January 8, 2018
New Year, New You
"A New Year's resolution is something that goes
in one year and out the other."
That sounds familiar -- to me, at least. In the
past, I've filled an entire piece of paper with ambitious plans,
only to toss it in the recycling bin a predictable two weeks later.
Apparently, that's typical: I have read that the average resolution
lasts just two weeks.
Experts say that making small goals and breaking
them into achievable steps can increase your odds of success.
Instead of resolving to "get straight As," you might have more luck
by vowing to "study for an extra 30 minutes every night." Doesn't
"sign up for recreational soccer" sound more doable than "get in
the best shape of my life?" It helps to make your plans concrete so
they don't seem quite so overwhelming.
Self-improvement coaches help people define their goals -- and
follow through with them. This is a new career, but one that's
really taking off. It seems a lot of us need help when we want to
A survey found that the most popular resolution
is to spend more time with family and friends. This is one of those
resolutions that will vary from person to person. Like other
resolutions, it might help to make it a bit more specific: "Play
games with my family every Sunday night" or "Eat lunch with my
friends at school."
Running a close second in the resolutions race
is fitting in fitness. Anyone who's gone to a gym in January knows
this is a popular time for people to return to working out.
Unfortunately, many people start out by doing too much right after
the indulgent holiday season.
Personal trainers can help put together a workable fitness
Another popular resolution is to get more
Professional organizers help people get their stuff in order.
Obviously, you have to be pretty organized yourself to help others
with their organization. Anyone who's seen my desk knows that this
may not be the job for me, but perhaps next year I should resolve
to hire one.
November 27, 2017
Predicting the Odds
Many students write to me asking about their
odds of success in a particular career. While I would love to give
them a firm answer ("Your odds of becoming a podiatrist are 3 to
4"), two things stop me from doing this.
To start with, I can't predict the future. If I
could, I would buy more lottery tickets and put more money into the
More importantly, so many factors contribute to
your success in any given career that it's impossible to come up
with a formula to predict success. History is full of these
surprises -- people who beat the odds and rose to success, often to
the shock of their teachers. One of Walt Disney's first bosses told
him that he "lacked imagination." That boss probably wouldn't have
predicted that Walt would go on to create an entire kingdom from
So how do you know if you'll succeed at a
certain career? Taking some time to
plot your career path is the most important thing. Knowing the
educational requirements, important skills and other things you'll
need will help you boost the odds.
Informational interviews are a great way to get insiders' tips
for succeeding. They'll have the sort of knowledge that you may not
learn in a classroom, the tried-and-true techniques to find
success. It's like knowing the
blackjack dealer. You'll have a big advantage over the
So, what are your odds of succeeding in any
career? Unlike gambling, you can control those odds. Ultimately,
only you can know your own odds of success!
November 13, 2017
How College is Different from High
You've seen movies about college, you've heard
stories from friends and relatives. But you're still nervous - can
you handle college? How will it be different from high school?
Relax. The good news is that many people love college because of
the increased freedom and ability to focus on the courses that
interest them. But there are some things to keep in mind. College
life is not like high school life. How soon you adjust depends on
how prepared you are.
Many students write me to ask how college is
different from high school. It's hard to give one answer, since
everyone a different experience in college. But there are some key
things to keep in mind.
For many students, college is their first real
taste of freedom. But the lack of outside guidance can lead to
problems. Your teachers won't be monitoring you as much, which
sounds like a good thing, doesn't it? But it also means fewer
reminders about finishing your assignments. You have to keep track
of your own work.
You'll need to learn to manage your time. You
might only be in class for 15 hours a week - that also sounds
great, right? But you need to account for homework and study time
on top of that.
Another major difference between high school and
college is how the courses are set up. In high school, classes are
fairly small and generally meet every day. College courses might
have 100 students and meet two or three times a week, or even once
College courses can also have both a lecture and
a lab component. High school teachers and college professors also
have very different approaches to teaching. A university teacher
might have hundreds of students, so they may not take the time to
make sure you're not falling behind!
One thing to remember is that it will be tough
at first. But when you finish high school, you will have learned
the skills you need to succeed in college. By starting to focus on
time management and responsibility now, you will ease the
transition to college life and set yourself up for greater success
in years to come.
November 1, 2017
I had an e-mail from a student the other day. He
had just reviewed his Career Finder results. One of his suggested
careers looked like it was worth researching further. It matched
his interests and skills, the job outlook was stable, the education
within his reach, and the pay was decent. The problem? He was
worried that it would be boring.
We all have different ideas of what's boring.
Take movies for example: one film critic's snoozefest might be
another's Oscar contender. And there are some sports I find boring
(I'm not going to say which ones!), but my friends find them
In other words, I can't predict whether or not
this student would be bored with a certain career. However, he
could get a sneak peek by participating in a job shadow or
informational interview to find out more.
When you're researching careers and wondering
about boredom, you want to look at the work you'd be doing to see
if you find it interesting. But you also might want to do a little
soul-searching. Are you the kind of person who likes a lot of
variety and change? Or, do you look for stability and find that too
much change makes you nervous?
Some careers throw workers into new situations
every day. Take paramedics, for example. When they wake up in the
morning, they don't know what the day holds. That can be the
ideal way to defeat boredom for some people. Personally, I want to
crawl back under the covers unless I have a concrete schedule for
"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There
is no cure for curiosity."
The writer Dorothy Parker said that, and I think
it's a good lesson on boredom. Learning new things keeps us from
I've found this in my own life. A couple of
years ago, for example, I was finding myself growing a bit bored
with some of my hobbies. I still liked what I did in my spare
time, but every weekend was starting to seem the same. So I took up
karate! It's completely different from anything I've done before,
and kicked any boredom right out of my life.
Learning a new hobby can be a great way to get
out of a rut, if you're feeling like you want to try something new.
Step out of your comfort zone and try something completely
Parker's advice can also apply to careers. In
any career, opportunities to learn new things can keep a job from
becoming boring. If you're genuinely curious about a career and
strive to learn more about it all the time, odds are you won't be
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October 16, 2017
Avoiding Exam Anxiety
Do you get nervous before an exam? Based on the
number of students who e-mail me with questions about exam anxiety,
you're not alone if you do. I would guess that almost every student
gets nervous at some time when they're facing an exam. In fact,
studies show that between 25 and 40 percent of students experience
some chronic test anxiety.
Being nervous isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Those nerves can inspire you to study and even motivate you to
focus during the test. However, anxiety might be lowering your
scores if you consistently find your exam marks are lower than you
expect. Talk to a teacher if you are wondering if this is a problem
There are many proven techniques for
conquering test anxiety. I always find that I feel more
confident if I know I've studied effectively. (For some proven
study tips, check out our article
Successful Study Techniques.)
We've also gathered some tips to help you face
exams: check out our list of
top test-taking tips. You might also want to do a bit of
soul-searching to figure out what is holding you back. I like to
start with the basics: Are you getting enough sleep before an exam?
Are you taking a test when you are hungry? Those things might seem
minor, but they can make a big difference.
If you always feel as though you're capable of
doing well on tests, but find you fall short of your goals, try
taking a look at your studying and test-taking routines. Need more
inspiration? Consider these words from Albert Einstein: "It's not
that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." In
other words, don't let any bad test scores from the past discourage
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