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  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.