Link to a “Future that Fits”

I am preparing and looking forward to my presentation at NYU’s Wasserman Career Center August 29th for Welcome Week.  In preparing my presentation I had to really hone in on what is important in finding, as we like to call it, a “future that fits:”  a career that matches your abilities, your values/personality and your interests.  If I can leave the students with that thought alone, in the short 45 minutes available, I will be happy.

Students need to remember that there are barriers along the way to finding that fit and they will have to hurdle those barriers, such as other people’s opinions about what they should pursue,  seeking only monetary success, and knowing only the “career stereotype” and not the reality.  It is important to do the research to find out about the day-to-day work of a particular career, what learned skills it takes to do the work, and how to prepare to enter it.

I hope students will also take away the fact that they have to know themselves as much as possible:  inventory their own abilities (both academic and non-academic), know their values (standards they wish to live by), and discover their interests (the foundation of motivation).  If they hit on these three cylinders, they will be able to match to a career path or several career paths.  In this current era, with technology changing rapidly and organizations in flux, knowing multiple career paths that match will be useful if not essential.  Knowing what skill sets transfer across careers is helpful as well because according to recent data, people will be changing jobs and careers throughout their lifetimes.

I hope that students, having assessed their abilities, values and interests will do the work required to match those to careers.   That work will require researching what is actually done in those careers through internship opportunities, informational interviewing, work co-op experiences and plain old on-line research.  A great place to start is on O*Net, http://www.onetonline.org/.  The O*Net, developed by the Department of Labor, is the nation’s primary source of occupational information.  It describes hundreds of occupations, in depth, describing the knowledge required, education, interests, work values and the likelihood of growth of the occupation in the economy.  It is the place to begin exploring and researching occupations.

Lastly, I hope that students do not wait too long to begin discovering their abilities, values and interests (we call that the Career Sweet Spot).  I hope they do not wait until their junior year and panic, “What am I going to do?”   I hope they do not think, “Oh, I’m only a Freshman, that can wait.”  Before they know it they will be ready to enter the workforce and a career choice will be thrust upon them all too fast. Unprepared, they may be thrown into something that does not fit.  I hope that students will learn to affirm who they are early on so that those decisions later on will lead to a satisfying career choice, one that fits them, honors who they are, and ultimately leads to success.

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A Student Perspective: Major Leaps to the Real World

A couple days ago, I was reading through a couple college articles on The Huffington Post when I came across one that caught my eye: “The 13 Worst-Paying College Majors.” Intrigued, I clicked through the slideshow to see the majors that received the lowest salaries. Then, I stopped short on slide number 12; there it was, my own major of art history in big letters at the top of the page.

However, I think that this statistic is only superficial. The numbers, taken by the website Payscale, do not take into account the variety of careers one can have if he decided to pursue an art history degree. On the Notre Dame website, there is a page called “Career Alternatives for Art Historians.” While Payscale might preach the low amount art history majors make, this webpage offers how many jobs are actually available in the field, many of which would earn above the $53,000 mid-career median pay.

For my own interests on the website, I was reminded of the training needed to become a curator, such as earning a PhD and learning German or French. But, I noticed a sentence at the end of the description of museum work, saying how layoffs have been increasing since 2009. It was then I realized that no matter the salary eventually earned or the credentials I would have acquired, there would be a chance that openings for such positions would have dried up.

So, this webpage led me to possible plans B and C. These fields range from art conservation to art law to production of documentaries. There’s even a possibility of applying an art history degree in law enforcement. I was happy to see that my art history degree would take me down several different paths, many of which I was already considering. One example was working in an art gallery or an auction house instead of a museum. Many of the same credentials needed for being hired in an auction house are the same for becoming a curator. Furthermore, as I had known previously, one can earn their master’s degrees at some auction houses, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. By going through their programs, graduates are more likely to get jobs. This security is definitely a benefit over fighting for a position as a curator.

Another aspect that interested me was the amount of younger people beginning to work for galleries and auction houses. A New York Times article entitled “How the Art Scene Became a Youthscape” that accompanies the job description discusses how many recent college grads and graduate students are opening their own galleries and forming a collective group called the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA). Although this article was published in 2004, it still provided insight to how this field was growing with a large group of new and ambitious people.

