How To Know What You Love So You Can Go Out and Do It In The World

 

5ws
The 5 Ws photo by KNILT, Albany NY

“Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.” Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator

Think about this for a minute.  Let it really sink in.  If you start from the premise that your life’s work should be about doing jobs that please others?  Where does that leave you?  You will be crafting a whole life based on a false you, and that will create all kinds of problems in your life.

So, start early.  Have conversations.  Use the classic 5 Ws that are taught in basic journalism and investigation/research classes. I have adapted them here for the young job seeker.

  • Who?  Do you want to work with (ok that should be Whom?!) (people your age? people smarter than you are? in a big group? by yourself?)
  • What? Do you want to be doing most of the day. (talk to people, manage others, sell, make spreadsheets, proofread, handle lots of details, work with money or animals or children or the elderly?)
  • Where? Do you want to be when you are doing this work (inside? outside? in a team? solitary? in a city? in the wilderness?)
  • When? Do you want a regular schedule, do you want to travel which might involve nights and weekends, do you prefer evenings or mornings? And then the big one…
  • Why? What makes you think these things are true about yourself (get really honest about this to yourself)?  What are supporting data? Have you really looked at how you act now and how you think you will want to act in the future?  Have you ever been able to change a behavior you don’t like? Or, are there things that are just part of what makes you “you,” and you will need to accommodate those traits in order to succeed in your career (NOTE: this is a key factor in being successful, workarounds are crucial as we cannot be good at everything)?

Going back to Paul Graham’s quote above, what is driving you to say all these things? Is it really your opinion, or are you trying to appease or please friends, family, professors, coaches, or society-at-large?  And if you are, then please re-do your 5 Ws until they truly reflect you, without the influence of wanting to please others.

It is not to say that you can not make a lifetime of work into a success by massaging what is truly your preferred path so that your career pays well.  Maybe you know you really want to live in an affluent community and will need a certain income.  But, you would be surprised how finding satisfying work will often take you to communities where you are very happy — often you are then surrounded by like-minded people.  You can then augment your desire for life’s nice things outside of your job, rather than design a whole career just to get those nice things.  Most of us spend more time at work than doing any other activity.  Remember that when you decide on a job solely to provide you with a certain upscale lifestyle.  You may not have time to enjoy the lifestyle you can now afford.

Bottom-line, your career needs to contain kernels of the real you, based on your answers to the 5 Ws.   Knowing this early will save you a great deal of frustration, altercations with peers and bosses, failure in the work place and in your life, and the heartache and huge waste of time that all these issues brings a person.

If you truly have no idea where to start, then talk with close adult family friends, teachers, and family.  Ask them about your best traits.  Then ask them what kind of careers would utilize those traits.  This is the beginning of networking and an essential step as you hone your path and seek jobs that let you flourish.  Certainly you could read any one of hundreds of career books like, What Color Is Your Parachute?, the classic by Richard Nelson Bolles. But you don’t have to.  Merely working through the 5 Ws and separating out what is a good match for you vs. what you think will look prestigious will get you very far, in a much shorter time.

 

 

Networking: Start Early, Start Small

If you have a neighbor whose young adult child has a job in a restaurant, and you have a different neighbor who owns a restaurant, start small and network with the young adult first.  Have your child talk to someone closer to their age, whose job experiences have more relevance.  Speaking to an older accomplished adult can be very intimidating.  Students have to practice before they can talk to an executive level professional.  Students – don’t leave this networking up to your parents and their friends: try to maintain connections with students a bit older than you whom you know from school or an activity.  Seek out those who seem to be going places – they will likely be great networking sources as you grow and expand your interests in the world of work.

For students and their families who are about to embark on a networking project, I’d like to help you put this into perspective. Imagine you personally (parent or student) might want to run for an elected town board position.  Your neighbor says they know the Mayor of the closest large city and suggests you talk to them to learn about local politics (e.g. the Mayor of Boston for instance, or of Phoenix).  Picture yourself: your first foray into networking is with that Mayor – intimidating, right?  Don’t make this mistake. In networking, we often try to reach out to the most powerful and connected adults we know  in the hopes of gaining career insight, or an internship, or a job…fast.  And, we adults, with very good intentions, often jump the shark when helping students by introducing them to these high level contacts.

