Saturday, November 5, 2011

One of the Most Important Things...

Malcolm Gladwell has interviewed a lot of people.  He writes for a living and has written several engaging, non-fiction books that I really enjoyed reading.  One of his books, What the Dog Saw, has a chapter called 'The New Boy Network' in it.  For most of the chapter, Malcolm is intrigued with why one particular college student is perceived  to have 'the right stuff' by big IT companies within seconds after they talk with him.  Throughout the course of his interview, Malcolm finds himself agreeing with the companies.  Why is this fellow so likable that Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, would offer to be his mentor after hearing him ask one question in a conference setting?

The student reveals one of his big secrets to Malcolm at the end of the chapter.  He says, "One of the most important things is that you have to come across as being confident in what you are doing and in who you are.  How do you do that?  Speak clearly and smile."

I couldn't agree more.  This lesson struck a chord with me as I was watching different bands in our church play on different Sundays.  Why did I feel more relaxed and engaged when one particular band was playing?  It was because the lead singer often smiled when she sang.  When I got assigned to a band myself, I tried to make a point to do the same, and we as a band were commended on it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Want Some Career Search Help?

Having problems finding your place in life?  I think almost everyone at some time or other has struggled with where they 'fit'.  Even after being established in a career for a decade or two many people have days or weeks where they question everything (middle age crisis).  Maybe it should just be one of those things that we should accept as part of living and maturing.

If you do happen to find yourself lost or struggling in your career search, it sometimes helps to give yourself a different perspective on life.  Consider trying one of these mental exercises:
  • Imagine you are a career counselor.  How would you advise yourself in making a career choice?  Even better, go to the library and get The Career Counselor's HandbookThe Career Counselor's Handbook by Howard Figler and Richard Nelson Bolles.  It has some great chapters that I think offer an interesting perspective on the career search, even for people who are lost in it.  The chapters on 'Tools' and 'Special Problems' are great.  Also, the sections at the beginning about 'What does 'Career' mean?', 'The mystery of career choice', and 'Facing the Challenge of Ego' are very applicable to disoriented individual looking for career help.  If nothing else, this book will help you know if you are getting your money's worth from your current (or future) career counsellor.
  • Image you are eighty.  What would you like to have accomplished with your life by that time?  Make a list of things that come to mind.  Travel?  Live in another country?  Learn to speak another language?  Learn to play a(nother) instrument?  Have kids/grandkids? Own a cabin by the lake?  Volunteer in Africa?  Teach a course?  Write/publish a book or article?  Learn to paint/draw?  Many of the items in my list above are things that many people aspire to, but don't necessarily attribute to being a 'career choice.'  Once you have your list, ask yourself how the things in your list could fit into a career choice and what steps you need to take to accomplish each item.  
  • Image you suddenly became independently wealthy.  (An independently wealthy person is one who doesn't have to worry about working for the rest of their life).  After getting over the euphoria of your sudden freedom, what would you do with your life?  How would you fill your time?  When I've imagined this, some thoughts I had were:
    • I'd go back to school and study geology.  After working in the oil/energy sector for several years and living close to the Rockies, I think geology is fascinating.
    • I'd study the violin and try and become a member of the orchestra
    • I would move every 2-3 years to another country and get exposed to their language/culture.
    • I think I'd put some serious thought into how I could give back to society so I could make a difference and feel good about what I'm doing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Young Persons Occupational Outlook Handbook

Young Person's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 7th Ed
Young Person's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 7th Ed by the Editors at JIST is billed as an 'essential guide for Career Exploration.'  This book documents almost 270 different careers, detailing information about what it's like to work on the job, what kind of an educational path to follow, earnings and outlook potential and more.  The 'Discover More' sections are valuable in helping readers get a more hands-on idea of what the occupation might be like. The appendix and the index at the back are definitely beneficial.  This was a medium read at 300 pages. 3.5 out of 5.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What Color is Your Parachute For Teens