To further contrast the results given by Payscale, The Wall Street Journal gave a more optimistic outlook for art history graduates. They wrote that ten years after graduation, those who pursued an art history career would earn about a median pay of $64,000, which is $11,000 more than what Payscale predicted. According to a small article in the Art History Newsletter, this $64,000 salary would make art history a more successful field than psychology, education, criminal justice, and more. Whether I’m auctioning off fantastic pieces of art at Sotheby’s or curating an exhibit at a museum, I would be both doing something I enjoyed and earning a living.

What I learned through my further research is that I should take a single article degrading my college major choice with a grain of salt. Even though financial rewards aren’t my primary focus, I am now more confident with the number of career possibilities and that there is a chance of success for me with whichever path I take.

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A Student Perspective: Career Focus — Panic Now or Later?

In about three weeks, I will be packing up my mother’s Volkswagen with all my college needs and taking the nine-hour trek up to Bennington College, in Vermont. Working for a career counseling company, I sometimes think of how my career perspective will change once I settle into school. I’ve asked multiple friends my age about their careers only to receive to the same response: “I’m going off to college in a few weeks. I’m too busy.” I was slightly worried– if everyone keeps putting off deciding on a career due to being busy, when will they take the time to think seriously about it?

So, I sat down with two college students, Chrissy and Sarah. Both are sophomores and roommates at New York University with diverse majors. Chrissy is currently studying psychology with coursework in education and biology. Sarah is on a pre-med track, and majoring in anthropology. While they may be pursuing different career paths, both have similar ideas on careers and being in college.

They mentioned that in the first year of college, thinking about a career becomes a large part of your life. Chrissy said that in her first year, she thought of how her probable career related to her life and her classes. She explained that in college, you’re “supposed to be confused” about your career. Chrissy took tests from NYU’s career center (similar to the ones from uSooth), interviewed alumni, and put herself in certain career shoes to help guide her on her career path (like uSooth’s “Career Insider” program).

Chrissy, as well as Sarah, mentioned the importance of picking classes that helped contemplate career options. Sarah said that it’s good to be thinking and open-minded about careers because to be too focused can be limiting. When I registered for classes, I experienced this effect of being focused. I saw after the fact that I signed up for courses I knew I would be successful in, such as ones in art history and history. Although I have a set career goal in mind, to have a semester of just art history courses could limit me. Sarah was clear that to make a strong, well-considered decision you have to question your motives and orientation, as well as your ability for the career. At that point, there’s a divide between passion and drive — have you found the career that you’re enthusiastic about or is it merely security seeking and familiar? The difference is whether you find the motivation from within or from an outside force.  I know my passion for the familiar, but what about that course that introduces me to a passion I didn’t know existed?

Despite hearing about their worries, it was enlightening knowing that I wasn’t the only one in my age group who was thinking about that subject. I also saw the progression of thoughts from before college and after you enter. My group of entering-freshmen friends, minus a few, doesn’t feel comfortable talking about their future job goals; I feel that they’re almost scared to face the reality. I saw through my interview with Chrissy and Sarah that in college everyone will be faced with a career choice, whether they’re ready or not. In my case, I will be look for the opportunity to expand my passion beyond the familiar territory of art history and history towards something I never knew.

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August Career of the Month: Fashion Merchandising Entrepreneur

“Boutique owner” does not describe this new twist on the “shop girl,” just like tag sales don’t usually merit a write-up in the Wall Street Journal.  But Jill Alexander, owner of The Divorcee Sale, has applied her management skills and design interests to a new market:  she’s selling top-shelf designer gowns, accessories and shoes, lightly used by the rich and sort-of-famous, to aspiring fashionistas and economy-minded glamour girls.  Her new-found boutique formula includes empathetic hand-holding for the sellers, hotel ballroom pop-up stores, and champagne for everybody.

Our Fashion Merchandising Entrepreneur

Here’s what our Career Scientists know about Alexander’s career from the WSJ article, a career sweet spot we’ll call Fashion Merchandising Entrepreneur:

Abilities:

1. At 37, Jill Alexander has experience in the fashion industry, specifically the business side of fashion (manager for Tory Birch), which suggests skills in organization, merchandising, money management and logistics.  Whether or not she’s a whiz at math, she must be able to assess market value, budget overhead, and calculate the return for her sellers.  The tasks associated with booking venues, and handbags, as well as tracking sales and divorces are part of her organizational package.

