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How to choose a career

gwilley2

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I'm a junior in high school and all of my friends already have an idea of what they want to do. Me, on the other hand, have no idea what I want to do. I thought about programming and started programming for people in my town making business sites for them but got bored after a few weeks. I actually tried bull riding but, un excitable me, got bored of that too. So I was wondering how you guys have found out what you guys enjoy to do and have had a long and HAPPY career.
 

Legomatic

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I don't really have enough experience to give you solid advice from my personal experiences because I myself am just now going into my senior year of high school, but I can tell you that your predicament seems quite common from what I have observed in my peers. However, everyone always tells me that nobody knew exactly what they wanted to do at the time of high school, and many who thought they did ended up changing their minds. I'm not sure if this helps at all, but that is what I have been told.

Have you decided whether or not you want to go to college? If so, I would think that figuring out which subjects you enjoy more in school and which ones you really don't like could be a start. That way you know which direction to start, but you can always change your major if you don't like it. That way you are at least exploring something and learning what you like and don't like. Again, I'm not really in the position to give advice with any hindsight, but I know that you are not alone and I am interested in seeing another person in this end of high school situation.
 

Red myst

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I'm a junior in high school and all of my friends already have an idea of what they want to do. Me, on the other hand, have no idea what I want to do. I thought about programming and started programming for people in my town making business sites for them but got bored after a few weeks. I actually tried bull riding but, un excitable me, got bored of that too. So I was wondering how you guys have found out what you guys enjoy to do and have had a long and HAPPY career.

You still have plenty of time. Use this time to explore all of the things you would like to do. When you get to high school, try out some internships in various places.
Also you might want to take the Holland Career Code test here. http://personality-testing.info/tests/RIASEC.php
Many people who think they know what they want to do end up changing their minds over time. Don't sweat if you don't know yet.
 

gwilley2

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I have good enough grades I could go to any college I want, colleges send me mail asking me to go. But I don't even know if I want to go to college. My dad just tells me to pick a school and a major and get a diploma. I don't know. Guess it's something I'll have to decide on when I get to that point of my life.
 

gwilley2

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You still have plenty of time. Use this time to explore all of the things you would like to do. When you get to high school, try out some internships in various places.
Also you might want to take the Holland Career Code test here. http://personality-testing.info/tests/RIASEC.php
Many people who think they know what they want to do end up changing their minds over time. Don't sweat if you don't know yet.

Thanks for the test, I'll take that see if it gives me something. All my teachers say I should do something science related and I am really into the physics of our universe, is there a job like that that has flexible hours and doesn't restrict creativity?
 

Red myst

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Thanks for the test, I'll take that see if it gives me something. All my teachers say I should do something science related and I am really into the physics of our universe, is there a job like that that has flexible hours and doesn't restrict creativity?

The test itself just gives you some direction. As far as a job with flexible hours and unrestricted creativity, in my experience have found that you either have to be either a genius, put your time in and rise to the top, be independently wealthy, or maybe self employed. Or various combinations of those things I mentioned.
 

gwilley2

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Could a scientist be a self employed author who makes their research money off of their books? Because if so, that would be my dream job. But that sounds hard and I'm lazy.
 

(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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Could a scientist be a self employed author who makes their research money off of their books? Because if so, that would be my dream job. But that sounds hard and I'm lazy.
Do you have any scientific interests that the public would find interesting enough to donate to? Because you could maybe crowd source project funding.
 

gwilley2

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Well I kind of have an interest in all sciences, but mainly physics and neurosciences.
 

Legomatic

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It sounds like we might be in a similar situation. I have a strong interest in the ideas of science and engineering, and if I could make a living by just thinking about them and exploring ideas freely I would. However, I'm really not looking forward to the politics and rigidity of a workplace. There is enough of that in high school.
 

(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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Was doing a bit of research for you and came across this article. Sorry to disappoint.

Don't Become a Scientist!
Jonathan I. Katz
Professor of Physics
Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.
[my last name]@wuphys.wustl.edu

Are you thinking of becoming a scientist? Do you want to uncover the mysteries of nature, perform experiments or carry out calculations to learn how the world works? Forget it!

...http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html

What do you think of it?
 

EditorOne

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Well, the don't-be-a-scientist essay is just the bad news. The really bad news is that there is an excellent chance you may never know what you want to do. The good news is you have the personality to adapt and to learn quickly, so you won't starve to death.

Grasshopper mode: If you make a living out of something you enjoy doing, you'll never "work" a day in your life. That's self-evident, but remember, what you enjoy doing may also change, every three to five years, after you've mastered it and achieved some competency at it. That, also, goes with the INTP turf.

Hope I've bucked up your spirits. :D
 

EyeSeeCold

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Careers are a social construct, it's not guaranteed that you'll be a perfect fit in neither talent nor personality. It's merely the field in which you are most interested or capable among other choices, unless you are able to invent your own.

At this point I'd recommend learning more about the reality of occupations by researching and asking people(try http://reddit.com), and doing a deep search of yourself. Speak to your high school counselor and see if they can get you appropriate help.

