Faith's Blog

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 stock market.

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 his imagination!

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 competition.

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 School

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 a week.

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
Banish Boredom

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 fascinating.

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 day.

"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 getting bored.

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 different!

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 bored.


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 for you.

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 you!


October 2, 2017
Staying Professional Online

What was the last crazy thing you did? What about the most embarrassing thing you've done all year? Is there photographic proof on Instagram? Would you show those photos to a parent? What about a college admissions officer?

Do I sound paranoid? I prefer "realistic." Believe it or not, more colleges are checking out students online when they're making their admissions decisions. They're reviewing social media, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - but don't forget they can also access sites like If it's on the Internet, it's public. Admissions officers say they're seeing more posts online that make them reconsider applicants. That's right: what you put online can impact your chances of getting into college.

Does this mean the best approach is to stay off social media altogether? Experts say there's no need to throw away your phone. Teens socialize and have fun, and in today's world, it's perfectly normal to document those experiences online. Just remember to stay professional! Posting content that shows your interests outside of school can show colleges and potential employers that you're a well-rounded person. You want your online presence to be something you can be proud of down the road.

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September 18, 2017
Motivational Secrets

Dear Faith:

I just can't get motivated about school. I need to do something. Help!


Fran Tick

I've received a few e-mails like this recently. I think the time of the year is partly to blame. The days are getting shorter, the novelty of going back to school has worn off. And let's face it -- we're all busy. Schoolwork piles up now that classes are well underway. It's no wonder some students find that they're dragging themselves to class.

How can you get motivated about school? If you're really struggling, you'll want to start by doing a little soul searching. What's holding you back? Are you getting enough sleep? Being tired can really affect your motivation.

Are you keeping up with your homework? Getting behind can create a vicious cycle: being disorganized can drag you down. Check out our Succeeding in High School section for more tips!

Motivation can't be bought and another person can't give it to you. It has to come from within. But how can you get that "fire in the belly" that inspires you to do your best? Having a clear plan can help.

Think of it like shopping. If you don't know what you want, you tend to wander around the store without any direction. If you know exactly what you want (and let's say it's on sale), you walk into the store with a little more purpose in your step.

Be sure to check out the Education section of the career articles that interest you for more info on how education helps you meet your goals.

Not sure about a specific career? Money can be a good motivator. Studies show that the best thing you can do to improve your lifelong earnings is to finish high school. That means doing your work!

If you're really having trouble with motivation, be sure to talk to someone: a teacher, parent, your school counselor or your doctor. There are many reasons for poor motivation, and many solutions.

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May 8, 2017
Summer Jobs

What's your dream summer job?

A) Ice cream flavor  tester.

B) Sun screen tester, with a moonlighting position as a  sandcastle architect.

C) Anything that will help you advance towards your goals and explore the possibilities for the future -- and a little extra cash would be nice, too.

There are many ways to spend your summer (and that includes lying on the couch watching Brady Bunch reruns). If you're ready to start with a summer job, check out our Get a Job section for some tips on landing your dream position.

If you have an entrepreneurial streak, summer could be a great time to start your own business. No, you don't have to be Mark Zuckerberg to run your own company. Today, many teens are starting businesses.

Not sure about working just yet? Volunteer work is a great way to dip your toes in to a career, while still leaving enough free time to really dip in to the sand and surf. If you choose an interesting volunteer position, you can also gain valuable job skills.

If you're considering a summer job, remember that there are laws about the minimum working age. There are also rules about working hours, wages and the types of jobs young workers can do.

The laws vary from state to state. It's best to check out what restrictions apply to you.

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April 24, 2017
Aiming High in Life

Many students send me messages like this:

Dear Faith:

I want to be famous! What should I do?


Ima Starr

I'm always surprised to read that "fame" is the biggest factor in their career goals.

Some would argue that it's easier to become famous than it used to be. Things like Youtube and reality television have made it easier to become famous without having any particular talent. But does that fame last? We all have different goals, and some of us might want to be famous briefly for doing something goofy on Youtube tryouts. We're all different.

A recent study gave students this list of careers and asked which one they would pick:
U.S. senator
CEO of a successful company
President of a top university
Celebrity assistant

Which would you choose? Which do you think was the top choice? The winner, by a wide margin, was celebrity assistant. Note that it's not "celebrity," but an assistant to a celebrity. There's no doubt that the world of celebrities is attractive. But I think if students compared the average income and overall sense of job satisfaction of the above careers to a celebrity assistant job, they might find some surprises.