2.   Alexander is skilled in networking and sales.  The WSJ article shows photos of her connecting with buyers.  The inventory relies on her contacts among the wealthy and well dressed — especially the newly divorced with six-figure, four-door closets. Each sale comes with a charitable contribution, perhaps another part of how she incentivizes both buyers and sellers.

3.  Whether she’s positioning the mannequins or ads for her sales events, Alexander must have skills in merchandising and marketing.  Her success requires that she know how to draw buyers and make sales.   The four, five and six figure price tags for clothing of this caliber are tied to marketing the design, brand, and provenance of the clothes. Alexander markets the glamour of the closet to which each item was accustomed with resort ballrooms, chandeliers and champagne.

Motivational Interests:

1.  Anyone with the gumption to comb closets and organize the results into a business has to be driven by an interest in executing on an idea.  This “doer,” is a woman of action with interests we catalog as “Enterprising,” like others who find satisfaction in business careers.   She must have the drive to create commerce — and be comfortable in leading a new concept into the marketplace.  Those with enterprising motivations love to persuade, such as persuading divorcees to sell beloved ball gowns and gown buyers to bring their friends.

2.  In addition, our closet comber must be fascinated with fashion.  She knows her Chanel from her Chloe.  We presume Alexander is inspired by design, color and texture.  Otherwise she might have organized sales of used kitchen equipment or sports cars.  Her appreciation for the aesthetics of her merchandise, which falls into the interest category known as “Artistic,” undoubtedly fuels her entrepreneurial endeavors.

3.   Finally, it’s possible that at heart, Alexander is working a little retail therapy in reverse.  She is interested in the return she garners for her clients — who are closing a chapter in their lives by literally selling the shirts off their backs.  She is oriented toward their emotional transition, attending her closet safaris with tea and sympathy.  This “other-oriented” motivation is in a category recognized as “helping, instructing, and care giving” and shares the same motivation category, Social, as social workers and teachers.

Personality:

A preference for working with others, especially one that requires making connections with strangers, suggests that Alexander is an extrovert.  It nearly goes without saying that Alexander is friendly! How else would she cultivate the extensive network she needs? An introvert in this role would find each workday to be a tiresome sequence of people contact through phone calls, house calls and sales networking.

The profile of a Fashion Merchandising Entrepreneur is evident in Alexander’s story. She’s an outgoing organizer, who can bring together merchandise, sellers and buyers in settings conducive to the sale of couture, with champagne for everyone.  If the Career Scientists are right about Ms. Alexander, she is successful already: she’s perfectly aligned to be engaged and satisfied in her work.  Are you?

To find out more about your Career Sweet Spot and the careers that are in it, contact us at www.usooth.com.  Or, if you have a Career so fabulous that it should be the Career of the Month, email us at info@usooth.com.

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Response to Alaina — Will the Shoe Fit?

Thanks for your commentary on your NYC trip (see link).  Pretty interesting.  Here’s some insights:

1.  You realized that all that “Glamour” is not so glamorous.  The public gets the illusion of glamour at the Met, but to produce that illusion requires business, details, and organization.  You saw that even under the roof of the temple of aesthetics, there were people involved in the administration of sales, security, and traffic-flow.  They are the glamour implementers — the curators are the concept creators, with many layers of designers and producers in between.

2.  On to the boutique. The sales techniques that you record suggest that the pianist aced selling as much as he may have aced Chopin.  He had the ability to engage you and your friend, size you up, and connect you with his product.  Yes, he appreciates the beauty of his hats and shoes, but more to the point of his success, he knew how to identify the client objective and exceed expectations with his service.  You indicate that he offered piles of hats — and new more than your shoe size.  That’s a salesperson!  Career science would conclude that he is an extrovert, with aesthetic interests; he understands  the customer and is motivated to make a sale.

3.  As for you, and your quest to be in the mecca of fashion, you will need to calibrate which side of the glamour fence your talents, interests and values are on.  You have to know coming in that Aesthetics is a business.  Are your talents those of creator, designer?  Or are you the organizer, implementer?  It takes both to make the glamour that motivates us to attend the exhibit or buy the shoes.  You can be motivated by the aesthetics — but be skilled in the business.  Both sides have to appreciate the other — but either way, being in the right niche is the key to success.