Students, however, need to practice having conversations first.  The point of these initial conversations is not just about making rain from the conversations.  Remember, this is the era of less and less verbal discourse.  So, students don’t come to networking having much practice at formal conversation. Make the entry-point into networking easy. Students need accessible, personable contacts who help encourage them and help them practice the art of formal discussion – teachers, the clergy, self-employed people in your town are all great first starts.  And, regardless of whom you are meeting, set yourself up for success.  Confirm your appointment the day before, pre-write a draft thank you (so it can be edited quickly with a few personalized details and be sent within a day of the meeting-email thank yous are fine). Foremost, arrive with a list of 5-8 questions you have practiced with a family member. (Examples: how did you get into this line of work; what classes in school helped you; what characteristics make someone good at your kind of job; if you were starting out now, what would you do to get yourself ready; what other things do you do outside of work that you enjoy; is there anyone else you think I should talk to or any websites or books or magazines I should look at?…)

Starting small and in this low-stakes way – much like trying out a bicycle with training wheels or learning to ski on the bunny slope, will reduce anxiety and improve your success.  Watch how you blossom as you graduate to more and more complicated conversations with more and more connected individuals over time.  Your standard list of questions will begin to trip off your tongue naturally.  You will add new questions effortlessly.  Your confidence will grow – age appropriately – so that those whom you meet won’t question how you made the contact or why they are speaking with you.  You will right-size your ability with your opportunities, and the whole process will be more comfortable and yield better results.

training wheels

 

 

Breaking News: Humanities Majors Don’t Suffer Financially over The Long Haul

 

humanities
Picture credit: Maine Humanities Council

Here is the bottom line….about the bottom line…for humanities majors vs. STEM majors – first of all, a number of polls including those from Gallup and Forbes show that overall, humanities majors are just as happy in their jobs as STEM majors, and that any pay difference is not causing them upset. And, great news… then, as they grow in their careers, often they close the pay gap with their scientist and engineering peers. Chronicle on Higher Education goes on to state that, “The results are familiar, if you’ve read those past reports: Bachelor’s-degree graduates in engineering and the sciences earn roughly $10,000 to $30,000 more, but humanities majors catch up over time — and humanities majors more effectively close the pay gap between younger and older workers. What’s more, the college debt that humanities graduates carry is about the same compared to other majors.”

Add to this a recent blog post by the respected Michigan workforce group, MichiganFuture, about how Google totally revised its thinking about workforce hiring strategy and humanities majors, “Project Oxygen (Google’s enterprise wide workforce analysis project) shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

So, giving your student and young adult a chance to practice the many “softer” skills is certainly going to benefit them in the long run, regardless of their major or chosen career trajectory.

Source Article: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Over-Time-Humanities-Grads/242461?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=5f5179c39905491ebe32115dfef433bc&elq=58eda80a7953412885d478df1bdd5827&elqaid=17754&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=7832

 

Start The Path to Working When Your Child is Young

BOred kids
Days seem longer when you are starting out in the world of work.

 

As you probably know, I believe that academic success and leadership positions are overrated as tools that help students move from school to full time work.  Of course these successes are nice features to have in your toolkit.  But, we all know many successful professionals who were C students and never led a club or a team during any of their high school or college years.  So, what does matter in the toolkit of young adult?  IMHO, the most important features of a successful young adult job applicant are: self-awareness, teamwork, organizational skills and the willingness to seek out mentoring and be managed by a boss. Develop these areas starting at a young age and you are likely to have a successful transition to paid employment later in life.

Kids need to experience work.

But, how do you get them there?  Parents: start young — assigning household chores will start to build your child’s tolerance for the pacing when they enter the workforce.  Slowly have them graduate from chores to ever more challenging neighborhood jobs.