Is it better to know someone famous, or have a job that gives you satisfaction, based on your own talents and skills, even if you never rise above 12 Twitter followers? It's an individual thing.

There's certainly nothing wrong with fame as a goal! Why not aim high, after all? But focusing on the skills and talents that will take you there may ultimately be a more successful plan than deciding to become famous first, then trying to decide how.

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April 10, 2017
Hobbies to Careers

Do you have a favorite hobby? Most students do, even if they don't realize it. We tend to think of hobbies as things like basket weaving and model airplanes, but the reality is that anything you do in your spare time can be a hobby. (I'm not so sure about napping, though!) Think of things connected to sports, entertainment and computers. The options for hobbies are almost unlimited!

Some people see hobbies as a bit frivolous -- not as important as more serious things like school or work. But many people say they learn a lot of life skills from a hobby, skills that can transfer to your classes or the workplace. In fact, just having a passionate interest in something can be great for your self-esteem, ability to focus and even self-discipline.

Hobbies can also lead to careers. Working at a hobby is a dream for many of us: imagine getting paid to do something you love!

Not sure how hobbies can translate to careers? Let's look at video games. Now, I'm not a gamer at all. I don't even own a console! But video games are a huge source of employment these days -- even bigger than the entertainment industry, according to some stats.

Many video game fans are interested in working as video game developers. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about video games, you'll still want to focus on getting a good education: this is a competitive field, so a video game program can give you an edge. Having a solid background of general knowledge (the kind of stuff you learn in high school) can also help in this career. After all, when designing a video game, you're creating an entire world: you need to know everything about that world. That can require knowledge of things like physics, language or geography.

Interested in the world of video games, but not so sure about a technical career? There are many options to express your creativity. The popularity of video games has created new markets for writers and composers. And even though I'm not very into video games myself, I do know what sets a truly great game apart: the graphics.

One powerful trend affecting employment in the video game industry is the increase in the number of women playing games. That means video game companies are looking to hire more women.

Video games are just one example of how a hobby can lead to a variety of careers. Try thinking about your hobbies and how you can put them to work!

March 20, 2017
You Might be a Poet and Not Know It

Do you think poetry belongs in dusty libraries, to be studied by serious scholars only? That's a perception that poets would like to change. Poetry is a dynamic, evolving art, and today's poets are writing about events and feelings happening in the modern world.

If you've never written a poem, now is a good time to try. You might be surprised to find it's a good way to get some feelings out. Historians believe ancient peoples told stories in rhyme because rhyming words were easier to remember -- ever notice it's easier to remember rap lyrics than a political science text?

Poetry has a lot to offer today's readers, but are they listening? Stats show that not many people are buying poetry books, and it's harder than ever to make a living as a poet. In the past, some poets were like today's rock stars, adored by fans who followed their every move.

Maybe you love poetry: your journal is full of poems, your rhyming dictionary is dog-eared, and you're starting to think in iambic pentameter. Can you turn your art into a career?

Many of today's poets find they have to supplement their writing with other higher-paying jobs. Some teach writing in high schools or colleges. Others use their flare for words in creative positions like copywriting. There's a growing demand for workers who can use words stragetically for search engines - that's an art in itself.

Slam poetry puts poetry on stage: if you like to perform, this might be for you.

I get a lot of email from students wondering about careers in rap music. If you like rap, try reading a little poetry to learn more about rhythm and rhymes. You might be surprised to see the connections.

One thing to keep in mind: even if you're not sure you want anyone to read your poetry, writing a poem can be satisfying and even therapeutic.


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Pi Day
March 4,2017

Why would a mathematician sit down to a big piece of apple pie on March 14 every year?

Math fans around the world have started a tradition of eating pie on that date. If you're wondering why, consider the date closely: 3/14. Or: 3.14. Does that number look familiar? It's the beginning of the number that represents pi, or the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter. (The exact ratio for pi has been calculated to 2.7 trillion digits -- but this blog only has so much space!)

Pi Day was first celebrated in 1988 in San Francisco. Schools are starting to recognize Pi Day. I see a lot of ideas on Twitter. Enterprising bakers take the opportunity to market -- you guessed it -- pies. Schools have contests on the best way to mark the day.

Who would have thought a holiday could arise from a mathematical concept? It's a good example of how people like mathematicians can make math come alive.