What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, 2nd Edition: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future
What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens, 2nd Edition: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future by Carol Christen and Richard Bolles with Jean M. Blomquist is a great resource for high school students/grads who are serious about finding their place in life.  The authors use down to earth explanations and examples to convey the theory and philosophy of self discovery, careers and job hunting.  They intersperse that with practical exercises and references that the motivated reader can use to jump start their future.  Don't miss the appendixes - there's a lot of good info there as well!  This book was a medium read at almost 180 pages.  Check your library for a copy.  I'd highly recommend this book and give it a 4.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When Is The Right Time to Pursue a Post-Secondary Education?

The working assumption for the majority of high school students graduating is that they are going to attend either college or university after high school.  Certainly I felt that way.  However I'm not so convinced anymore that getting into post-secondary education right after high school is the right choice for everyone.

Personally, I was tired of school after graduating from high school and I needed to 'get my hands dirty' for a little while.  I realized this in my first year of college.  I had no motivation to do school work.  I was much more interested in exploring my new freedom and social opportunities as I wasn't living at home anymore.


Greg, a classmate of my brother's didn't go to college right away.  He lived at home for a year and worked in the forestry industry and saved a nice bit of money.  The following year he went to college and used the money he had saved to put a down payment on a house.  He live there while he was going to school and rented out the rooms he wasn't using to other college students he knew.  This covered his mortgage payments.  I was impressed to see how he had thought things through and was getting ahead of the game in the home ownership arena.

Tristan (another friend) went and worked in the oil patch on the rigs right after high school. (You can access job opportunities like he took advantage of at http://www.rigtech.ca).  He made a good bunch of money that he also put in the bank.  After a couple of years, he took the money he saved and used it to finance his education as a cabinet maker.  He eventually started his own business with the rest of the money, buying a truck and tools with it.  His business is very successful now.

Some people are geared up for college/university right after high school.  I think one of the keys to being ready is knowing exactly what you want to study.  Derek, a colleague I've worked with in IT, knew he wanted to be a computer programmer.  He went into university immediately after high school and got his BSc degree right away, and he's been enjoying himself (immensely) working in the field every since - first as an employee, and then for the last 15 years as a private contractor.

So when is the right time to pursue a post-secondary education?  When you are ready.  You gotta wanna, so to speak. Be true to yourself and figure out if you are really ready for more education right after high school.  You won't do yourself many favors by going to school if you aren't really motivated and focused on what you want to do.  There's nothing wrong with taking some time and figuring out what you should be going to school for.  It's a big decision - an investment (see this post for more details on what I mean)

Don't miss the 'Career Resources for Graduates and Young Adults' and 'Education Resources' pages.  It has some helpful links to videos, sites, and articles related to careers and career direction for grads.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Traditional Careers versus Niche Careers

When I finished high school, I had no idea how many niche/specialized careers there are out there.  Avoid the temptation to discount career options too quickly without looking into all the potential opportunities a particular career path might have.  Here's a few examples I've run across:

Careers in Computer Programming.  Software isn't all about programming.  There's a bunch of other career opportunities that work hand in hand with 'the nerds' on the computers.  For example, have you ever thought it would be great to be a software tester in a company that makes video games?  That's the QA (Quality Assurance) department, and most companies that do software development seriously (not just gaming companies) hire software testers.   Project Managers are also required in software development.  They manage resources, time, money, and risk on software projects, and they generally get paid pretty well (more than the programmers).  Business Analysts translate what the client wants into requirements documents that the programmers use to build the application from.  BA's need to be familiar with the technology the programmers user, and they also need to be familiar with the client and their business.  Technical Writers compose the 'help' documentation for the users (this is the manual for the game, so to speak).  They translate what the application actually does back into language that the average 'Joe' on the street can understand so 'Joe' will know how to use the application.  And I could go on about DBA's (DataBase Administrators), SEO Engineers (Search Engine Optimization Engineers), Network Admins, etc.

