Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Getting a Good Job vs. Finding the Perfect Career

I visited with family and friends of family this weekend. Catching up was nice. But visit after visit, the conversation was all about economics -- the economics of poor folk. Everyone was on the same tip - I'm going to truck driving school and make some good money. Great, I thought. Driving trucks is great. Entrepreneurship is wonderful. But I've always been concerned about false hope of entrepreneurship. Owning your own business is good, but if you don't plan, budget, save, invest, and spend wisely, then the moment you stop working, then you're back to being as broke as you were before.

I see it all the time, with my family, friends, former students, even my own employees. They want more, but have no idea what to do. They are tired of being broke, are eager to try this job and that job, anything that pays good money, but still are chasing the rabbit. What's up with that? I thought of one friend in particular. I thought she could really benefit from what I called a career fitting. Just like getting fitted for a tuxedo, or ladies for under garments, one should be sized up (by a capable and experienced fitter) to find the career that wears best on you. I thought mysellf very clever, such a perfect phrase to describe the best way to help people figure out their life's work. I was going to copyright the term, but before, I did a quick google of the term. Seems someone else has also (independently) arrived at the same phrase and definition. So please, check it out. They defined and outlined it so perfectly, so why reinvent the wheel?

But I think it's the perfect thing to help folks like my employees and others from the working class poor transition into a more financially secure lifestyle.


Jeanne said...

Hmmm. That metaphor might work if you shop that way. When I was poor (I'm not anymore; I married into wealth), I shopped out of necessity and bought only what I could take home on the bus. Window shopping invited debt I didn't need. I was practical. Just like a lot of working class people--we've been taught about doing tasks and have to keep our noses out of commerce to stay debt-free.

While the list to which you link looks like a list of tasks, many of the things in the list require more middle and owning class skills.

1. Read articles by and about people in that profession. FINDING those articles requires some skill in research, which is often acquired during college. Most poor and working class people don't have a college degree (only 25% of the general population has a four-year college degree).

2. Informational interview. In my experience, you have to know how to network in order to even *get* an informational interview. See #4.

3.Internship. Unpaid? I don't know any working class people who have time for such a thing. I didn't when I was. Or I *would* have changed professions. I couldn't figure out how to make a living and not get paid.

4. Professional Associations. Networking is a skill that isn't taught to people who grow up in working class neighborhoods. Parents who don't network can't teach their children to do so. You have to *value* that skill in order to acquire it, and if no one around you does so, you won't get it.

5. Volunteer. Yeah. See #3.

The list to which you link is advice for people who have middle class values and a middle class demeanor.

The Urban Scientist said...

Thanks Jeanne. I needed that insight. I feel like I've been screaming into a drum. These ideas make sense, but aren't very practical. That helps me understand why I get such odd reponses to my well-intentioned suggestions.

To that effect, one thing I think I can do, related to your thoughtful and insightful critiques, is offer myself - my research skills, access to periodicals, access to people (my network - to others.

I'm not suggesting doing things for them, but at least giving them the opportunity to pick my brain, run things by me, introduce them to people in informal and non-judgemental settings, bring them newspapers and articles about career education, etc.

I'll let you know how that works out. If you have any more suggestions or recommendations, I'd appreciate that, too.