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-   -   How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You) (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=852939)

Omar Little 04-13-2018 04:33 PM

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)
 
My good friend Tim Urban, founder and author of the Wait by Why? website, has generated another recent post about a framework for career paths. With so many threads started by users questioning their decisions about careers and seeking advice on what type of career they should go into, sharing this seemed fitting. Tim has not attempted to create a career advice column but advice on how people can help themselves with those types of decisions.

I thought it was a good read. Enjoy!

https://waitbutwhy.com/2018/04/picking-career.html

Short excerpt:
Quote:

For most of us, childhood is kind of like a river, and we’re kind of like tadpoles.

We didn’t choose the river. We just woke up out of nowhere and found ourselves on some path set for us by our parents, by society, and by circumstances. We’re told the rules of the river and the way we should swim and what our goals should be. Our job isn’t to think about our path—it’s to succeed on the path we’ve been placed on, based on the way success has been defined for us.

For many of us—and I suspect for a large portion of Wait But Why readers—our childhood river then feeds into a pond, called college.1 We may have some say in which particular pond we landed in, but in the end, most college ponds aren’t really that different from one another.

In the pond, we have a bit more breathing room—some leeway to branch out into more specific interests. We start to ponder, looking out at the pond’s shores—out there where the real world starts and where we’ll be spending the rest of our lives. This usually brings some mixed feelings.

And then, 22 years after waking up in a rushing river, we’re kicked out of the pond and told by the world to go make something of our lives.

There are a few problems here. One is that at that moment, you’re kind of skill-less and knowledge-less and a lot of other things-less:

But before you can even address your general uselessness, there’s an even bigger issue—your pre-set path ended.

RTFirefly 04-14-2018 05:23 PM

Quote:

But before you can even address your general uselessness, there’s an even bigger issue—your pre-set path ended.
My little sister and I were talking about that a few months ago. I graduated from college in 1976, and she graduated in 1982. Both of us experienced the same deal where parents and all expect that you will have figured out by then what to do next, but really almost nothing at college back then gave you any clue. So the rushing river that's been carrying you along suddenly dumps you out at the equivalent of the NJ Turnpike exit in "Being John Malkovich," and you have no idea where you are really, or what to do next.

My impression is that up to a point during the postwar era, the demand for college grads to fill all those corporate jobs was high enough that even if you didn't know what you wanted to do, you'd have no trouble getting job offers. So colleges didn't have to be strong in career counseling. And when times changed, it took them awhile to catch up.

Didn't help my sister and me that we each graduated in what was at that point the biggest recession since WWII. Took me until I was 44 before I figured out what I really wanted to do for a living, and even that was just plain dumb luck.

I figure it has to be at least somewhat better now, but I suspect there's only so much that can be done about the sudden absence of that river.

pullin 04-15-2018 03:46 PM

Thanks for the link! I read the entire thing (and a few other articles).

I'm an oldster nearing the end of my career, but I was curious how much I would agree with the author. It was an interesting way of looking how to match careers with personality... but I still would claim the Practical Arm of the Yearning Octopus should get priority, no matter what your personality. ;)

Derleth 04-16-2018 03:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RTFirefly (Post 20903881)
My little sister and I were talking about that a few months ago. I graduated from college in 1976, and she graduated in 1982. Both of us experienced the same deal where parents and all expect that you will have figured out by then what to do next, but really almost nothing at college back then gave you any clue. So the rushing river that's been carrying you along suddenly dumps you out at the equivalent of the NJ Turnpike exit in "Being John Malkovich," and you have no idea where you are really, or what to do next.

In theory, that's supposed to be what guidance counselors in high school do: Guide you to the point where you're able to pick a career or, at least, a field, and then give you some advice for post-secondary education. They're supposed to know the little things, like that tech support is different from programming computers, or that data entry is different from programming computers, which parents might not know.