Careers in Geology.  Geology has a lot of specializations I never would have imagined.  Hydro-Geologists specialize in studying water that's locked underground, where it's found, how it fluctuates, how it impacts other resources in the ground (like oil and gas), and much more.  Astro-Geologists study the geology on other planets. There are quite a number of people with this specialty working at NASA on the Mars Rovers and other current projects.  One of the last astronauts on the moon specialized in this field.  Vulcanologists study volcanoes, magma, lava flows, earthquakes, etc.  Archeologists I think could be included in this group as well, but they have a bunch of their own specialties.  We have a geologist where I work now who specializes in coal (I'm not sure if there's a name for that specialty or not) It's really quite amazing when you stop to break down one particular field into specialized areas.

Careers in Policing.  Switching gears a bit, there is actually a pretty good variety of specialties you can find in the police force.  Obviously there working 'the beat', catching speeders and robbers - the typical policing gig that everyone thinks of.  But there's more...  think about CSI.  Many police forces have Tech Crimes Units that specialize in retrieving evidence from computers, cell phones, video cameras, etc.  There are also Canine Units that work with police dogs.  Forensic Pathologists find clues and evidence on deceased people.  Police forces have their own Training Units that are staffed from withing the force itself.  They train new recruits coming onto the force.  There's also the SWAT team (hopefully no explanation required), and even Forensic Accountants who go through finances of individuals and companies looking for evidence.

Be careful not to discount a career because it sounds boring or you think there is no future in it.  A fellow I played basketball with in high school got a degree in forestry (which I thought had no future) and now he helps run a company that harvests trees from the bottom of dammed rivers using robotic submarines!  I never would have guessed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Investing for Grads and Young Adults

My first lesson in finances after I finished came the day after high school was over.  I received a call from the principal of the high school asking me to come 'to the office' at school - can you believe that!?!  I had been the treasurer of the Grad Class that year.  As it turned out, I had not left the books 'balanced' as it were.   So I spent a good part of that day - the day after school was out for the summer - tearing through a file cabinet looking for documentation and receipts in an attempt to balance the Grad's account that year.  Not an auspicious way to end high school or start my life after high school.

Finances are not something that should be ignored or put off after you graduate or during college.  Whether your parents are helping you with your post secondary education or not, it will do you well to carefully consider how you spend your time and money after you finish high school.

Consider this: many people enter into post-secondary education in an attempt to start a career that they hope will take them to retirement.  At the very least, a young adult stands to make over 2.2 million dollars during the course of their career (conservatively, 50k/year x 45 years).   This makes your post-secondary education an investment decision.  If you are looking at those kinds of 'returns', doesn't it make sense to treat your post-secondary education as an investment?  You need to ask yourself where you will get the best returns for you money, your time, and your effort during this time of you life.

I need to clarify something here - when I use the phrase 'post-secondary education', I don't necessarily mean college or university.  Some people aren't ready to go back to school full time right after high school.  I certainly wasn't.  Sometimes the best post-secondary education one can get after high school is getting some working experience.  Or going on a trip.  There is a world full of other things you can learn outside of a formal education while you wait for your 'education motivation' to return.

If you do have an idea of what you like to study and you have the motivation to study it, do some research first.  Ask lots of questions.  You motivation for asking?  2.2 million dollars of your (future earnings) money - is on the line.  Its amazing how changing your perspective like that can help you find good questions to ask. Find people who have made careers of what you are interested in and ask them for their perspective and advice.  Research what courses you should take and then find the best schools and teachers to learn from.

