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BOB LANKARD: Choosing a new career

by on June 16, 2013 2:50 AM

How do young people and dislocated workers choose a lifetime vocation? Often they make decisions based on what they see in the media — what I call “TV careers.”

In the ’60s, many high school girls chose to become nurses because of the many doctor shows that were popular then. Some choose to become detectives, lawyers, forensic scientists, or think they are cut out to open a pawn shop.

Not much has changed except there are now reality shows. People are choosing to become professional athletes, actors, Broadway make-up artists, forensic science technicians and chefs, all based on TV shows. They may borrow money to pursue their dream.

TV shows, movies or fiction books can be a source of career information. Problem is, it can be very slanted information. A reality show based on the day-to-day functioning of an employment counselor would show the counselor dealing with a client carrying a gun but not show the counselor writing reports or dealing with a fully qualified machinist and discussing a current job listing.

Choosing a career because of a TV show is not all bad, but I have cautions and suggestions before embarking on a TV career.

• Less favorable aspects are not shown on TV. Celebrity chefs are not shown making the same dish day in, day out.

• Shows do not reflect the actual number of jobs in any field.

An all-county high school football player has one chance in 3,900 in making it to the NFL.

• Network with someone in your desired profession before starting school.

Talk to a chef, a nurse, a lawyer.

• Research your career with a guidance counselor, a professional association or online.

• Don’t give up on your dream, but be realistic at the same time.

OK, so I might not untangle unsolved mysteries or open a pawn shop, so how do I choose a career? Christopher Morley observed, “There is only one success — to be able to spend life in your own way.”

• Know who you are. Are you a person who meets people easily or who would rather be alone?

Do you like to learn new things or keep things in order?

• Know what you do well. What have you learned in past jobs, in school, through hobbies, or do-it-yourself activities? What have former bosses told you you do well?

• What would you like from a job? Some want to be outdoors, other indoors. How important is pay, working conditions, variety in your duties?

Know what you like to do.

• What jobs are in demand, in your area or nationally?

Solicit help, but remember, in the end, the choice is yours!



Bob Lankard, a retired employment specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's Indiana Job Center, is a job-search columnist for the Indiana Gazette. Read his columns on Sundays.
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