Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Policeman - A Career Profile in Determination

Have you ever watched CSI?  I know a Crime Scene Investigator personally.  He specializes in retrieving evidence from computers, phones, and video cameras.  The path he took to becoming what I would call a 'Crime Scene Investigator' is pretty interesting.

This guy always struggled with school growing up.  He barely passed Grade 12 and wasn't keen on getting back into school - except he had a dream.  He wanted to be a police officer.  Looking into the admission requirements for the RCMP and several municipal police departments, he was very discouraged to discover that his eyesight automatically disqualified him for admission.

Being a persistent fellow, he didn't let that stop him.  He got a job as a security officer in the hospitality industry and did that for several years hoping it would somehow spring-board him closer to his dream.  During that time he made some friends who had been to college.  They saw his drive and desire to be a cop, and encouraged him to go back to school and study criminology.  He also learned about corrective eye surgery and 'saw' a glimmer of hope (no pun intended)  :-)

Having lived and worked on his own for a while by this time, he had learned to value time and money and realized that going back to school would be an investment in his future.  He did a thorough investigation of schools that offered diplomas in Criminal Justice, found three that he liked and applied to all three.  He was surprised to receive acceptance letters from all three schools despite his high school transcript (Post Secondary institutions tend to be more willing to accept students who've had a bit of life experience - I've seen this across the board, irrespective of school and career type).  Wanting to get the most out of his investment, he decided on a smaller college that had smaller class sizes.  The program at this school focused on Criminal Justice and he didn't have to waste  time and money taking general studies courses.  Also, the program's faculty actually worked in the CJ system - they weren't all academics.

School was still a challenge.  He had to quit the college volleyball team to keep his marks up.  He had to study constantly and had post-it study notes everywhere.  I remember seeing them all over the inside of his car.  All the hard work paid off, though.  In two years he successfully got his diploma, and discovered that he could parlay those course credits into a Criminal Justice degree by taking one more year of school at a partner university.  He took advantage of this (and a scholarship) and graduated with a CJ degree a year later.

A CJ degree didn't solve the eyesight problem, though.  Police departments still wouldn't look at his application.  At a bit of a loss, yet encouraged by his success in school, he decided to continue his education in a different field.  He saw an advert on TV for a local IT school which claimed to have students ready for the industry in 9 months.  The Information Technology sector was booming and IT workers were getting paid a premium at the time.  Curious, he went to the local school, got a tour, submitted an application, and got accepted all in the course of two weeks.

Nine months later, our wanna-be policeman had two significant job offers which completely validated all the time, effort, and money he had been spending on education.  He accepted an opportunity working in Europe and spent a year there working in IT.  While he was there, he travelled - for work and for pleasure - and he loved it.  What he discovered though, was he didn't enjoy all the time spent on a computer in a cubicle.  He is a hands-on, practical type of guy and sitting in front of a computer all day wasn't his dream - even if it paid well.

He moved back to Canada, got work at a local IT firm, and submitted his application to the local police department.  Through a series of administrative blunders, they lost his application.  Fifteen months later after he pestered them for a status update, it was found.  By this time, the local IT firm had been bought, and our prospective policeman had taken his earnings from the buy out, paid off the remainder of his student debt, and got his eyesight corrected with laser surgery.

Accomplishing his dream, a policeman at last, he spent 6 years on the beat in a patrol car, loving every minute of it.  The police force that hired him allows officers to diversify into different fields after 6 years on the beat.  While working the beat was right up his alley, shift work was not and he consequently looked for an opportunity to work regular hours.  Because of his IT experience, he was able to meet and 'talk shop' with guys in the computer crime unit (who worked regular hours).  When a position came up in that department, he applied for it and was accepted.  He loves his job now.  In his current position, he works 4 days week, 10 hour days, and receives state of the art training.  When he retires from the force, he will easily be able to transition to an IT security consultant with his expertise.

This guy didn't give up.  A bunch of things stood in the way of his dream, but he found a way around them.  The challenges, experiences, and opportunities he's had along the way have built his confidence, made him stronger and more diversified, and given him a greater sense of accomplishment.

To read other career profiles check out my Career Path Profiles page here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Steve - A Profile of Following Your Passion into a Dream Career

Steve is in the green shirt.  I'm in white.
My family met Steve on our summer vacation in 2013.  We were looking at spending an afternoon sailing on the Sechelt Inlet and the local Visitor Information Office highly recommended BC Sail Tours - Steve's company.  We sailed with him for an afternoon and discovered that he also pilots a float plane part-time with with a local airline called Tofino Air!

Can you imagine - Sailing and flying as a career?  That's what I'm talking about.