Check out PayScale's College ROI (Return On Investment) report.  It essentially highlights which universities and colleges give the best (future) return on each dollar you spend.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Plan after High School Graduation (My Job Journey Part 1)

Planning is important. I momentarily realized this while I was working a summer job in between grades 11 and 12 at a local restaurant. I was assigned to clean tables that afternoon. For whatever reason there was a lot of left-overs that day - all of which went into the garbage. The wheeled cart which held the garbage (along with dirty napkins and dinnerware) was located in a recess on wall of the middle of the restaurant - surrounded by tables. It was very busy that day, and the garbage bag was full. One of my responsibilities was to take the garbage out when it was full.

I don't know what I was thinking - obviously I wasn't thinking too hard. The thought of planning the maneuver I had to execute with this full garbage bag never occurred to me. As I lifted the bag out of it's place in the cart, it burst open in full view of all the diners of the tables nearby. The result wasn't appetizing or appealing for them and was definitely embarrassing for me. I had to get a new bag and clean everything up.

Unfortunately, it took me a lot longer to learn some good lessons about planning even after I had that experience. My brother and I had talked about becoming school teachers after high school - he would be a Physical Education teacher, and I'd teach Music/Band.  We would ski together during the Christmas break, and then on Summer breaks we would tour the world together.  We thought we had a good 'plan'.

Our plan soon fell by the wayside as it was more like 'wishful thinking' than a plan that we could execute.   For whatever reason, I wasn't very motivated to go to university right out of high school.  Frankly, I was a bit burned out on school for the time being.  Also, I wasn't aware of the scope of different opportunities besides university that I had available to me. As a result, I didn't have much of a plan for my life then. My decisions lacked foresight as I was looking ahead a year at the most.

If I had thought about it, I actually had a number of good examples of how to put a plan together, even at that time of my life.  Every song we played in band in high school had a 'plan of execution' - the musical score.  It's a written plan of how a song is to be played, it's notes, dynamics, how fast or slow, when not to play, etc.

Another plan that I was exposed to at school were plays we used in basketball.  Our coach would write both offensive and defensive plays down on a board.  We'd have to commit them to memory and practice them so we knew who was going to be where at a given time during the play.  This would help us be more organized and confident when we were playing a game.  Everyone knew their place/position and their responsibility.

Key elements of a plan to me are:
- writing it down
- prioritizing what I've written down
- executing it properly
- learning from the execution

If I could rewind my life and have that time over again, here's is what my plan would look like after high school graduation:

a. I still wouldn't think about doing a degree right out of school. I was burned out on education that wasn't practical.

b. I might take an intense, fast-track program at a nearby community college that would give me practical experience at a skilled job and get me out into the work force in 18 months or less.  Or, if I couldn't find the right course, I'd work for a year and then skip to point 'd'.

c. I would get a job that utilizes my training and work it for 2-3 years, all the while asking questions and keeping my eyes open for interesting opportunities for the future.

d. Once I had saved a bit of money, I would go traveling. I'd try travel for at least 2 years - working while I traveled. I'd make a concerted effort to get fluent in a foreign language and live like the locals do, learning about their cultures.

e. Then, if I felt the time was right, I would return home and consider investigating universities where I could complete a degree. By this time, I'd hope that I'd have a very good idea of what I'd like to study. I'd seek out the best school's to learn by:
- going to the schools
- sitting in a class for a day, seeing what the learning atmosphere is like
- learning about the teachers - have they had industry experience?
- asking the students what they are learning and how they feel about it

Think about planning your life before you finish grade 12. Confucius said, "He who does not reflect, and does not lay his plans far in advance, will find difficulties at his door" I can attest to the truth of this statement. Learn from my mistakes.