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A Student Perspective: Sinking My Heels in New York’s Careers

As a fashion addict of sorts, I have always eyed New York City with excitement through the media. Whether it be Carrie Bradshaw walking down the street in her Manolos on Sex and the City or the scenery in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, I knew that at some point in my life, I needed to end up in the City. So, obviously, I was thrilled to be staying there for a small vacation with my good friend from school and her mother.

One of the first places was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was more than excited to go. The main reason I decided to go this summer was for the Costume Institute’s exhibition for Alexander McQueen, a fashion designer who’s a hero of mine. Among the mobs of visitors who went to see the exhibit, entitled Savage Beauty, were the many people who worked at the Met. More than 20 employees were corralling all the spectators and were found at each turn. They helped control the four hour line (which I thankfully skipped with my Met membership!), kept a watchful eye on all the artifacts, and sold McQueen souvenirs to everyone after the showing. Some looked very young, as though they were college interns in the Costume Institute and were going to slowly work their way up the museum ladder to their desired position. Others were extremely intense in their work, constantly reminding everyone in 5 minute intervals with a strong, stern tone to turn off their cell phones. Besides the diversity among the Met workers, they were extremely nice if you asked them a question or had a small conversation with them.

As someone who dreams of working an institution like the Met, I saw the multiple job opportunities that could be found in one building. However, these were not careers I intended to get after working tirelessly through college and graduate school. It was slightly odd to see that in an exhibition dealing predominately with aesthetics, most jobs seen at the exhibit were held by guards and salespeople, and not by curators.

Afterwards, we took a cab across town to eat dessert at the famous Serendipity III. When we arrived, we were told that there would be an hour wait, so we stopped in a neighboring boutique. My friend and I met an enthusiastic shopkeeper who showed us the great shoe and hat collections the store had to offer. After my friend found a very cute floral fedora, he brought over a bunch of hats for her to try on– she must have tried on over 10 hats, all of which were adorable. He was honest with us, telling my friend if a hat looked good or not and admitting to not liking an odd top hat. Following my friend’s hat show (she eventually picked the initial fedora), he asked me my shoe size. Replying that I was a size 6 (I know, I have dwarf feet), he pulled out a shoe box and said with confidence, “You need to try these on.” I opened up the box and found a beautiful pair of red suede pumps, complete with a beautiful red bow. When I put them on, I was surprised at how comfortable they were. He was right, I really did need to try these on! As I kept frantically calling my mother to confer on whether or not to spend a large chunk of my money on the heels, I talked to the shopkeeper. Not only was he was he a good salesperson, he was also a trained pianist! I was shocked to see this other side of the shopkeeper. It was incredibly fascinating to me that there was so much beyond the facade of a seller of clothing and shoes.

Again, like the Met, I noticed that in a business dealing with the aesthetics of clothing, I only encountered the sales aspect, not the glamorous roles portrayed in Vogue. The man knew how to make a sale and knew the produce he was selling. In spite of his other artistic talents, he was not dealing directly with the design aspect of the fashion industry.

At the end of the day, with the newly bought red shoes in hand, I thought back on all my experiences of the day and the number of people I encountered. I realized there was much more to New York’s glamorous illusion than I knew from modern media. Even more so, the world of aesthetics and fashion in New York did not deal entirely with artistic components. The guards at the Met may not have known much about McQueen prior to the Savage Beauty showing. Someone selling highly aesthetic shoes and hats didn’t have to go to design school.

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A Student Perspective: What Career Counseling?

When I first entered high school, one of my first memories was sitting in my guidance counselor’s office with my mother. We were in a mandatory meeting that each freshman needed so the school’s counselors knew the general interests of their students. My counselor started the meeting off with a general question: “So, Alaina, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I responded that I wanted to be a fashion designer. She was dumb-founded.

“Wow, you’re the first person this year who hasn’t said that they wanted to be a doctor or lawyer.” Unfortunately for my guidance counselor, she had nothing to offer me to help me on my path towards fashion design. She apparently did not know much about artistic careers, so she never could give me any proper advice.

