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Monday, November 3, 2014

Ask your kids: "Would you rather make something or sell something?"

The problem I faced in high school when choosing a college, did not go away after that first decision was made.  I faced the same issue trying to decide on a major (I started out undecided) and then again as graduation approached.  The question that kept popping up and demanding an answer was, "What are you going to do with your life?"  Shortstop for the Yankees was no longer an option and America had done away with royalty back in the 1700's so I could not be king.  Hollywood had given me a few options to consider with the obvious one being movie star.  I was never really into theatre though so did not think that would work out.  There were also the roles portrayed in movies: Police Officer/Detective, Stock Broker, Doctor, Assassin/Ninja, Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine, Wizard, Knight, CEO, and Cowboy.  While some of these were appealing, I was not convinced that any of them were for me (or possible).  And here lies the crux of the problem, these few jobs were really all I knew.  How could I make the right choice for myself if I did not know what else was out there?

I see the same frustration today in the faces of the students in my undergraduate courses and to a lesser degree (due to the lack of urgency at ages 13 and 6) in my own kids.

The typical response to this is to ask the young student, "What do you like to do?" or "What are you good at?"  Good questions and relevant however the answers are all too often something along the lines of, "I am good with people." or "I like a challenge."  Which do not do much to reduce the number of possible jobs and solve the problem.  So, we then move to the Big Book of Jobs (similar to the Big Book of Colleges or the Big Book of College Majors).  Of course, now you can search online and get endless details on all sorts of jobs which because of the sheer volume of data soon becomes an overwhelming and meaningless task.

What we need is a Choose Your Own Adventure book for jobs.  Starting on page 1, the student reads a page or two about life and work and is then confronted with the first of what will be many guiding choices.  With this format, we need to narrow the options down to something manageable, say two choices?  The first fork in the road will be the most basic, something that allows us to divide all jobs into two different categories, a very basic and fundamental division.  Since this is my book, I am going with the following:

  • If you want to have a job where you make something, go to page 23.
  • If you want to have a job where you sell something, go to page 37.

I figure that starting with these two choices we can eventually cover every possible job out there. Which would you choose?  Which one DID you choose?

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