Links to the rest of my job journey are below.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Life Is What You Make It by Peter Buffett

Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment
Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment by Peter Buffett is a thoughtful book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  If I had a school for helping young adults discover what they wanted to do with their life, this book would be required reading.  Peter offers meaningful anecdotes and wisdom on topics like finding personal values, seeking out your true vocation, learning from mistakes, and defining success.  I personally enjoyed the chapters on vocation and giving back, and the epilogue carried just as much impact (if not more) than the rest of the book.  I'd highly recommend this book for the thoughtful graduate.  It's a medium read - my paperback was a little over 250 pages. 4.5 out of 5

Friday, April 22, 2011

What Now? by Ann Patchett

What now?
What now? by Ann Patchett is written for Graduates of either high school or college.  It's based on a commencement speech she gave at her Ala Mater, Sarah Lawrence College.  My hardcover is a very quick read (I read it on one bus trip home from work).  It has less than 100 pages, including pictures.  I enjoyed the book, particularly the personal stories about baking a particular batch of chocolate-chip cookies and filling in for a dish-washer.  The lessons that she drew from these situations and others show a depth of thought and wisdom that will be relevant to the lives of young adults and graduates.  I'd recommend this book and give it a 4 out of 5

Friday, April 15, 2011

Test Drive A Career!

Have you ever wanted to know what it would 'really' be like to work in your dream job?  Always had a dream to become a veterinarian?  Or a music composer?  Archeologist?  Flight Instructor?  Did you know you can actually take a career for a spin?

Vocation Vacations specializes in arranging 1 to 3 days hands-on career experiences with expert mentors.    They built their company on the belief that every work day should feel like a Friday.   They want to give their clients an opportunity to see what it would be like to get paid for doing what you love rather than doing what you have to do.

While I haven't experienced a vocation vacation yet (I think I'd like to try Composer or Music Producer), I think it would be a great way to get your feet wet and see if you are really cut out for what you 'feel' you want to be.

While you're checking out the blog, don't miss our Career Resources for Graduates and Young Adults page.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Living Life in Reverse - Patrick's story

Patrick decided after finishing college that he would live life in reverse, so to speak.  For 10 years he would travel and experience the world and get that out of his system, and then he'd come back to Canada and work like a dog for 10 years.

In making that decision, Patrick compares it with the analogy of driving.  Good drivers always look some distance ahead down the road so they can see what is coming, not only right close to them, but what is further along.  That way the trip ends up being smoother and you don't make yourself dizzy.  Drivers who focus on the road right in front of the car aren't aware of what is coming further, and as a result, have to make split second emergency decisions to keep from crashing.  That or they get information overload from focusing on so much going by so fast as close as it is.

Patrick felt that the majority of graduates coming out of school were making decisions focused on what was hitting them in the face, rather than thinking about how they will feel about their life 10 or 20 years down the road.

Patrick ended up following his plan.  He was a scuba diving instructor in the tropics around the world in the summers.  In the winters he would work at the ski resorts in Europe.  He kept up this routine right into his early 30's.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Patrick tells two stories.  The first story is of his first trip to Europe.  He was taking a train from Budapest, Hungary, to Prague in what was Czechoslovakia at the time.  A lady in her early 40's was the only other person in his compartment, and he ended up getting into a conversation with her.  It turned out that after she finished college she started traveling and didn't stop for the last 20 years - teaching English or finding odd jobs in the different countries that she had been traveling in.  She told Patrick that her last teaching stint had been in China where she had met a compatriot that she wanted to get more involved with.  This special fellow had already gone back to England and was working.  She was going back there to join him and see if a life-time relationship and perhaps a family would be in the making.  As the train crossed the boarder into Czechoslovakia, the lady abruptly opened her travel back, unpacked a bottle of champagne and two glasses and asked Patrick to join her in a celebration.  "What for?" Patrick queried.  "This is the 100th country I've been in," she replied.  This made a huge impact on Patrick.  She had made a concrete, emphatic decision to travel until she was ready to do something else.  Instead of go along with life and rolling with it's punches, she had taken life 'by the horns' and did what she wanted to do, enjoying it to the full with the resources and opportunities that came her way.

