Career counselors make the process too complicated. I’ll try to remedy that here.
These tips are from my new book Careers for Dummies.
Which kind of person are you?
Word + People
STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math)
STEM + People
Trying to narrow further using, for example, a “test” such as the Myers-Briggs Type indicator is ill-advised because of its dubious predictive validity.
Rather, your next step should be to consult a list of careers, ideally one that’s divided into categories such as those above. My new book, Careers for Dummies, does that for 340 careers, providing an introduction to that career plus a link for further information.
From among some prospects, pick one in which you have an “in,” the best natural talent, care about the most, and/or in which the job market is good.
Over- and underrated careers
Health care careers are overrated. In our attempt to cover everyone, including many low- and no-paying patients, the system is overwhelmed. Doctors are taking early retirement, nurses are burning out. Patients are dying from medical errors, an incomprehensibly large 250,000 people per YEAR.
The only health care careers I recommend are optometrist, audiologist, and orthodontist because they have high cure rates and regular hours, and physician assistant because the training is much shorter than for an MD yet get to do much of what docs do, and earn a six-figure income.
Lawyer is also overrated. Attorney job satisfaction is rock-bottom. That's no surprise, the work is often contentious, the hours often long, pressure for billlable hours great, the work has ethical temptations, and most of the work is less glamorous than portrayed in the media. Most lawyers spend lots of time poring over dry statutes and case law and/or reading and writing contracts and briefs, in which precision is expected.
Government jobs are underrated, especially federal ones. The stereotype of the turgid government agency is not always true. More often, people are satisfied working in government because of the pro-social mission, nonpareil job security, excellent benefits, relatively short work hours, and even good pay. A recent study finds that federal government pay exceeds private-sector pay for equivalent work.
Program evaluator is an under-the-radar and under-considered career. Most innovative programs get evaluated. The evaluator thus gets to see innovations in action and help determine which deserve more funding. For info, check out the American Evaluation Association’s site.
Checking out a prospective career
I recommend forgoing that standard informational interview. Not only are people less likely, in these busy times, to respond to your request for an info interview, you only get a sample of one. The person you talk with could love or hate their career or be in an anomalous situation. More valid is to Google a prospective career and check out top-listed search results, including videos.
People spend too much time picking a career. The simple model here is more likely to be used and will result in a better career choice than most people make.
I give a brief talk on this topic on YouTube.
This article is part of a series of simple career tips drawn from my new book, Careers for Dummies. The others are