If you're skeptical that math could ever come alive for you, even with a piece of pie, check out our < Real-Life Math exercises. They show how math is used in every career, and you can find them in the Insider Info career profiles. For some careers, like statisticians or accountants, the use of math is obvious. But we've discovered that even the most unlikely careers draw on math skills. I was a bit surprised that auto racing mechanics can use the concept of pi in their work, for example!

Not everyone likes math. But as you'll soon find out, we draw on our math skills every day, often without even realizing it.

Next time you drive across a bridge or through a tunnel, you're relying on the work of civil engineers who worked with pi. That's another incentive behind Pi Day. It's not just an abstract concept or an excuse for a piece of coconut cream pie!

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January 25, 2017
Easy Careers

"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life." - Confucius

I have been thinking about that quote recently because a lot of students have written to me to ask whether their favorite career is hard. I think Confucius gives us a good starting point to find an answer.

Is he saying that if you find a good job, your good luck will continue and you'll win the lottery next? That the salary will be so high, you'll be able to retire early?

Or, maybe he's saying that with the right job, you'll enjoy going to work so much that it won't feel like work. If you love a job, it won't feel hard. It might be challenging, it might take a lot of education, it might be competitive. But if you love it, those obstacles won't feel like work.

Think of your favorite class in school, and then your least favorite class. Which feels more like work? Being interested in something makes it easier to do what you have to do.

We're all different, though, so there's no one answer when it comes to the difficulty of a career. I hate being on stage, for example, so singing would be a hard career for me. (It would also be hard for the audience to listen to me, but that's another entry.) If someone loves performing, it wouldn't be nearly as hard. It really depends on you!

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might notice that I say that a lot. It's not an easy way for me to finish a blog entry or answer a question. The first step to career planning is always a little soul-searching to figure out what you want from your career. It really does depend on you!

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January 13, 2017
The Lowdown on Remedial Courses

High school graduates with weak academic records often have to take remedial college courses when they start college to help them catch up to the rest of their classmates. But even high-achieving high schoolers may score poorly on college placement exams - and end up in remediation to bring their skills up to par.

One in four college students ends up in remedial classes in college because their reading, writing or math skills are discovered to be below an acceptable level, according to a 2016 report from Education Reform Now. That could be because those students took time off before college and their skills got rusty. It could be because their education got disrupted by illness or other special circumstances.

Or it could be due to the structure of their high school curriculum itself. Students in Iowa, for example, only need three years of math to graduate high school. That math-free senior year can play havoc with students' numeracy skills. At Eastern Iowa Community Colleges in 2014, 69 percent of students coming from an Iowa high school had to take a remedial math course.

Remedial courses can bring you up to speed, but they cost money and don't count toward your degree. That means you have to spend money on extra courses (nationally, college freshmen borrow an extra $380 million a year playing catch up in remedial courses, says Education Reform Now) and wait even longer to graduate.

So how can you avoid such a fate?

Here are a few tips from Mark Boggie, the assistant dean of student services at Cochise College in Arizona:

- Take challenging classes in high school. Push yourself to do what's difficult. Take AP or dual credit courses. It's important to stretch your mind and expand your skills.

"Although this does not guarantee the students' success in postsecondary courses, it better prepares students in having the skills and knowledge needed to be successful," says Boggie.

- Don't give in to senioritis. It can be tempting to coast through your senior year, especially if you've already completed your math requirements, for example. But you need to keep your knowledge - and your grades - up.

"It has become common for students to take an 'easy schedule' during their last year in high school," says Boggie. "This practice promotes degrading of knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the college environment, making it more likely that students will waste time and money in remedial coursework."

- Prepare for placement exams. You know they're coming, so be ready. Review your coursework and hire a tutor if you need extra help. See if practice tests are available.

"Some institutions base placement on a single test score (either a placement exam or a national test like ACT or SAT); others have more holistic methods to place students while taking into consideration students' coursework in high school, level of rigor, GPA, etc.," says Boggie. "Once the student knows the method of placement they should practice and prepare to take any placement test that is necessary

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January 6, 2017
Change, Careers and the New Year

Happy new year! I am excited about the start of a new year because it's a great time to look back - and ahead!

One thing that I can predict about 2017 is that there will be changes in the world of careers. That's because every year brings changes! Just consider the music industry. Only a century ago, people could listen to music live or on a gramophone record. That might seem like ancient history to you, but it's not too long if you consider the course of history.

