Where to start if you have no idea what to do after high school

Before blindly taking the leap and applying to everything our grades qualify us for, I'd take time to explore all the available opportunities. Here you have the 5 tools that I've found to be the most useful for the career orientation for youth (including myself). That way, when a parent or somebody else forces you towards a career choice you don't want to pursue, you'd have the data, the knowledge and the confidence to boomerang it back.

1) Input Youth Job Guides is a good starting point, but is a little unstructured, thus messy to use. Still, it has a good search option if you have a specific career in mind, and it gives you advice about the skills, education and diplomas needed to get started in the industry and link for further information.

2) The Bureau of Labor Statistics of US is a wonderful resource as well. For example, here we have this table, which shows us the numbers of the fastest growing industries and the fastest declining ones for the last year. This might serve as a guide for the future trends for unemployment or very poorly paid industries - the ones you have to stray away from, as well as the future treasures of dynamic career opportunities.

If you want to dig deeper and study the usual pay in different industries, highest paying, fastest growing and the industies with most expected new jobs, what education is required, the work environment, what exactly  do the workers do etc. etc. here is the link to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

It truly is a gem and I highly recommend it. First of all, it doesn't make use of assumptions as the writers of the latest career orientation articles usually do. It's all about facts and real data, all gathered by professionals from the US Labor Bureau. I love that! And I'd love that in my country the labor bureau would work as good.

3) The College Board's Majors and Career Search. Here you'll find not only (a short) description of the career, but it also give links to the colleges that provide the required major. Also, for more in depth information, you could sign up to College Board's My Road, that helps you build your "map" of options, especially if you're in US. This is the tool I've personally used when I was in high school to help me get oriented in the field I was about to embrace, therefore I recommend it as well.

4) Personality Desk's Advanced Career Search. If you're clueless about what career would suit you best, and you strongly believe in tailoring it to your personality, you should use this one.

First of all, you should take the Myers Briggs test to identify what would suit your in-born qualities. As a "know-thyself" psychology junkie, I tried a lot of tests and read about a lot of classifications of natural personality types - and I found out the Myers Briggs to be the most complete and powerful tool I've discovered yet.

Next, take the classical Holland test. This one will guide you to your interest and the fields you'll likely be happy working in. It has been widely recommended and used - and it makes it more clear about your likes and dislikes.

Then, introduce this two variables in the advanced search - and, voilà! - all the career opportunities at your feet. The ones that would most probably suit your interests and qualities. I'm INFP, by the way. And the half of hour (at most) that you've spent doing those tests would pay off with lots of time that hasn't been lost on fruitless self-search.

5) After you've done all that research using the previous tools listed, you'll have a big-picture and a more clear direction of your future. Now comes the most powerful tool for propelling you into the right career. Find a mentor and learn everything you can. Take every advice seriously and give something back. Here, I'll redirect you to someone that know infinitely more about the subject. Good luck and stay on track!


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Can fear be helpful for achieving your goals?

I get really afraid sometimes, like the rest of the world. Especially when I know that I'm doing things that I'm not expected to do, bigger than what I know I do well. And, because I know that anxiety can get in the way of my actions, I apply a trick that I've learned from one the wonderful blogs I read. (You can go to my twitter page to see who I follow to get an idea of what I'm talking about)

I ask myself: "What is the worst that could happen?"

Usually, in real life, it's still not going to be the worst thing I had imagined.

Still, just to be sure,  I make a mindmap with all the possible problems and how I'd overcome them in case they do happen. Basically, I make simple risk management on a personal (or project-related) level. That way, I can handle emergencies with calm and be prepared when others were overly optimistic and just hoped for the best outcome without questioning.

Face your monster - and you could find out that it was just a little bunny projecting a scary shadow on the wall. Expect the best, be prepared for the worst. (old sayings)



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What do you really want to say with that words?

I was helping dad today with the wording of a sales proposition for his clients. He is a lawyer and this is not necessarily included in his job description, but he had me - the ad-loving little child. While writing, we have come to an interesting conclusion about the correct use of words.

What do we need to keep in mind: 
* the receiver(s) 
* the wanted result

Depending on the receiver(s), you need to tailor your phrasing very carefully. There are a lot of books on that far better than any article you could read. Anyway, if you're in a hurry and you're absolutely clueless, reading a couple would certainly help.

Now it gets interesting. Depending on the wanted result:

* If you need him/them to perform an immediate specific action:
1) use simple words
2) use verbs instead of nouns
 For example, "buy" (verb, simple) instead of  "acquisition" (noun, sophisticated). You will recognize this type of communication in almost all ads.

* If you need them to acknowledge your superiority in an intellectual matter, (in a lawsuit or a simple quarrel or your typical essay):
1) use sophisticated words
2) use lots of adjectives/adverbs

For example, "I would gladly (adv.) speak my mind if you would be so courteous (adj.) to allow me to do that." instead of "Shut up!" (verb, blunt, simple).



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A "big fish" wants to partner with you? Think twice

Big name = company or person who is already established and has authority on the market you are  just entering.

Back-story

First of all - who am I to debate this subject?

Several years ago I had my first (indirect) encounter with a ”big name” due to my dad's passion with
recumbent bikes and trikes - and they were a sensation on my country's roads. He used to travel a lot by trike - here is a link to the picture of one of the ”parades”. His latest (2nd or 3rd) acquisition was an orange trike and - because it magnetized people - a mobile phone service who had orange as its corporate color proposed him a partnership for promotion. The rules they imposed determined my dad to decline their request.