Although I eventually decided that fashion design was not for me, I think my case exemplifies the supposed “career counseling” my high school offered. Admittedly, I went to a great public high school ranked as one of the best in the state. However, the school system did not serve a student population with diverse career interests. Within my grade in particular, I quickly noticed how many of my fellow students made the same career choices. Most of my peers decided to continue paths towards medical or law school, and many also decided to become engineers. Though I know many individuals who are truly enthusiastic about becoming a doctor or any of the other popular jobs, most were merely tempted by the desire of a high salary. Even worse, some were even forced by their parents to achieve these careers.

I believe a guidance counselor should have stepped in at this point. Instead of nodding their heads in acceptance, they should have placed a greater emphasis on career exploration. Now, all sorts of career surveys are very common in schools for this very purpose, but the results from these tests are usually disastrous. For example, my sister, a passionate history major, received “roofer” as her potential career. To this day, this result is a family joke. How could she have gotten “roofer?” Did she say she preferred work that was hands-on? Maybe she mentioned that she was had an interest in architecture. Whatever the logic was behind the tests, they obviously didn’t take into account her personality and values in determining her ideal career. In this situation, in addition to several others, the test from the school produced a long list of “job titles” but provided no context or explanation for these results. Confused students see these results without knowing why they would be most suitable for these types of jobs, which most of time seem ridiculous to them.

Concerning my personal experience, when I told my counselor my junior year that I decided to pursue an art history/history double major, she copied a list of the schools with the best history departments in the country. She never contradicted my choice to go towards a career goal that (sadly) has little financial benefit. She never even asked whether or not these fields were right for me. If a school wants to lead its students down a path towards success, it must realize that guidance needs to continue beyond a student’s GPA and standardized test scores.

In a small poll I conducted through my friends on Facebook, a small majority voted that their guidance counselor didn’t help them at all on with careers. My friend Pranav, a member of the class of 2011, said, “My counselor didn’t learn my name, let alone help me.” Even though my guidance counselor was light years better than Pranav’s, I consider my experience, among many others, a prime example of how high schools tend to “miss the boat” on serious career advice.

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A Student Perspective: Working through the uSooth Workbook

Hi! My name is Alaina Zemanick, and I’m the new uSooth intern who will be blogging on the website. I recently graduated from high school, and I’m an incoming freshman at Bennington College, where I will be studying art history and history. In high school, I was very active in the theater, being student director of many plays and musicals. I also sang in the choir and was an editor for three years on my school newspaper.

Upon being hired as an intern, I was quickly sent into my training which included going through the usual uSooth process of filling out endless surveys. However, when initially completing these surveys, I was already set in my career. Unlike most kids I know, I dreamt of becoming a curator in an art museum. Since I was so fixed on my goal, I was almost sure that my results would tell me exactly what I’ve thought all along.

But, as the uSooth report was given to me, I was surprised to see that I was in fact wrong—being a curator did not satisfy my Sweet Spot at all! In contrast, the report said I should be directed into fields dealing with writing, art, and social sciences. Although I was shocked, there was a part of me that understood the logic that went through this decision making. I’d always been somewhat artistic, and my favorite classes in high school were English and history.

The next step for me was to fill in the workbook. I was already warned about the book I needed to complete, and when I first saw it, I must admit I was indeed taken aback. I realized that filling out all thirty pages of the book was going to be a daunting task and would probably be the most rigorous part of my training. So, I took a deep breath and set to work answering the questions.

Even though I was a bit hesitant at first, the workbook turned out to be one of the most interesting aspects of the entire process. I learned though the questions and the report given to me that there was a strong chance of me becoming an art historian. By selecting this career path, I could be incredibly flexible by both teaching at a university and still doing what I initially desired: curating exhibits. Suddenly, new realms opened up for me; instead of continuing on the straight road towards becoming a curator, I could work many other jobs while still being in the art history field.

I then pictured myself in the shoes of a uSooth customer, someone who might not be as sure as me on what he wants to do for a living. The workbook would be fantastic for that very person. By taking the values determined in the report and the jobs suggested in the Sweet Spot Matrix, anyone could hone down the information he received and learn what he truly wants to achieve for a career. This process would erase all confusion about finding a “dream job,” and the perfect one would then be revealed.