The second story Patrick tells took place after he'd been traveling for 8 years already.  He came back to his hometown in northern BC to work for the summer.  Of course, being back in his home town, he ended up running into friends he grew up with.  Patrick got into a discussion with one and it turned out that since high school this fellow had taken over the family farm, paid it off and become financially very stable. Besides working on the farm, he was doing some equipment hauling for the oil patch.  Looking back on the conversation, Patrick was amazed to realize that this fellow had basically summed up 15 years of his life with 4 words.  'I've been busy working.' 

Patrick says that even still almost all the old friends he's run into - to a person - have said 'oh, I wish I had the opportunity to go traveling.'  Patrick believes that they each had the opportunity when they were younger.  They just never made the choice.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Essential 55

The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child
The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student by Ron Clark is written to a target audience of teachers and parents.  Ron outlines 55 rules that made him a very successful educator (I actually learned about this book by watching a movie based on his life story).  A good number of his rules are applicable to everyone, including high school graduates and young adults.  There are also some great stories in the book about adventures and escapades that he did with his students - excellent material for young adults looking to volunteer with children.  I'd definitely recommend this book for a general readership.  My paperback is almost 200 pages and I found it to be a quick to medium read. 4 out of 5

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Considering Careers with Diversity

Certain careers lend themselves to diverse learning opportunities.  I had no idea of this in high school - hadn't even considered it.  However, after trying several different careers, it seems to me that some have more choices than others.

Me running sheets off of a  Didde Forms web press In Texas
For example, in printing there is definitely choices in how a young adult can specialize.  When I learned how to print, I originally learned on a 'forms' web press.  This kind of press printed off of paper that started on a roll.  It then printed, cut, and folded envelopes and pamphlets on the fly for magazines etc.  Then I got trained on a larger web press that printed the magazines themselves.  Then I learned how to operate a couple sheet-fed presses - rather than starting with a roll of paper, these presses use pre-cut sheets.  Finally I worked for 4 years on a newspaper press that could print a 48 page newspaper with color using 6 rolls of paper at once.  I could have worked on any one of these presses for the rest of my life.  But opportunity arose for me to learn another, and I took it.  However, my experience was limited to the print shop, ink and water, paper and scum, etc. Often we'd print the same jobs (or similar jobs) on a weekly or monthly basis.  There was some diversity and opportunity for learning.

Working in Information Technology has afforded me different, (and I think) more diverse opportunities to learn.  Every company uses IT in some way.  Since I've become a software developer, I've helped support and learned about companies in the following industries:
Hospitality (Hyatt hotels)
Marketing (Critical Mass)
Health Care (Alberta Health)
Fleet and Freight Management (Richer Systems Group & Ryder International)
Financial/Banking (Neteller/Neovia)
Energy - Oil & Gas (Energy Resources Conservation Board)
Law and Litigation - (various law firms)
I'm not just learning and using the software technologies that these firms use, but I also have to learn about their businesses so I can properly build and support their software.

There are other careers in the workplace that afford similar opportunities.  Another example is working in the Police Force.  Sure one can be a cop on the beat, but there are a bunch of specialty fields in policing that could potentially make the job interesting.  Just think about an episode of CSI - there's specialists in studying bugs and their stages to determine how long a body has been dead.  There's specialists in financial forensics, chemical forensics, biological forensics, technology forensics, etc.  There's the canine unit, the SWAT team, the air unit, and more. 

Every business in every industry needs an accountant (or a bunch of them) to deal with revenue, taxes, bills, etc.  A career in accounting can afford a person a lot of opportunities and experiences.  Many accountants eventually work their way up to become CFO's (Chief Financial Officers) or even CEO's.

Another example is working in journalism.  Journalists have to learn about what they write about.  Consequently it can be a very interesting and diverse field if a grad or young adult is a good writer.

Even Lawyers have specialties.  I recently read an article about a lawyer that specialized in law surrounding the international trade of antiquities and archeological artifacts.  Who would've thought?

When young adults are thinking about a career, they should consider which ones afford them the most options.  Or, conversely, if a graduate is passionate about something in particular, he or she shouldn't think that it limits them to only certain career choices.  Putting a passion together with another career can be dynamite.