I'll let others rant about guidance counselors. I never had any contact with my schools', because I knew I wanted to program computers from middle school, if not earlier, and that's the path I've successfully pursued. My point is, The System has a mechanism to address that problem.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces employment projections for various fields. Guidance counselors could, in some insane theoretical world where treacle is mined by happy hobbits and dragons fart hazelnut-mocha-scented clouds, use that to overcome the fact that kinds of employment have a life-cycle, and go from being growth fields to stagnant backwaters to something which is only going to be tracked for the next five years while we wait for the remaining sad-sacks to retire or die. This has been a value-add since industrialization killed the farm jobs, but the tempo of fields of employment being destroyed and being created has increased ever since, and we really can't ignore it any longer. Undergraduate education has a role to play here as well, because we can't expect non-specialists to know which specific sub-fields are good and which ones aren't worth the effort, but high school is where you get aimed into a field to begin with, so this side-effect of technological advance, the rise and fall of whole fields of employment, is the reason guidance counselors have to be prioritized.

I've ranted, so I'll requote something you said:
Quote:

Both of us experienced the same deal where parents and all expect that you will have figured out by then what to do next, but really almost nothing at college back then gave you any clue.
This is because four-year colleges aren't trade schools. That doesn't necessarily make them better, mind you: Nursing schools are trade schools. Medical schools are trade schools. Law schools are some of the most prestigious trade schools on the planet. But four-year programs which aim at a Bachelor's degree are not trade schools, and so, if they're doing their jobs right, focus on creating critical thinkers and rounded personalities who know how to solve problems using the theory of the field they've studied, and can teach themselves the practical bits as and when they arise. But they don't apprentice you out to a master, the way medical school, for example, does, and so they don't route you to an employer. Not their job, not what they were originally designed to do.

RTFirefly 04-16-2018 01:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RTFirefly (Post 20903881)
Both of us experienced the same deal where parents and all expect that you will have figured out by then what to do next, but really almost nothing at college back then gave you any clue.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Derleth (Post 20905737)
This is because four-year colleges aren't trade schools. <snip> they don't apprentice you out to a master, the way medical school, for example, does, and so they don't route you to an employer. Not their job, not what they were originally designed to do.

Oh, no question about it. But one of the things I was saying in that post was that AFAICT there was a time, not that long before my sister and I graduated, when that was not a big problem for the grads: that there was a substantially greater demand for than supply of college grads. If you couldn't figure out right away what you wanted to be, you could still fall into something pretty remunerative fairly easily.

The point is, that's the world my parents had inhabited, and that's the world the people running the colleges back in the 1970s had graduated into. The key was to graduate from college; the rest would sort itself out. That was the implicit message from them to us, but by the time we graduated, it was outdated. Nobody was going to hire you just for having a B.A. or B.S. degree; you needed to give them a better reason than just that.

Four year colleges aren't trade schools, and I'm not saying they should become that. But as long as they are what they are, there has to be something in place - maybe on the side, in parallel, whatever - happening to help the student figure out what she's going to do when she graduates, and has to give somebody a reason to hire her.

chappachula 04-16-2018 02:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Omar Little (Post 20902300)
I thought it was a good read. Enjoy!

Actually, it's not so good.
Yeah, it's folksy, with an easy-to-read style.
But after all that imagery of rivers and ponds and octopus tentacles and basement interrogation rooms, it's a pretty meaningless article.
It all boils down to "decide what your priorities are, then pick a career that matches your desires".
D'uh.

He gives himself away when he says:
My current job description is: “Writer of 8,000-to-40,000-word articles about a bunch of different topics, with cursing and stick figures, on a sporadic schedule"
So, yeah, that's what he's done here.
But he doesn't explain how he gets paid for doing it.

And he doesn't really provide much help for anybody else wondering about their direction in life.
Lots of platitudes about choosing meaningful goals and balancing them with your personal life, plus some encouragement that it's okay to make mistakes and change your mind.
D'uh.

But the stick figures are kinda cute.

---------------------------------


Quote:

Originally Posted by RTFirefly (Post 20906368)
that's the world my parents had inhabited, and that's the world the people running the colleges back in the 1970s had graduated into. The key was to graduate from college; the rest would sort itself out. That was the implicit message from them to us, but by the time we graduated, it was outdated.
Nobody was going to hire you just for having a B.A. or B.S. degree; you needed to give them a better reason than just that.

Now THIS is good, useful advice.


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