But first, help them practice Self-Awareness as they try out jobs with a close neighbor or family friend.  Ask them to brainstorm, “what skills do I have?” “what do I like doing?” “Why do I like doing that?” Often they will select pet sitting, babysitting, snow shoveling and yard work – help them to explore why they enjoy these tasks and maybe even relate these tasks to a few parallel adult careers like pet sitting might lead to vet tech or hotel management or being a fundraiser at the zoo. Baby sitting might lead to teacher or child psychologist.  Shoveling and yard work might lead to owning a landscaping business or becoming a plant scientist or construction supervisor or civil engineer.

Second, help them master Organization:  Before they start their job, have them create a Task List that they regularly review with a list of the steps they should always follow in order to be a success in their job (example: always double check that you locked the door when you finish dog sitting).  This list should be thorough, clear, ordered in proper sequence.

Additionally this list should contain 3-4 steps where they experience Teamwork with you as their “team member” so they consciously practice having good communication. Example of a teamwork-oriented step: “Work with (Mom, Dad, My Sitter, My Older Sibling) to get a ride to my job.  Request a ride early!” or “Work with (family member/sitter) to help me to remember where I will keep my copy of the pet owner’s key. ”

Finally, when they have perfected their Task List, have them share the list with the person who has hired them and request feedback.  This step promotes a relationship of Mentoring and allows the person employing them to Act Like A Boss, showing them improvements and specific ways they like tasks to be done and then setting the stage for the employer to correct the child if it is not done properly. (Clue the neighbor/family friend in if you can, so they understand the role they will be playing with your child).

To be successful and happy in full time work later on, most young people need to have practiced the separate rhythm of work beginning at a young age. They need to experience progressively more complicated jobs in many settings as a tween and teen before they can transition successfully into a full time job in the workforce.  Patiently helping them learn from you and then giving them a step-by-step path to begin learning from outside employers will solidify their ability to work effectively at the entry level, both by themselves and in groups, while reporting to a demanding manager.

Your Aptitudes Define You at Your Best – Build An Ongoing Personal Success Story To Guide College and Work Choices

As an art history major myself, I have absolutely no problem with students who choose to pursue a liberal arts education.  Thinking, writing, quality assessment and detailed discernment, analyzing for meaning on multiple levels, proffering original ideas, dialoguing in class, managing complicated research projects, meeting deadlines, gaining feedback from a professor and classmates – these skills are all transferable to the work world.  I always maintained that the same internal drivers that made me able to the discern between a group of  20-30 Madonna paintings and then write a paper also helped me to discern the relevant characteristics of my candidates for a client’s senior level actuary or CFO job, sort the executives by the most relevant achievements and then write succinct summaries that helped my client hire the best executive for their job and work environment.

If I were to go back to my youngest memories, the Montessori primary school I attended provided the very happiest environment, with classrooms organized around ordering, sorting and categorizing.  You can start to see how at the beginning of my career, even with no actual work experience, I was able to think back on what I knew about myself, recognize the highlights and pick a career direction.  I also trained myself to link my peak experiences using a story thread that allowed me to sell myself to companies and organizations even if my experiences weren’t exactly what that company would be hiring me to do in my future job. The ability to draw relevant analogies and paint a vivid picture of one’s abilities is a deciding factor in who gets hired and who doesn’t.  It is worth practicing from a young age.

You can help your child continue to hone this self-awareness too – just begin to pay attention to their work styles in school, and activities, and during chores at home.  Enter into many brief low key discussions over the course of late elementary into high school where you help them see patterns that will benefit them as they pick a major or a first job out of college.  And if you are reading this and you have already moved out of your parents’ home, go back and have a discussion with your family, siblings, family friends, and particularly trusted teachers and adults who coached or mentored you.  What did they notice about your periods of happiness and excitement?  Start to think about a thread that ties all your best experiences together and begin to practice telling this story – it is the basis for self-knowledge and ultimately will drive your career satisfaction and happiness.

Photo 1: Madonna del Prato (Madonna of the Meadow) by Raphael, painted in 1506 now hanging in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. This Madonna, with Jesus and St. John the Baptist is renowned for the exquisite contrasting blue and red colors of her dress, the locked gaze of the two cousins that holds the bottom of the configuration, and for the triangular construction of the figures that mirrors the mountains in the highly evocative background.