Don't miss our 'Career Resources for Graduates and Young Adults' page!  It's got a nice collection of links related to careers and direction.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Are You? What Do You Want? by Mick Ukleja and Robert Lorber

Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life
Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life by Mick Ukleja and Robert L Lorber is a relatively quick read around 150 pages.  In it, the authors discuss four questions that will change your life.  While this book isn't specifically targeted to graduates or young adults, I think it's pretty applicable.  They sprinkle interesting stories and examples with statistics and thought provoking exercises that make this book a good option if one is serious looking for answers to these questions.  I'd recommend this book and give it a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Racquetball Player - Finding Yourself in Your Career

I have a colleague at work who is an avid racquetball player.  She's also very good at what she does in the workplace - facilitating organizational change.  I was flattered the other day when she asked if she could talk something through with me.

She had been presented with a job offer at another company, and she was seriously considering it.  It offered her more stability, more opportunity to advance her career, and potentially more opportunity to travel.  However, the position also potentially required her to hob-knob with big wigs at events and make speeches.  She wasn't entirely comfortable with this.

She found herself questioning whether she should stay working where she is now (safe, comfortable, secure in her position, and happy with the contacts she is making) or move to this new position that would be more challenging, stressful, risky, but also have potentially more prestige and more of a learning opportunity.

She was asking herself great questions.  But which of the positions was a better fit for her personality - who she is on the inside?  I asked her this, and she laughed and told me about something she observed about herself with her racquetball playing.  She's a pretty competitive person, and likes a rip-snortin' racquetball game.  However she noticed that she had been avoiding certain players that she had played with in the past.  When she thought about why she trying not to schedule a game with those people, she realized that they were only there to win.  She didn't have any fun playing with them - they were playing like it was a serious competition.  She wanted to play hard, but she also wanted to enjoy herself and have fun too.

I wondered out loud if she could see herself being able to do that in this new position?  Was it all about climbing the corporate ladder and getting the position, or deep down inside did she want to be able to enjoy the work she was doing?  It's great to take a challenge and learn, but if it wasn't a fit for who she really is as a person, should she really do it?

While you're here, don't miss our 'Career Resources for Graduates and Young Adults' page on the right.  It has several good links to videos, articles, and web sites that you may find beneficial.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Summer work option during post-secondary education

One of the software development teams I'm a part of was having a 'lunch celebration' the other day to commemorate another successful release (and a happy business client).  Over pizza I discovered that one of our client business managers is an officer in the Navy reserves.  I was intrigued to discover that he had joined the reserves to keep busy and make money over the summer break after his first year of university.

He did this for each of the subsequent summer breaks while he was in university.  It gave him a source of financial income, a different learning experience, and added some discipline and rigor to his life.  He certainly didn't have to worry about finding a summer job.  Having stayed in the reserves after finishing university and getting a full time job he has moved up the ranks and is now a commanding officer for the local unit.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Congratulations! Now What?

Congratulations! Now What? A Book for Graduates
Congratulations! Now What? A Book for Graduates by Bill Cosby is a relatively quick read based on college commencement speeches that that the author has given.  While this is a small book, I found it a bit of a difficult read - I think this was because most of the humor was written for a speech and it doesn't come across the same way in the book.  Or maybe it was just me.  If you are looking for some serious content and advice about what to do with your future, this is probably not the book for you.  It is full of stories and humor though, so it might make a good grad gift.  That's not what I bought it for though.  My hardcover is 130 pages.
2.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Get Smarter

Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons
Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons by Seymour Schulich is primarily a mentoring book for young adults with entrepreneurial aspirations.  Essentially each chapter is a lesson that Seymour has learned over the course of becoming a billionaire.  The majority of the lessons are very practical and backed up with entertaining, personal stories and advice. The Decision Maker, Patience, and Career Lines are chapters I've definitely recommend. This book was a medium read for me at almost 300 pages. 4 out of 5

