College Career Life Planning
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Frequently Asked Questions
My parents didn’t have these tools and didn’t use any formal process to plan their education and career. They turned out OK. Why shouldn’t their random or “opportunistic” approach be good enough for me?
I’m young and have some financial flexibility. I have two job offers. The first job is opportunity rich and is with a leading company in an attractive industry. It offers excellent training in an area very much “in demand”, but the pay is 30% less than the second job. The company and industry are less attractive for the second job and the opportunities for growth/promotion seem uncertain. Which job do you recommend?
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Q: What is the purpose of the alphanumeric code next to each tool on the site?
A: A high school student should not be expected to make an absolute, specific decision on his/her career. However, by this age, a student should identify a career area that is consistent with their interests, skills and values and that hopefully is “in demand”. To clarify this point, I provide the following example to parents. A high school senior need not decide to be an anesthesiologist, but he/she should have identified health care as a strong personal fit. The post-secondary education path is different for individuals choosing a career in healthcare than engineer, business, etc. Listen to “Too Young to Decide” for more detail.
Q: My parents didn’t have these tools and didn’t use any formal process to plan their education and career. They turned out OK. Why shouldn’t their random or “opportunistic” approach be good enough for me?
A: Many older adults did not have access to these tools when they were in school. Fortunately, today, you do. Some of today’s adults are stuck in jobs that are unsatisfying, unrewarding and have no future. Others got lucky and stumbled into a career that happened to be a good fit. Why unnecessarily gamble on such a critical decision? You face far greater workplace competition than your parents and your social safety net has much bigger holes. It is much more imperative today that you make informed education and career decisions.
A: If the power company is turning off the electric and the refrigerator is bare, get a temporary job to survive. However, do not allow yourself to get permanently sucked into a dead-end job. Make a commitment to invest the time, while you are working, to plan for a better future.
A: Did you make an informed decision? For the career you have chosen, can you accurately and positively respond to the following: What education is required? Describe the work environment. Is the demand for this occupation growing or shrinking? By how much? What is the median pay in your state? In the nation? How many job openings are expected over the next 8-10 years? What are the most important skills in this occupation? Describe the 8-10 most important tasks/duties performed. Have you spoken to at least 2-3 adults currently in this career and ask relevant questions about this career and it’s future? Listen to “Decided?”
A: Ask any successful businessperson. Ask any manager who runs a successful organization. Ask any ship or airline captain. Sure, the future will not be precisely as we predicted. However, we are far less prepared to face the future and change, if we haven’t explored options/alternatives, evaluated trends, charted a path (or plan) and considered contingencies. As the rate of change increases, so does the need for this process.
A: Interest assessments are tools that help us explore career opportunities in a somewhat methodical, logical way. There are more than 1000 possible careers. You simply do not have the time to explore each one in detail. While these assessments incorporate research and logic to provide a useful screen, career exploration is not a perfect science. You cannot plug in all the variables and simply accept the output as absolute. You must apply your judgment. I strongly suggest that you take several assessments. If a particular career repeatedly shows up on the suggested list, consider it.
A: If you follow the steps outlined on the “Instructions” page, you will significantly increase your chances of identifying and securing your “dream” career. It will require some time and effort, but the payback is likely to be enormous. Avoid the urge to truncate the process. The backend steps (e.g., networking, internships, job shadowing, industry evaluation, company evaluation) are critical.
A: No. While most attractive careers will require post-secondary (beyond high school) education, many great jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree. Go to the first column of each of these documents to view the careers with the “Most Openings”, “Fastest Growth” and “Highest Pay” that do not require a Bachelor’s degree.
A: No. Career change does become more difficult with age, but it is not impossible. Your new career and industry choice also have an impact on the size of the challenge. Is there a shortage of workers in your new career/industry choice? Is the new career “entrepreneurial” in nature (e.g., Realtor, Small business owner, consulting)? How strong is the “fit” between your current skills and the requirements of your new career? Family and financial responsibilities can also make the transition more difficult. You will probably need to work and go to school at the same time. You may incur a temporary drop in income. Fortunately, many people in today’s workforce are likely to work beyond age 70, so you still have plenty of time to succeed in a new career.
A: If your dream is to pursue a career for which the number of candidates is high and the number of openings is low, I highly recommend having a back-up plan. See "Follow Your Dreams, but Have a Backup Plan" or listen to "Follow Your Dreams".
Q: I’m young and have some financial flexibility. I have two job offers. The first job is opportunity rich and is with a leading company in an attractive industry. It offers excellent training in an area very much “in demand”, but the pay is 30% less than the second job. The company and industry are less attractive for the second job and the opportunities for growth/promotion seem uncertain. Which job do you recommend?
A: Postponed gratification is difficult. It is easy to make early career choices based on starting salary. Some of my high school friends took this approach only to lose their job later or be stuck in an industry with little future. If I were young and could somehow afford it, I’d choose the attractive company/industry over near-term pay. In fact, early in my career, I turned down a job offer that would have double my salary because I did not view that path as attractive long-term.
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