Since that time, there have been many exciting changes to the world of careers. New careers have appeared, some have changed dramatically and others faded into the land of eight-track cartridges. Not sure what an eight-track cartridge is? It is another one of the ways we used to listen to music, before you could listen to music on your phone, before CDs, even before cassette tapes. They went out of existence in the early 1980s. Next time you download a song, think about how far music has come.

When it comes to technology, the world changes quickly. That means careers in information technology are constantly evolving. If you're planning a career in this field, you have to keep up with the trends!

But technology isn't the only field where changes can come fast and furious. Let's go back to that eight-track cartridge. The way we listen to music has changed the roles of singers, musicians, recording engineers and even music critics!

Almost every career has been impacted by technical changes. Think of your favorite careers and how they might have changed since your grandparents' generation -- if those careers even existed back then. I would bet your grandparents wouldn't have been able to plan for a career in nanotechnology, for example.

How can we be ready for those changes? No matter what your field, education will keep you aware of what's happening. Studying the labor market will help. So will talking to people in each field. It also helps to know about opportunities and trends -- the sort of information we talk about in the Buzz.

Having information will help you get ready to meet the next year and make your goals come true. Where will you be 10 years from now? We can help you think of the possibilities.

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December 17, 2016
Food, Holidays, and Careers

When you think of certain holidays, do you think of some favorite foods? Birthday parties and chocolate cake, July the 4th and potato salad, Hanukkah and latkes, Christmas and eggnog... I could go on, but then I would have to go and get a snack!

This a great time of the year to indulge in some delicious meals. Not only are there are lot of social gatherings, but something about the colder weather makes me want to head into the kitchen to whip up some comfort food.

In my family, we somehow started a tradition of eating trifle (a yummy concoction of custard and cake) on New Year's Day. I can't even remember how this started, but I like trifle enough not to question it.

It's interesting: for most of the year, food can be very trendy. Any chef will tell you that it's tough to keep up with food trends. But on holidays, many people like to stick to what they know. That's one reason why my mother gave me a cookbook she created filled with family favorites. What a great gift!

The first cookbook appeared in Rome about 1,600 years ago. A print edition of this book called De re coquinaria (Latin for "on the subject of cooking") came out in 1483. The recipes apparently involve a lot of salt and honey -- most likely because the chefs of the past didn't have refrigerators.

The directions in ancient cookbooks were pretty vague. Historians don't think they were intended to give specific directions for cooking meals. And that makes sense if you think about the structure of society back then. People who could read well were often in the upper classes, so they hired cooks. Cooks talked about various cooking techniques amongst themselves, rather than reading about them.

The recipes gave directions like, "Walk 20 times around the field," instead of giving specific cooking times. Once the cook circled the field 20 times, the dish was finished.

We've come a long way since then! Today's chefs study in culinary programs, where they can expect a healthy serving of theory and hands-on learning.

After their training, they can labor over boeuf bourguignonne or flip burgers. Chefs can create works of art in chocolate (and hopefully send some to me) or develop vegetarian delights. Entrepreneurial sorts can even build a business around their favorite family recipes! Food lovers can specialize in any number of culinary styles: the world is hungry for cooks and chefs!

I am going to take a short break, but I will be back in the New Year. I hope you have a safe, fun and delicious December, and I will see you in January.

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December 6, 2016
Careers Fighting the Flu

So, how are you feeling this week? If you're a little under the weather, you're not alone! I saw a map of the country with the "hot zones" for the flu colored in red, and guess what? The entire country was red. That means there are a lot of runny noses, pounding headaches and coughing attacks happening out there.

How do we know when there's a flu outbreak? Epidemiologists can study disease outbreaks. They are interested in the health of a community, instead of an individual person's health. Epidemiologists are scientists who figure out what causes a certain disease, and why some people get the disease while others don't.

Public health concerns are creating a demand for epidemiologists. We need people to study things like the Zika virus, or even the effect of things like natural disasters, aging, obesity and gambling on our health.

Of course, when we're sick with the flu, we're usually not focused on the community. We just want to get better! We might head to our family physician, pharmacist or naturopath in hopes of getting back to normal.

Unfortunately, there is no sure cure for the flu. Clinical research physicians and virologists have tried for years. I'm sure if you were able to invent a cure, you could retire on a nice tropical island somewhere. But you would need to do a lot of work to get to that point. It takes 10 to 13 years to develop a medical drug from start to finish -- at a cost of about $500 million. But when you're sick with the flu, that might seem like a small price to pay for health.

I hope you're all escaping the winter flu and are healthy enough for some serious career exploration!

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