Career guidance

1.) How to choose your Career or Job Security and the Job-Experience Curve.

When people are trying to pick a career, the first thing that comes to mind is salary. “How can I make as much money as soon as possible?”. This is generally a pretty rational thought, after all most people have large loans to pay off. People then run in a frenzy towards engineering, computer science, and IT type jobs — the starting salary is great. Who doesn’t want make $60K+ right at graduation? When you’re making that kind of money and single, who cares about job security?

Young adults hear things like job security and think that it is an “old people” or “stagnant people” problem. I certainly thought that when I was at the career choosing age. But I did not understand what job security actually was.

Keeping your job for 30 years is not a job security associated with your career choice, but with the people & company with whom you work. The kind of security I am talking about is job experience security — being able to find a new job easily after you lose your existing job (company goes out of business, you quit, etc.) because your experience has value.

The Job Experience curve describes the increasing value that your experience has to a company and the market overall. For example, your value as a worker (which includes both your experience at your particular skill-set, the risk of hiring and training someone new, and a variety of other factors) should increase each day that you are on the job.

Let’s make it concrete.

Despite that people flock to engineering for its high starting salary, many do not realize is that in the long run the job-experience curve for most engineering fields is FLAT. Companies and the market do not value your increasing experience (for a variety of reasons) over your existing skillset. After 5 or so years, the cost of maintaining you as an employee exceeds the cost of hiring a new graduate. The new graduate has updated skills, and from the management’s eyes, only marginally different experience value.

Contrast that with the opposite extreme: Doctors, for instance, have job security because people are always in need of them. But what is overlooked is that in every year practicing, the doctor gains experience — experience which is irreplaceable. Whether that is experience with medical conditions specific to a location, or with surgical proceedures, that experience is invaluable and non-replaceable. Ultimately, that experience is what becomes valued, not the years of medical school.

People tend to see high starting salaries for a field and think, “this field is in demand”. But it could also be the case that there is demand because the experience is not valued and the workers are replaced quickly.

Now we’ve considered two very popular fields, Engineering and Medicine for the job security that comes with increasing experience. In looking at careers you are interested in, keep an eye out for the turnover (hire/fire) rate in the market — try to see it as whether the experience is valued.

Skills are great, and they get you high starting salaries, but at the end of the day, skills are replaceable — experience is not.

Author -Beracah Yankama
Director, StudentsReview

contributed by: Varun Rajput

2.) Is a Top College Really Worth It?

Many who graduate from top colleges are sometimes shocked to learn that the world isn’t their oyster, they’re not appointed Secretary of State, and they don’t make a fortune with a startup company or a groundbreaking scientific discovery. In fact, a lot of graduates of top colleges go on to have careers not much different from their peers who attended their local state universities, finding themselves grinding away in similar entry-level jobs, perhaps earning the exact same pay. Many who graduate quickly realize that the material they learned in the “ivory tower” has no relevance to the real world. So what is it all really worth?

1. A degree from a top university is a lifetime marketing tool for your career. A college with a respected name always leaps off a resume. It’ll never guarantee you a better job, but it will usually help. It gives a signal to employers that you’re more serious, diligent and/or intelligent than the average candidate. It’s just one advantage, and it’s up to you to use it to its fullest.

2. It means you’re virtually guaranteed of being surrounded by more serious, diligent, and/or intelligent students for 4 of your formative years, and the influence and inspiration they naturally bring to you. While you can always try to seek people like this anywhere you go, you’re going to be guaranteed to meet them all over a top college. This is even more important than what you learn at college. When learning the habits, values, and attitudes of successful people, you’re acquiring the raw materials to succeed in any endeavor. And these last a lifetime. And you may not even realize this transformation is happening to you.

3. It means you’ll always be guaranteed to work extremely hard, regardless of how you feel, because you will have no choice. You can work hard at any school, but you can’t stay for longer than 1 semester at a top college if you don’t. If self-discipline is ever a question mark for you, this will ensure you acquire it.

4. It means you’ll be exposed to people from a broader range of backgrounds. At your local state university, you’ll meet the better students and more ambitious and talented people from your city, and perhaps a couple others nearby. At a top university, you’re going to meet the more ambitious students from around the country and even the world. You will immediately recognize differences in geography and culture. You will realize that there are life opportunities outside of your own geographic region, and that you can successfully take advantage of them. As a high school student, you may never have dreamed of a career working with dolphins in the South Pacific or designing fashions in New York. After attending a top college, you may realize that is something that you can easily achieve.

5. It means exposure to better professors. While professors aren’t anywhere as important an influence as your peers while away at college, professors can be huge influences. One particular inspiring professor can change your life: make you decide to choose a particular profession. When you’re among the better professors in the country, you’ll often be inspired simply to love learning more. Many professors will be tops in their fields, and you can get to know them and realize that they are people just like you, and that you can probably even be like them someday.

