Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More doubts about career counselors

Regular readers of this blog may recall an anecdote about an anti-capitalist Harvard student who gave away all his money by throwing $100 bills onto the street, only to, soon after, take a job as a banker, where he likes his job. No career counselor would have encouraged him to pursue such a career.

Here's another such story. I know a member of the legislature in a major state whom no career counselor could have advised to pursue a career as a politician:

-- She strikes me as of only average intelligence.

-- She does not have charisma.

-- Although it's her first term, my best visual description of her is "withered old nun."

-- She is very hard of hearing, wearing hearing aids.

-- She is not a good public speaker.

-- She is a Democrat in a jurisdiction that is half Republican.

Yet she was recently elected to a major state's legislature and loves her job. I cannot imagine a career counselor who would have encouraged her to consider such a career.

And here's something else that makes me question the value of career counselors:

Most career counselors encourage people to "pursue your dreams." But most dreams are long-shots: performing, writing, fashion design, be the next Oprah, etc. For every 100 people counseled by career counselors who hold such dreams, 99 never earn an even bare middle-class living from a related pursuit. Sure, some of them may take on those activities as hobbies, but a person is paying a career counselor to help them find a career, not a hobby. The person knows he can paint canvases as a hobby.

The best way, in my view, to find a career is to read my book, Cool Careers for Dummies. (This is not an attempt to extract money from you. Remember, I am a career counselor. This post can only discourage you from wanting to see me. And I only get $1 a book in royalty (0 if you buy it used) and this post will probably result in no more than a handful of sales.) It contains quick profiles of 500+ careers and self-employment opportunities, plus practical, structured advice on how to get the training and land the job; e.g., the chapters, "The Right Resume in Less Time," "30 Days to a Good Job" and "Overcoming Procrastination."


Dave said...

Dr. Nemko,

Did you procrastinate a lot when writing your disseration? I'm having this problem right now and it is killing me. I'm going to read your articles again. I hope something in them will stick.

Richard Jennings said...

I will read the book. You know its true that unemployment is up but when I look at all the high paying jobs online (& low paying) I just cant help but think many people dont realize the number of jobs hiring and the salaries they are offering:

You see its like wow!

Marty Nemko said...

Dave, are any of these the cause of your procrastination:

1.You don't care enough about your topic?

2.Do you need closer guidance from your advisor or someone else?

3. You're scared to be done with your Ph.D because then you have no excuse but to look for a job?

4. Other (specify):

Procrastination is a symptom, not the disease. The cause of the procrastination will determine the cure.

Anonymous said...


I have to give you credit; you are objective about your own profession! Most careeer counselors try to persuade clients to attain unrealistic goals. You are one of the few career counselors that I trust. By the way, I am going to start subscribing to Entrepreneur magazine. I am curious as to whether I could actually make it on my own.

Dave said...

1. I care less now than I did four years ago, when I began the Ph.D.

2. I have a very high degree of autonomy. Research and writing is self-directed. You could compare it to a tiller fire truck. I am the routemaster. I do ALL the driving, he steers the back wheels. I try to get more out of him, but it takes a lot of work.

3. My advisor gave it to me straight: I will not be able to find a job because US schools are wary of the British Ph.D. I asked him about academic librarianship, but he hasn't given me any support. I don't know...

Marty Nemko said...

Come up with a topic that will both excite you AND serve as a compelling calling card to prospective employers--perhaps those outside academe.


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