It wasn't all 'smooth sailing' (pardon the pun) for Steve, though.  He had to make some sacrifices to get to a point where he had his own boat and had the flight hours to fly commercially.  I don't remember all the details, but he was telling us stories of how he was 'quite busy' working and living extremely frugally to get money so that he could pay for flight hours to get his license.

Steve has a Master Limited 60 Ton Captain's License and has sailed over 20,000 miles in South America, Hawaii, and North America. He fondly remembers surfing waves while sailing to Hawaii.  He's also been flying float planes commercially for the past 12 years.

If you grew up in a land-locked town or city (like me) you wouldn't necessarily think of sailing as a way to 'get paid to see the world'.  I certainly didn't consider it.  Here's some sailing careers I've heard of now that I wouldn't have guessed exists before:

  • Like Steve, operate your own sailing tour outfit (or sail for one)
  • Sail other people's boats to ports where they want to pick them up.  I had a friend who did this in the summer
  • Teach sailing.  My previous manager did this for extra money during his summer holidays.
  • Work on a Cruise Ship - you don't even need sailing experience for this.  They are looking for Cooks, Musicians, Event coordinators, Childcare workers,  Life guards, etc.
To read other career profiles check out my Career Path Profiles page here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Bigs by Ben Carpenter

The Bigs is a relatively new book - just published this spring (Wiley, 2014).  I found it on the shelf of my local library and read it rather quickly.  'The Bigs' is baseball slang for 'The Big Leagues.'  Ben compares the experience a player goes through moving from the minor league to the major league with the experience graduates deal with leaving school and finding a career - entering 'real life.'

The book is made up of two parts:

How to Survive, Thrive, and Have Fun in the Big Leagues.  Most of the content for this first part of the book comes from Ben's life experiences.  I loved the profusion of real stories, nicknames, and lessons in this section.
A lot of things I believe in (attitude at work, avoiding pitfalls, and thinking big) were affirmed while I read this section.  I also got a new perspective on leadership, and the financial industry.

How to Choose, Get, and Do a Great Job.  The second section didn't have as many anecdotes and was much more practical in nature.  Ben offer's some great examples and advice on how to prepare for your first career opportunity out of school.  He focuses on interviews, networking, and courtesy as means to get your foot in the door of that first job.

While the book does not focus much on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of careers, it does give valuable instruction and advice that is applicable for everyone irrespective of the career one chooses.  I'd highly recommend reading it if you are considering a career in sales, finance, or banking.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Direction for Your Career and Your Life

If you are floundering to find you place in this world, perhaps you aren't putting your heart into what you're doing.  You must be committed to whatever you find yourself doing.  Put some skin in the game - act like you care.

What do I mean by having some 'skin in the game?'  Make a commitment to something and put your heart into it.  Make a decision about that relationship, that education, that trip, or that job and stick to it.  Get decisive.  Be responsible for yourself.  Pay all your own bills.  Stop living at home.  Once you put a stake in the ground, pledge yourself to it, and believe, you'll find that other things start to come into focus.

For me, getting married and having multiple dependents along with a mortgage helped me find a lot of clarity fast.  That's a huge commitment and a lot of lost 'freedom' though.  Several years before making that commitment, I discovered that travelling alone also helped me discover perspective and direction.

Going forward, DO things - don't try them.  Get involved, get engaged, get dirty, put your heart into it, loose some skin, and see what happens.

Bruce Kasanoff has written a couple of interesting articles (part 1 and part 2) about the science behind the most successful careers.  While they offer a somewhat different perspective, I think they substantiate my comments above.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Just Graduated... Now What? by Katherine Schwarzenegger

This well researched book is packed with the experiences and thoughts of 32 successful people like Anderson Cooper, Eva Longoria, Sara Blakely, and more.  Most chapters in the book are about one person and have two parts - Katherine's thoughts on her interview with that person, and the interview itself.   Katherine's thoughts are significant because she wrote this book as a recent graduate - essentially living the title while she wrote it.

One could not assimilate all the lessons and advice in this book in a single read.  Fortunately, the format of the book allows the reader to (for the most part) randomly choose chapters and read them individually - a valuable attribute for a reader like me.

The three chapters that resonated most with me (for what it's worth as I'm over 40) were Andy Cohen, Darren Hardy, and Gayle King.  I doubt that I would have chosen those chapters 20 years ago.  :-)

Reading this book made me again consider the question 'What does success mean to me?'  Every graduate must find their own definition for success and then continue scrutinizing and evolving that definition as life goes on.

I got a digest sized copy of this book from the Library.  It had about 280 pages and I found it to be a medium length read.