6. It provides connections in your career after you graduate. When you meet up with a fellow alumnus, you instantly have a shared experience. Some of your friends from college may become connections. Since most colleges foster a school spirit by competition with other universities, you’ll naturally feel a kinship with fellow alumni over those who attended other schools.

7. It means you’ll probably eventually get married to someone who is also successful.

Is a top college really worth it? If you haven’t travelled the world, been exposed to great minds, and learned the skills to succeed in any endeavor, then this is a doorway to those kinds of things. It’s up to you to make the most of it, during and after. But a top college will always provide greater opportunities for success. Once you attend a top college, you will be changed. If this is the kind of person you want to become, then this is the road you want to take. It’s not for everybody, but nor does everybody have an opportunity like this. Before you enroll, know what to expect. It won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy. It won’t guarantee you superstardom. But once you open the door and go down the path, it’s hard to go back, and things will never quite be the same for you. It’s terrifying, but ultimately it often proves to be priceless for those who choose it.

Author: Matthew Scandale

Contributed by: Varun Rajput

3.) Start growing up before you begin college, not after you graduate!

Going to college is so universally viewed as such a great investment that the cost and its return on investment get virtually no scrutiny. A typical statistic cited is “the expected life time earnings of a bachelor’s college graduate are $2.1 million and the expected lifetime earnings of a high-school (only) graduate are $1.2 million (Day and Newburger, 2002)”. This statistic, while impressive, ignores many other factors. Remember that Bill Gates, Steven Jobs, Michael Dell and Larry Ellison never graduated from college. And that was before subsidized student loans drove the cost of college through the roof. When you borrow huge sums to finance a “silly” major, you are digging a big hole what will take years to fill.

Paying too much for a silly degree (Sociology, Feminist Studies, Medieval History to name a few) – particularly when borrowing to foot the bill is absurd. You are highly unlikely to earn $2.1 million in a Feminist Studies career unless you marry a rich guy. Saying all investments in college education are sound is akin to saying that buying stock in any company is a great investment. If you do not intend to study anything practical, then pursue alternatives to the traditional four year college degree program (volunteer work, start a business, medical technician, military).

If you are going to follow your impractical dream then part of the training needs to be in cost-cutting. Begin today. Do not borrow money for easy living today because that will certainly not prepare you for your life of poverty tomorrow.

Remember, you do not need to give up a passion in order to be realistic. There are many, many successful engineers, physicians, and accountants out there who sing in amateur rock and roll bands, who take art appreciation courses, and who spend their vacations on volunteer architectural digs. They make these passions their avocations rather than failed vocations.

The major you complete is far more important than which college you attend. And we think that the college tuitions at some of the most expensive private colleges in the country exceeding $37,000 per year are a terrible value compared to your state college (sometimes with tuitions of less than $4,000 per year). Combining an impractical degree at an expensive college is about as foolish as it gets. According to a 2002 study by Stacy Dale, a researcher at Mathematica Policy Research in Princeton, N.J., and Alan Krueger, a Princeton economics and public affairs professor: “It turns out that where students go as undergraduates doesn’t help them earn more money over their lifetimes.” Their study looked at 14,238 full-time workers who were freshmen in 1976. The ones who were bright enough to get into the highest-ranked—but usually expensive-schools but then attended less expensive schools, did just as well in their careers as the students who attended the more expensive schools.

The cost of attending college continues to rise faster than inflation. The overall inflation rate in the US from 1986 – 2007 increased 92.32%. But during the same time, tuition at US colleges increased 343.81% (www.InflationData.com). If this trend continus and the cost of George Washington University (four year tuition of $151,280) goes up an additional 343.81% during the next 21 years it will then cost $671,396. And if the average price of a new car (today about $28,000) continues to increase at the general rate of inflation (92.32% during the same period) an average new car will cost $53,850 in 21 years. So today’s George Washington tuition bill is equivalent to the cost of 5.4 average new cars. And in 21 years it will cost the same as about 12.5 average new cars.

We need our colleges and universities to reduce the cost of education – this does not mean subsidize it more. It means get more efficient like the rest of the country – provide a better education for a lot less money. But the objective of many colleges is simply to be the “best” college they can be – regardless of cost. And the major objective of tenured professors at many universities is to do research rather than teach. The institutions have gotten away with murder because of the public’s pride in our college system and the wide availability of student loans reduces cost pressure on its customers (the students). In a less subsidized market their customers would consider price as a much larger factor in shopping around for the best college investment.

So if you are considering an investment in college first and foremost spend time considering if college is the right choice for you and it is the right time – there are plenty of alternatives. If college is right for you then select a practical major that will afford you plenty of job opportunities and choices upon graduation. And finally based on your selected major choose your college frugally. If it makes you stand up a little straighter then apply and get accepted to the prestigious school but then attend the one that is a better value.

Author:
John Sherriff
President of ValueofCollege.com.

contributed by: Varun Rajput

How to become Intelligent?

Your brain needs exercise just like a muscle. If you use it often and in the right ways, you will become a more skilled thinker and increase your ability to focus. But if you never use your brain, or abuse it with harmful chemicals, your ability to think and learn will deteriorate.