More recent stories occurred due to my involvement with Life Science Club (that started under the aegis of the lyceum I have recently graduated from, the Lyceum of Academy of Sciences of Moldova) and organizing  Kick @ss Party. Most collaborations ended because of the unreasonable or uncomfortable conditions imposed.


 Pros


  •  you will get instant credibility
    People tend to trust the ones who are working with a respected name. Alike the theorem of transitivity in mathematics, in real life it works for the respect and trust. Think about the latest hits: they may feature a duet of a new singer and an established one. The first benefits from the respect of the former - and the former views it as an opportunity to prove that (s)he is still in the game.
  •  you will be pressurized (both from the inside and the outside) to give your best and make the project remarkable
  • the promo will be priceless

Cons
  • you start to have very little power over your own project

    In short, you will have to play by their rules. This is the most important thing that make visionaries and freedom-lovers to withdraw from the idea of getting a big name to partner with them. When you have little power over your project, you cannot fully manage the outcome and make it resemble the image you have for it in your head or on paper.
  • you are accountable for each step you take - and that takes time and effort you could have focused on the results that matter.
  • you cannot experiment

    Most of the times, when you start something, you want to make it as flexible as you can. That way, if something doesn't work, you can change the course towards sunnier shores. But, if you have that big name by your side, you cannot change anything without permission. And that sucks, because you feel like a 3-year-old that should ask mommy and daddy for allowance.



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Stress-free + guilt-free student life - possible? How I achieved it

Opportunities to involve in a new activity that slightly  interest you are everywhere - and they usually pop up in times when you are already overloaded with work. Anyways, most people would still  advice you to take advantage, no matter what - because they think that this would made you a more interesting person or will give you somehow, better prospects for your career.

I used to be that person, as well. I got involved in every NGO I had access to - and nearly every project that didn't require much of a financial investment. I developed a (medium-) large network that way, therefore opportunities to get involved in the next "big, life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime project" or just casual events or speeches emerged on the go. Some people even told me that I seem to be everywhere and they asked me how could I manage to learn at a competitive lyceum at the same time. The truth is - I didn't. My room-mate would agree - seeing me how I usually returned exhausted around 9 p.m. and how I procrastinated on doing the real work required from me. New activities were like a drug - I felt an enthusiastic "high" every time - and an unproductive decline afterwards. Then comes the guilt, as in the drug consumption pattern. Painful guilt and a deep feeling of unworthiness.

Most of these activities were pointless, maybe because the range of what the chosen ones had the common un- or low-paid trait that meant that inexperienced people gave them. Trainings gave a global outline of what I have already read about in dozens of books and articles. Speeches mostly reminded me to follow my "passion" or were an explanation of the worldview of the speaker. But I cannot say they didn't benefit me in any way. With their help:

1) I have met people with similar views on life, society and future.

2) I learned a lot about how to interact with persons from different personalities, backgrounds and/or  cultures (from abroad).

3) I have learned to accept opinions and defend mine, therefore challenged my views on a wide range of subjects.

But  as I have leveraged this benefits into personal values, at some specific points in my life I start to dramatically unclutter my schedule. The previous one occurred when I had to prepare for my BAC exams and I realized that if I keep the amount of ungratifying activities that were regular in that period of time I would fail one exam and get poor grades on the remaining ones. The natural decision that came afterwards was to clear up everything on my agenda and instead turn to learning. If I had made this decision earlier than one month due my exams, I could have done better - but, hey! No time for self-pity!

How do I choose now?

1) I focus on what's mandatory. If you do what's required first, you can pursue guilt-free your other activities.

2) I have one or two activities extra that would make me grow substantially in my areas of focus.

3) If 2 activities compete, I choose the one with maximum return on investments.
And by investment I don't mean (solely) money, but time spent doing real or fake work. I choose to spend less time doing something result-focused over meaningless and time consuming tasks that an unqualified person could tackle with the same success (showing up at meetings or answering a questionnaire, for example). Going for an hour-long meeting in which you'll productively work at most 15 minutes, while also spending 1 hour to commute (15 min over 2 hours invested = 1/8 or 12,5%)

4) Use the free time to do whatever I want.
I'm not telling you to not get involved at all in extra-curricular activities. I'm advising you to choose wisely and work diligently on that matter of choise. The rewards and the peace of a mind not troubled by guilt and stress that come afterwards are greater then the short-term benefits and enthusiasm of hopping from one flashy thing to another.


Quote I've found in my "thoughts' book" by Julien Smith, innovator and best-selling author:
"Louder is not the answer. More is not the answer. The important moments in your life happen with your friends or by yourself. Nothing important ever won an Academy Award. If everything in life is getting louder, I'm going to get quiet."






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Pursuing your passion will not help you find a job

Cal Newport's advice on having a remarkable career is based mainly on the philosophy that passion will follow after you are really good in a field - and you should not try to find a career that you feel passion for in the first place - because longing and searching for a "dream job"  is meaningless - nothing will ever truly be a perfect fit - and it also can turn out to be not so rewarding as we might have thought.

He recommends instead:

1) deconstructing the field in which you are trying to achieve success:
*who are already the best out there?
*why did they succeed?
*how can you leverage your skills and knowledge to surpass them?

2) keeping a highly-focused approach to your work and ignoring the urge to have multiple projects at once.


There is one more question left - the most important one for me - which field to choose?

Unlike most high-performers, I didn't start early in life with something that could be the field I choose to specialize in for the rest of my life. Actually, I'm clueless about it - and strength finder tests are not helping much, and trying to figure it all by myself is painful as hell.



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Nicoleta Domnicu