Acute Care Nurses  $65,950
Barbers $24,190
Chefs, Head Cooks $42,350
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers  $65,210
Plumbers  $47,750

I could list pay for highly skilled jobs but you get the picture.  It doesn’t take a huge jump in education and skills to make a big difference in wages.

Up Next Week... Part 2: (Not So) Basic Skills.  Practical ways to improve your Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Speaking and Listening Skills.
Part 3: Improving Your Thinking Skills
Part 4: Improving Your People Skills

*If you would like to purchase a license to use the Foundation Job Skills commercially (or financially support our public service work), visit our eBookstore to purchase these handouts and e-books you can print:

Monday, June 25, 2012

College and Career Success: Is Your State a Leader or Laggard?

Promising careers require some post-high school training and education; students and parents need to be educated consumers. While there is a lot of criticism about graduation rates and unsavory recruitment practices at for-profit colleges, there is plenty of criticism to go around for public colleges' performance.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) just released its "Leaders and Laggards" State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education.  Be sure to click on your state's individual report card and overall recommendations.

You can see a summary of findings on the Career Tech Blog - these are the three that stuck out the most to me:

"Four-Year Completion Rates
In most states, only half of students at four-year public colleges complete a degree, in 17 states, less than half of all first-time bachelors-seeking students complete a degree within six years";

"Two-Year Completion Rates
...more than half of states have a two-year completion rate at or below 25 percent"..: and

"Linking Postsecondary Data to Labor Market
Only 22 states have systems in place to track the success of graduates once they enter the labor force and to make those data public..."

While others focus on big-picture, long-term, bureaucratic change (good luck!), I'm more focused on how we can help individual students, parents, and counselors improve their chances of success now. The best practical takeaway from this report is for students and parents to learn their state's strengths and weaknesses in providing education. If nothing else, you'll know what to look for and avoid, and what to expect as far as your state's performance. And when you go through the process of choosing a school or program, you'll know to ask for more information about graduation rates and support for students looking for a job post-graduation.

I don't know that I've given up on government for problem-solving (or trust the for-profit sector to do it either) - but it's clear to me that if you are or have a child in secondary school or college right now, it's up to you to help yourself choose a career or college major you won't regret. Gathering the best quality information you can is part of making good decisions.