Read What Color Is Your Parachute? Online

Authors: Carol Christen,Jean M. Blomquist,Richard N. Bolles

Tags: #Juvenile Nonfiction, #Business & Economics, #Careers, #School & Education, #Non-Fiction

What Color Is Your Parachute? (43 page)

BOOK: What Color Is Your Parachute?
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We become happier, much happier, when we realize that life is an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Many of those three million job openings need people with
STEM skills.
is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. For years, employers at high-technology businesses have been asking schools to train more students in these fields. Unfortunately, fewer U.S. students have gained these skills, whereas students from other countries have continued to prepare for STEM careers. Most industrialized countries graduate more students with STEM skills than the United States does. These well-educated workers come to the United States for the high-skill, high-pay jobs that make up STEM careers.

STEM skills also drive business cycles. Think about the changes in the United States and the global economy due to the boom in the domestic auto industry during the 1950s and the decades following the birth of Silicon Valley’s magic microchip. When a new business sector surges, millions of jobs are created directly or indirectly. American job creation lags when fewer elementary, secondary, and higher education students know basic scientific history and principles.

However, if quantum physics, inorganic chemistry, or advanced trigonometry are not your strongest subjects, please consider two things:

1. Weaknesses in math or science may mean you had teachers who weren’t strong in these subjects either. If you are interested in exploring STEM careers, but not strong in math or science, find a good tutor, or take a remedial class or a class for people with math or science phobias. Most students have the ability to learn science and math, but not all students can learn them the same way. Students who don’t get academic math, for example, may totally get it if the math is applied in ways that interest them.
  2. Even if you aren’t ever likely to be a techie, an area that is growing economically may have more job options for you. For example, a thriving high-tech corporation has dozens of nontechnical jobs. Whether it’s in a state-of-the-art research hospital, a rocket manufacturer, or a multiblock computer campus, there are many nonscience jobs that require skills ranging from professional to labor at highly technical businesses. Someone writes marketing materials; maintains the financial records, roads, or landscaping; cleans the offices; does security; provides legal counsel; repairs the electricity or HVAC; runs the cafeteria; designs ergonomically efficient work spaces; and so on.

“Durable” is a word that is similar to “sustainable.” When something is durable, it lasts for a long time without showing damage or wear. Students who obtain and keep adding to their STEM skills are likely to have very durable careers. Few can accurately predict the future. Based on the past, it is almost certain that new technologies needing STEM skills will keep emerging and will continue to drive the job market, the stock market, and the economy.


STEM jobs and careers are in the news. Type “stem careers” into a search engine and you’ll get dozens of links. Read a few recent ones and a few older ones to get a balance of information.

Two websites at which you can learn about STEM skills and careers are


As a high school junior or senior, you probably consider yourself a savvy consumer. When you buy something, you check out different stores for a bargain with the best features. You and your friends share tales of getting a good deal on recent purchases.

Do you know that a bachelor’s degree can cost from $50,000 to over $120,000? A college education is likely to be the most expensive product you’ve ever bought.

To choose a college that’s right for you, it’s extremely important to apply your consumer smarts. To make a good decision, you need to know the following:


Additional education or training after high school is needed for 75 percent of today’s jobs. Yet less than 25 percent of those jobs require college degrees. Of course, there are jobs for which a bachelor’s degree is essential. Are you going for one of those jobs? Don’t assume that a degree makes you more employable. If you are wrong, you’ve wasted tens of thousands of dollars and several years of your life. Talk with a half dozen people who are doing the work you want to do. Find out from them whether a college degree is necessary. If it is, they may suggest colleges that have exceptional departments or programs for what you need to study.


Nationwide, only 32 percent of college students graduate in four years; 68 percent graduate in six years. If you need to work or can’t get the right classes for graduation, you may spend more than four years getting an undergraduate degree. Stretch your money by going to a community college or less costly state college first and then transferring to complete your major. Even better, learn an in-demand trade that can support you and your studies without borrowing.


The average grad has $25,000 in student loans and $4,100 charged on credit cards. Private loans can push debt load even higher. Limit your total borrowing to no more than two-thirds of your likely starting salary, or you won’t be able to pay your bills. Being heavily in debt not only is stressful but also can limit your job and graduate school options.


Employers hire candidates who can quickly become productive. Internships, co-op education, service learning, campus chapters of professional organizations, and study- and work-abroad experiences all increase your employability. If you want to work at a campus radio station, newspaper, or other cool position to add to your credentials, remember that these opportunities are much harder to get at big-name schools.


Being away from home is so exciting. It can also be overwhelming living 24-7 with strangers whose habits and values are so different from your own. Sharing a postage-stamp-sized room with someone is challenging. Look for schools with strong student or residential life programs that teach time management, setting priorities, study skills, and conflict resolution and that give an overview of leadership and team-building opportunities or clubs.

Also, check out career centers. If you haven’t a clue what work you want to do after you graduate or you want to have a job before then, you’ll need help from a competent career counselor.



Megan Pittsley        

Job Title:
Director of career services

Education / human services

TechSkills San Jose

BS and AAS, management and public policy (concentration in human resources)


Global Career Development Facilitator Certificate


Starting $40,000; three to six years’ experience: $70,000

What do you do?

I assist graduates in finding employment. I provide career advising sessions, host workshops, arrange for special speakers, organize job fairs, instruct classes, and do lots of administrative tasks.

What are your most repetitive tasks?

I process lots of paperwork, but my job actually does provide a lot of variety.

Do you supervise anyone?

Not currently, but I will probably be hiring someone this year to support my department.

How long have you been at this job?

I just began this specific position, but I’ve been in the career advising, management, and recruiting field for about 9 years total.

How did you get into this work?

My first job advising people was in artist management, which I began right out of high school. I was very successful and one of the acts I managed even got on MTV. I then started working in staffing and human resources and decided to use my knowledge for the good of others. My first “real” career job was in a vocational college within the career services department.

What do you like about your work?

It’s extremely rewarding. I make a difference in others’ lives every day and empower them to be self-sufficient throughout their lives.

What don’t you like about your job?

It can be very demanding and numbers-oriented because I need to make sure the school’s graduates obtain employment. It’s also sometimes discouraging when people really don’t want to work or put in the required effort to get a job, or don’t take my advice and thus stay out of work longer.

What are the main challenges in this industry?

It seems like a lot of people are trying to get into the career field now because of the bad economy. The ones who don’t have the right experience and training are hurting job seekers and taking advantage of them; it can be very difficult to stand out amongst a heap of others searching for the same work.

What do you see happening in this field in the next 5 to 10 years?

Hopefully the field will slow down as the economy gets better and it will go back to being more regulated and ethical. It’s a service that is always going to be needed because people will always need work!

BOOK: What Color Is Your Parachute?
12.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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