Back-to-College Career Reads – Psychology Today

Posted by | 08/30/2011 | Education, Employment News, Employment Tips, General, Resume Writing

Packing for college? Toss these books into your suitcase.
By Katharine Brooks, Ed.D. in Career Transitions

These days, with the rising cost of higher education and the shaky job market, students need to be on a dual-track: one eye on their education and one eye on the future. While I am not generally a proponent of selecting a major based on career plans (see my blog post on this), students who fail to consider career options as they go through college are often at a disadvantage in the job market come graduation. The major isn’t the key factor: it’s how well they have used their time in college to gain experiences, and developed their ability to articulate their value to an employer. And career books can provide much-needed information and resources for college students struggling wih career decisions.

When I wrote my book, “You Majored in What”, my goal was to help college students who, like me, greatly enjoyed their education, but were a little lost when it came to knowing what to “do” with it. One of the most popular exercises with my students is “Possible Lives.” In that exercise, students jot down all the careers they have considered or would like to consider from the serious (medical doctor) to the fanciful (American Idol winner) to the dream (Photographer for National Geographic). They love this exercise– and I do too, because I learn so much about their hopes and dreams for the future. And then we get to develop the scaffolding for those dreams and help them find ways to move forward.

But some students struggle with that exercise for one simple reason: they don’t know what jobs are out there. Sure they’re aware of lawyers, doctors, CSI investigators, and even ghost hunters (thank you, television), but the rest of their career knowledge is severely limited. And even when they do know some job titles, their understanding of what goes on in an average day in the field is negligible. And helping students learn about the vast spectrum of jobs isn’t easy: resources like the Occupational Outlook Handbook, or the Dictionary of Occupational Titles certainly contain a wealth of information, but are rather dry for general reading.

Enter a new book, Dig This Gig, by Laura Dodd, a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. After graduating from Washington University, Laura took one of those dream jobs my students would list as a “Possible Life” (production assistant on a television show). But within a year or so she and her friends found themselves questioning their career choices– wondering if that’s all there is and longing for days of more adventure. They quit their jobs, moved to Australia, and, in Laura’s case, began pondering just what career she would want to pursue next. This started her on an interview quest: finding people with interesting jobs in a variety of fields (environment, entertainment, nonprofit, education, government, publishing, etc.) and developing profiles of their work life.

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