I believe the workbook is truly essential for the entire course of uSooth. Without it, an individual using uSooth would not be forced to face their true career values and decide upon his ideal career. My advice to those currently filling out the workbook is to keep persevering through it. Whether someone is already on a particular career path like me or debating on what exactly to do, the workbook is a great place to discover that surprising job you ever expected to find.

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Parents ONLY: Guides to Career Choice

Change comes about when you become what you are, not when you try to become what you are not.  Arnold Beisser  

 

       

Parents attempt to comfort or encourage their “emerging adult” children with statements like: “Oh, John, you are so smart; you can do anything you want.”  Or, “Don’t worry, Sue, the family business will have a job for you when you graduate.”   But John knows he is not able to “do anything he wants.” Students are well aware of their limitations and the intense competition that confronts them.  From his point of view, the breadth of John’s  abilities is more a burden than a help when choosing a career.  And Sue may love her parents, but their business may not be a match for her aptitudes, interests or personality.  Instead of comfort, Sue’s parents offer her a compromise chock full of assumptions and limitations.  Vague, unreliable responses to career selection questions discredit the very real science behind career guidance — and can disastrously damage students’ self-esteem and delay their “launch.” 

How can we be helpful on the threshold to vocation?  For most parents, the only framework for  direction is our observations and individual experience.  In the name of independence, parents cross their fingers and hope their student will find her own way by utilizing the usual lifelines: family connections, serendipitous opportunity, and college courses. Unfortunately, a “let them eat cake” approach to many college curricula compound student confusion (in the name of a well-rounded education). Guidance counselors miss the big picture by focusing on graduation requirements, and grades become the only indicators of ability and interest.   No wonder so many young adults wonder what they should “be” when they “grow up” – with over fify percent buying extra years of college or graduate school to find an answer.   In this rapidly changing and specialized world, who is providing viable guidance on how to choose a career?

Career Science shows that success is achieved by leveraging a combination of interests, abilities, and personality with specific career paths.  Through tools developed by industrial psychologists, Career Science objectively identifies vocational “fit” for the individual.  An accurate career assessment considers the whole person, evaluating interests,  desires, motivations, educational background, leisure activities, personality, and aptitudes.  Employing multiple, correlated assessments incorporates even more data, and uses  contrasting methods of data analysis to yield reliable results.   

No matter how carefully the data is measured, however, getting students to truly digest the data and to integrate the reported results with their plans, expectations and objectives is key.  A career assessment is only findings on a page if it does not engage the young adult in career exploration.   Career selection begins with a methodical review of the results, and by asking the student a simple question: “Do these results sound right to you?”

Parents can be great “guides to the real world.” By understanding that career satisfaction comes from objectively matching attributes to career possibilities, parents foster confidence in a career direction.  Helping your student to clarify vocational “fit” before college, technical training, or graduate school enhances their performance – and can turn a life’s work from a mere “job” into a calling.  Career Science can help parents guide students to accurately answer the questions “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?” with an “aha!” moment that lasts a lifetime. 

For more information about Career Science, contact us at info@usooth.com or visit www.usooth.com.

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Choose to be happy — even at work.

There is a stampede for college admission without knowing what you’d be good at — or happy at.   The stampede begins in high school, with the strong but subtle ranking of socially acceptable paths by peers, parents, school counselors.

Career happiness is actually a science — documented by organizational psychologists long ago. Why aren’t we all seeking the advice of career scientists before dumping a life savings into a degree?  

Perhaps grandfathers who struggled as plumbers, miners, tool-and-die guys, or assembly line workers, saw heaven as a white shirt and a desk.  A hundred years ago, fewer than 10% of Americans had a college degree. Grandpa thought your dad should go to college because he didn’t. He wanted to give dad a choice. But that’s the difference.  Choice.  

 Career Happy Movie

American angst for satisfaction at work is starting to be a roar not a whisper. But the work that satisfies one does not satisfy another — that’s the big point Evil HR makes in this popular B-Net blog.  Satisfaction is about choice.  But how do you choose if you don’t know the options? 

Once you’re glum in your cubicle, your lab, your shoe atelier, or your panel van with your plumber’s snake in hand, it is difficult not to be sucked in by the prior investment trap. Make a real choice to be happy. Choose early and accurately. Know where you’re going and why it suits you.

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