Photo 2: A Young professional woman walking briskly to a meeting by Mike Wilson on Unsplash. A quick read of this young adult candidate as she comes into my office: what is the appropriateness level of her interview outfit, does she show a the spring in her step, does she wear a watch on her wrist so won’t have to tell time by looking at her phone during our meeting, does she carry a portfolio or folder with extra resumes and writing samples as well as a writing pad where she will take notes.  The act of noticing these aspects of a candidate in the first minute of our meeting is an act of discernment. Later I review the relevance of these details in the same manner that I used in my analyses of multiple similar Renaissance paintings.

A Simple Resume 101 for Teens and Young Adults Ages 13-20

RESUME 101 FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, COLLEGE FRESHMAN AND COLLEGE SOPHOMORES

resume writer

Photo by Juliette Leufke

Resumes at this age are pretty straight forward.  But everyone benefits from a sounding board when starting a resume. Have your child pull out their “dossier” document and if you don’t have one, see my post :

(https://entrylevel.blog/2018/02/04/for-parents-of-high-school-students-have-your-child-create-a-dossier-by-the-end-of-ninth-grade/ )  This summary document will be the basis for their resume, college application, letters of recommendations and interview preparation.

Basic Features of a Beginner Resume:

  • Use a centered header of name, address, cell number.
  • Include an email address with a professional sounding name (no cutesy addresses like: fuzicaaats@yahoo.com!!) – link the professional email to their main email or they will never check it.
  • Under the main header, use a standard resume layout.
  • Your first section should be ACADEMICS under which you list your most recent school first working backwards to your high school(s). Include la short list with bullets that showcases key classes, academic activities, academic awards, and if strong, GPA and any standardized test scores of note.
  • The JOBS section comes next (unless your child hasn’t held a job yet – at which point get them a dog walking or babysitting gig, stat!). List the jobs chronologically, most recent job first, and include 3 bullets maximum per job with a focus on quantifying accomplishments (note: if your child works a number of hours, this section can be listed before ACADEMICS).
  • EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES go last – again, make the bullets in this section accomplishment-oriented. Bullets can be listed chronologically, or grouped under italicized sub-headers such as Sports, Theater, Music, Scouts etc.
  • Lastly, if there is room, a one-line section under the header HOBBIES can help a reader connect to your child’s interests. Things like cooking, Fantasy Football, Magic the Gathering, fiction reading can go here.
  • Parent and child should write this document together then review it several times over the course of two weeks to have the best chance of correcting typos and adding missing activities.

Childhood Roots to Adult Job Satisfaction

skateboarder

Photo by Jase Daniels on Unsplash

 

Helping another adult craft a resume can be a tedious exercise of adjective selection and careful proofreading.  Making a resume with a teen can be far more exciting.  Teens run the 400.  They twirl en pointe and slalom race and scoop ice cream and care for pet raccoons at the local nature center.  Getting them to tell you about their achievements and dreams gives you a unique window into their world – theirs is a world of novelty, challenge, excitement and heartbreak.  Hear their stories. Tease out their passions.  Let them tell you everything that their hobbies mean to them.  How is it that those activities given them pleasure?  Get them to use lots of adjectives and validate their feelings by reacting with enthusiasm, even if right now they love video games and junk food and speak of these things with great delight.

Then ask about their work life – paid work, volunteering or chores around the house. Listen carefully for how the demands of the work dovetail with their preferences:

  • Is it physical energy that drives them like the skills that are used in waitressing and babysitting for younger kids?
  • Is it sustained repetitive tasks like stuffing envelopes for a political campaign or programming?
  • Are they customer service oriented, selling shoes or cookies door to door?
  • Do they patiently talk to an older neighbor or always greet people as they walk down the street?
  • Maybe they like to be paid for exercise and hard labor – do they like shoveling, dog walking or mowing the lawn?
  • Can they get themselves up early for that lifeguarding job or are they better bussing tables till midnight?

Ferreting out these truths can become the beginnings of them seeing and understanding basic patterns and rhythms that will drive their adult satisfaction in a lifetime of jobs.