Tag Archives: college

What My Online Jazz Course Taught Me About Career Counseling

Even if you do not like jazz, please keep reading. This analogy works for whatever genre of music or form of art that you do like.

I recently completed an online jazz appreciation course, and when I began I could only use layman’s terms to describe what I liked or disliked about a particular song. During the course the professor’s goal was for us to progress to the point where we could use jazz terminology to support our musical preferences. So, “I liked it because it was energetic and the band had a trumpet (my son plays the trumpet in his high school band)” became “I enjoy the combination of blues and bebop, as well as the trumpet player’s motivic development.”

What does that have to do with career counseling? Job seekers can usually describe in layman’s terms what they like or dislike about the jobs they have had. When counseling them, what if we help them to see how their preferences translate into workforce development terminology? Would that help them to understand their personal traits better, and would they then be more likely to make better career decisions?

Here is a before and after example to illustrate how this strategy would work.

Counselor: You scored very high in the Realistic interest area and your highest work values are Relationships and Working Conditions. Have you considered training to become a computer user support specialist?

Job Seeker: Huh?

Now let’s try an approach where the counselor helps the job seeker to understand their experience in terms of workforce development terminology.

Counselor: You told me that one of the things you enjoyed most about your last job was fixing the machines when they broke down. That confirms your high Realistic score on your interest profiler. A person who scores high in the Realistic interest area enjoys finding practical solutions to problems.

Job Seeker: Yes, that really sounds like what I like to do.

Counselor: Also, you didn’t like the competitive environment among your co-workers and wished that you could have had some customer contact. That matches well with one of your high scores on the work importance profiler, Relationships. Now there are a few occupations that allow you to fix things and still have some customer contact. One of them that is in demand, pays a reasonable wage, and offers some job security is computer user support specialists. You might call the person who does that job a help desk technician. Could you see yourself doing that?

Job Seeker: Well, I don’t know. How could I qualify for a job like that?

Of course, many of my readers could lead that discussion much better than I could. In the career to counselor ratio I am about 90% career and probably only 10% counselor. But I am hoping that I was able to present the concept in a way that makes sense.

I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this idea. And if you try it, please let me know how it works.

Image above from publicdomainpictures.net

What Kind of Job Can I Get If My College Major Is…

This question is sometimes difficult to answer because colleges and the workforce do not always speak the same language. That is the bad news.

The good news is that you can translate between the CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) codes used by colleges and SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) codes used in the labor market.

Sometimes the translation is obvious—for example, B.S. in Electrical Engineering to Electrical Engineer. Other times it is more complicated. Consider a degree in Communications, which will not get you a job as a Communicator. So what will it get you?

Here is a web site with a useful crosswalk from college major to job title: http://www.onetonline.org/help/online/crosswalk. Simply plug in the name of your degree program, and you will get a list of occupational matches.

Unfortunately, you may find more matches than you expected. For example, the crosswalk lists more than 20 different types of communication degrees. So you will have to choose the one that makes the most sense to you.

Of course, in the world of the job seeker, we just crossed the street without looking where we are going. You would do better to look before you cross. What I mean is that you would really benefit from choosing your desired job (or at least the job family or industry cluster) first and then finding a degree program that will get you safely to your destination.

Image Source: Dogmadic, http://www.freeimages.com/photo/436457

Confused About IT Jobs

What skills do you need to succeed in the field of Information Technology (IT)? Do you really need a bachelor’s degree in computer science? Or is work experience enough? Is your degree still valid 10 years down the road? What about industry-recognized certifications?

I have found that seasoned career counselors and even experienced IT professionals struggle to answer these questions. So can you ask a college admissions advisor for help? One local career college claims that their associate’s degree in computer information science—programming will qualify you for a job as a database administrator. However, according to survey results published on http://www.onetonline.org, 60% of respondents working in this occupation have a bachelor’s degree.

Perhaps a trusted source of labor market information, such as O*NET Online referenced above, can guide you in the right direction. Unfortunately, O*NET’s job classifications do not always correspond to an employer’s description of the job. For example, just what is a computer user support specialist? Does anyone really have such a job title?

To help clear up some of the confusion, the RochesterWorks! Career Center has scheduled an IT Careers Panel during the month of March. I look forward to learning from local employers and other experts about what it takes to get hired and advance in the field. IT Careers Panel 3-2-12

Seeking a Job With Few Openings—Too Risky?

Should everyone be a nurse? At first it might make sense. The Long-Term Occupational Projections show that there are 4,980 openings per year for registered nurses in New York State. It is practically a guaranteed job for anyone who passes the state licensing exam.

So let us suppose that all of New York’s 760,000 unemployed jobseekers focus on occupations with 1,000 or more annual openings. There are 56 different job titles that fall into that category. Given the variety of interests, talents, and educational levels that people have, is a list of 56 in-demand occupations too restrictive? What if I told you that only 13 of the top jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and four of those titles are teachers? Now does the list sound a bit restrictive? It might if you have a college degree.

On the other hand, what if you were to focus on the list of jobs with fewer than 100 yearly openings statewide? We have data on a full 303 occupations in that category. Would the small number of openings translate into an unacceptable risk of not being hired? That depends on who is competing with you for those jobs and whether you can market yourself as the best candidate for the job.

Together the bottom 303 jobs have an impressive 11,110 openings per year. So someone is getting hired for those jobs. They include such high growth occupations as biochemists and biophysicists, diagnostic medical sonographers, and environmental engineering technicians.

Of course there is some risk in preparing for a career with few job openings. Can you realistically say that you would be a strong candidate for one of those jobs? Can you tolerate a lengthier and more difficult job search? If so, a job with few openings may be for you.

Does Your Choice of College Major Matter?

Did you know that if you have an associate’s degree you will earn $7,332 more per year, on average, than someone with only a high school diploma (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey, 2010 data, http://www.bls.gov/cps/)? If you go on and get a bachelor’s degree, you will earn a whopping $21,424 more per year than your neighbor with only a high school diploma.

So does your college major matter, or would any bachelor’s degree earn you upwards of $50,000 per year? According to one survey, your salary can vary widely, depending on your choice of college major (see the 2011-2012 Payscale College Salary Report, http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp). Eighteen of the top 20 entries on the list are for majors in engineering, science, or mathematics. With a degree in chemical engineering you could start at $64,500 per year. In contrast, a degree in elementary education will start you at $32,400 per year.

Thinking of majoring in business?  You would start at $41,000 per year.  You might do better to major in economics ($47,300 per year), finance ($46,500 per year), or accounting ($44,700 per year).