Here are 10 simple ways anyone can squeeze a bit more productivity out of the old gray matter.

1. Minimize Television Watching – This is a hard sell. People love vegetating in front of the television, myself included more often than I’d like. The problem is watching television doesn’t use your mental capacity OR allow it to recharge. It’s like having the energy sapped out of a muscle without the health benefits of exercise.

Don’t you feel drained after a couple hours of TV? Your eyes are sore and tired from being focused on the light box for so long. You don’t even have the energy to read a book.

When you feel like relaxing, try reading a book instead. If you’re too tired, listen to some music. When you’re with your friends or family, leave the tube off and have a conversation. All of these things use your mind more than television and allow you to relax.

2. Exercise – I used to think that I’d learn more by not exercising and using the time to read a book instead. But I realized that time spent exercising always leads to greater learning because it improves productivity during the time afterwards. Using your body clears your head and creates a wave of energy. Afterwards, you feel invigorated and can concentrate more easily.

3. Read Challenging Books – Many people like to read popular suspense fiction, but generally these books aren’t mentally stimulating. If you want to improve your thinking and writing ability you should read books that make you focus. Reading a classic novel can change your view of the world and will make you think in more precise, elegant English. Don’t be afraid to look up a word if you don’t know it, and don’t be afraid of dense passages. Take your time, re-read when necessary, and you’ll soon grow accustomed to the author’s style.

Once you get used to reading challenging books, I think you’ll find that you aren’t tempted to go back to page-turners. The challenge of learning new ideas is far more exciting than any tacky suspense-thriller.

4. Early to Bed, Early to Rise – Nothing makes it harder to concentrate than sleep deprivation. You’ll be most rejuvenated if you go to bed early and don’t sleep more than 8 hours. If you stay up late and compensate by sleeping late, you’ll wake up lethargic and have trouble focusing. In my experience the early morning hours are the most tranquil and productive. Waking up early gives you more productive hours and maximizes your mental acuity all day.

If you have the opportunity, take 10-20 minute naps when you are hit with a wave of drowsiness. Anything longer will make you lethargic, but a short nap will refresh you.

5. Take Time to Reflect – Often our lives get so hectic that we become overwhelmed without even realizing it. It becomes difficult to concentrate because nagging thoughts keep interrupting. Spending some time alone in reflection gives you a chance organize your thoughts and prioritize your responsibilities. Afterwards, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s important and what isn’t. The unimportant stuff won’t bother you anymore and your mind will feel less encumbered.

I’m not saying you need to sit on the floor cross-legged and chant ‘ommm’. Anything that allows a bit of prolonged solitude will do. One of my personal favorites is taking a solitary walk. Someone famous said, “All the best ideas occur while walking.” I think he was on to something. Experiment to find the activity that works best for you.

6. Cultivate friendships with people who think differently. I enjoy talking to people who really challenge my conception of the world. Artists (I’m not one), medical staff (I’m not one), construction workers (I’m not one) and so on.

7. Get outside your own culture through travel, social gatherings, … Travel is great (but the hit on the environment is large, so…. do a few long trips rather than many short ones perhaps?) especially if you immerse locally. Going to Cuba and staying in a western hotel is not travel. Going backpacking in Nepal is. Doing voluntravel (going somewhere to help, e.g. Medicins Sans Frontiers) is ideal. But in any event the challenge to your sense of normalcy is fabulous. I spent a month in western China with my kids. Watching them take in the local environment and adapt was a real eye opener to how stuck-in-my-own-ways I’d become.

8. Learn that it is okay to turn off your cell phone and email. Reflective thought and deep reading take time. Oh excuse me, just got an email, be right back. Nope, that doesn’t work. Its okay to be unreachable for hours a day. I aim to answer email for an hour at the end of the day, at most. For many hours I’m unreachable except by family. Since I started that my time for thinking and reading has risen dramatically.

9. Do less better. There’s always another project that we rush to, never finishing the one we were doing. Sorry, great works of science and art take great dedication, polish, and repolish! Sure, we’re not all Darwin or Monet, but we should ASPIRE to be. Just say no to some projects. Focus on a few (make your family a project… for extra points!).

10. In all things seek balance. I agree that exercise is good. So is reading. So is relaxation – and if a bit of TV is what works, great. I for one watch old romantic comedy movies when I’m brain dead (well, okay, when I’m especially brain dead). I also enjoy blending my activities – go for a long walk that ends up at a coffee shop where I read a paper or book and stare out the window.

Conclusion – I hope you aren’t disappointed that none of the techniques I’ve proposed are revolutionary. But simple, unexciting answers are often the most valid. The challenge is having the will to adhere to them. If you succeed in following these 5 tips, you’ll be rewarded with increased mental acuity and retention of knowledge.

What are your favorite ways to make the most of your intelligence? Share them in the comments.

Source: Pickthebrain

Contributed by: Varun Rajput

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