Fish! by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results
Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen is another one of those 'modern parable' books (like Who Moved My Cheese?).  This one focuses on attitude and the Seattle Fish Market.  Fish is a fast read that is just over 100 pages long.  There are a lot of good lessons in this book that the reader will find themselves assimilating almost through osmosis.  I enjoyed this book and recommend it to young adults because attitude can make all the difference.  4 out of 5

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The New Global Student by Maya Frost

The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education
The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education by Maya Frost is a well written, well researched book.  It offers a different perspective on getting an education for high school seniors and beyond.  Maya Frost writes from her family's experience, but she also includes anecdotes and advice from others that is insightful and would greatly benefit young adults.  I think her perspective and advice on the role of community colleges in post secondary education is invaluable.  My paperback from the library was published in 2009 and around 300 pages.  It was a medium read. 4 out of 5

Monday, March 21, 2011

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway
Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers is a great book I discovered by reading The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. This hidden gem is for people who struggle with making decisions and even fear in general.  Susan offers practical steps to overcome your fear, along with encouraging, personal stories and advice that I found simple yet profound. Her chapter on 'How to Make a No-Lose Decision' is gold! I'm glad I own a copy and I intent on reading it again.  At just under 200 pages, my paperback was a medium read and well worth what I paid for it new.  4.5 out of 5.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson is essentially a parable about four characters and change.  This well written book is a very quick read and will give you some good food for thought on how you can mitigate the affect change has on your life.  Spencer includes tips on how to anticipate change, adapt better to it, and even enjoy it. At less than 100 pages in large type, many people could read this entire book in a sitting.  Given the valuable content and presentation, for me it's a 4 out of 5.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Hydro-geologist on the Bus

I take public transit to work here in Calgary.  I have found some good value in getting some reading, thinking, or vegging done while someone else worries about the traffic and road conditions.  An older gentleman sat beside me on the way home from work last week and we got into a discussion about the book I was reading.  After talking for a while, I asking him what he did for work, and he said he was a hydro-geologist in the oil industry.  I asked him if that had provided him with any opportunity to travel. He consented that it definitely did, and proceeded to launch into a description of how he became a hydro-geologist.

Way back in the early 1970's, he was going to the University of Alberta and managed to get a job with the Alberta Research Council. This job lasted two years and involved surveying the water tables of hundreds of small towns in India (around Hyderabad).  He related that this was a fantastic experience for him.  His work allowed him to get into towns that were off the beaten tourist track and see how the people really lived and functioned.  "Bureaucracy in India is something to behold and experience," he exclaimed.

Finishing that work in India, my friend realized that he had landed upon an answer for what he was going to do with his life.  He returned to university and got a degree in hydro-geology.  Since then he has traveled to several other places.  He was telling me of drilling for water in Vietnam and having to leave the wells, the  equipment, and the country behind because the communists were coming.  He never got to finish those wells, but he returned decades later to discover that the communists had finished the wells and were using them for their intended purpose.

"Is the future was bright for hydro-geologists?" I queried.  He replied that things were going to look very positive for hydro-geologists soon as the world is going to realize how precious water is as a resource.  His outlook was that the 'future is very bright'.  He was disappointed that he would be retiring soon.

Don't miss the 'Career Resources for Graduates and Young Adults' here on the site!  It's got lots of good links to various resources you might find interesting.

The Element by Ken Robinson

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson is a fantastic book about helping you find 'your niche' in the world.  A New York Times Bestseller (I like read best sellers as they are usually good indicators of a good book), it's well organized and thought out, and full of colorful and applicable anecdotes that help get Ken's points across. He covers various topics related to finding your passion, including how the modern idea of education works (and doesn't work), mentors, creativity, being 'in the zone', and much more.  My personal Penguin edition is almost 260 pages and a solid medium read, but well worth it. 4.5 out of 5.