In the meantime, it would be best to get a start on financial independence and work experience by obtaining any basic job.

edit:
Here are some occupational videos by the Alberta Learning Information Service, a few of which helped me to decide that I wanted to get into network/system administration.
 

gwilley2

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Well thanks for your guys advice. It sounds like its gonna be very interesting, whatever happens happens I guess. If something goes wrong, I'll just pack up and ride my elephant out if there :elephant:
 

Architect

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Architect

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Grasshopper mode: If you make a living out of something you enjoy doing, you'll never "work" a day in your life.

Not quite true. I love what I do, but less so enjoy doing it for a company. Pretty common, I knew a composer who left a tenureship for that reason.
 

EditorOne

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"I love what I do, but less so enjoy doing it for a company."

I get that. I quote a former colleague who did not share my enjoyment of being a newspaper reporter (going to interesting events and simply having to write about them afterward): "Anything they pay me to do is WORK." :)
 

Red myst

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When restriction and demands are placed on the things you love to do, they become chores, but bearable. But, when the same thing happens to you when you already dislike what you do, it feels like torture, and unbearable. There are always going to be pros and cons of every field, and every job opportunity. As with many other things in life, knowing what you like and what you don't, and realistic expectations will get you along pretty well.. Sometimes the best jobs find you, or you just kind of fall into them. Some say I was lucky, but I say chance favors the prepared mind.
 

WALKYRIA

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what to do? follow this old professors advices... med school; law school; engeneering or computers....whatever you want but don't do science !


Don't Become a Scientist!

Jonathan I. Katz

Professor of Physics

Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

[my last name]@wuphys.wustl.edu

Are you thinking of becoming a scientist? Do you want to uncover the mysteries of nature, perform experiments or carry out calculations to learn how the world works? Forget it!

Science is fun and exciting. The thrill of discovery is unique. If you are smart, ambitious and hard working you should major in science as an undergraduate. But that is as far as you should take it. After graduation, you will have to deal with the real world. That means that you should not even consider going to graduate school in science. Do something else instead: medical school, law school, computers or engineering, or something else which appeals to you.

Why am I (a tenured professor of physics) trying to discourage you from following a career path which was successful for me? Because times have changed (I received my Ph.D. in 1973, and tenure in 1976). American science no longer offers a reasonable career path. If you go to graduate school in science it is in the expectation of spending your working life doing scientific research, using your ingenuity and curiosity to solve important and interesting problems. You will almost certainly be disappointed, probably when it is too late to choose another career.

American universities train roughly twice as many Ph.D.s as there are jobs for them. When something, or someone, is a glut on the market, the price drops. In the case of Ph.D. scientists, the reduction in price takes the form of many years spent in ``holding pattern'' postdoctoral jobs. Permanent jobs don't pay much less than they used to, but instead of obtaining a real job two years after the Ph.D. (as was typical 25 years ago) most young scientists spend five, ten, or more years as postdocs. They have no prospect of permanent employment and often must obtain a new postdoctoral position and move every two years. For many more details consult the Young Scientists' Network or read the account in the May, 2001 issue of the Washington Monthly.

As examples, consider two of the leading candidates for a recent Assistant Professorship in my department. One was 37, ten years out of graduate school (he didn't get the job). The leading candidate, whom everyone thinks is brilliant, was 35, seven years out of graduate school. Only then was he offered his first permanent job (that's not tenure, just the possibility of it six years later, and a step off the treadmill of looking for a new job every two years). The latest example is a 39 year old candidate for another Assistant Professorship; he has published 35 papers. In contrast, a doctor typically enters private practice at 29, a lawyer at 25 and makes partner at 31, and a computer scientist with a Ph.D. has a very good job at 27 (computer science and engineering are the few fields in which industrial demand makes it sensible to get a Ph.D.). Anyone with the intelligence, ambition and willingness to work hard to succeed in science can also succeed in any of these other professions.

Typical postdoctoral salaries begin at $27,000 annually in the biological sciences and about $35,000 in the physical sciences (graduate student stipends are less than half these figures). Can you support a family on that income? It suffices for a young couple in a small apartment, though I know of one physicist whose wife left him because she was tired of repeatedly moving with little prospect of settling down. When you are in your thirties you will need more: a house in a good school district and all the other necessities of ordinary middle class life. Science is a profession, not a religious vocation, and does not justify an oath of poverty or celibacy.

Of course, you don't go into science to get rich. So you choose not to go to medical or law school, even though a doctor or lawyer typically earns two to three times as much as a scientist (one lucky enough to have a good senior-level job). I made that choice too. I became a scientist in order to have the freedom to work on problems which interest me. But you probably won't get that freedom. As a postdoc you will work on someone else's ideas, and may be treated as a technician rather than as an independent collaborator. Eventually, you will probably be squeezed out of science entirely. You can get a fine job as a computer programmer, but why not do this at 22, rather than putting up with a decade of misery in the scientific job market first? The longer you spend in science the harder you will find it to leave, and the less attractive you will be to prospective employers in other fields.

Perhaps you are so talented that you can beat the postdoc trap; some university (there are hardly any industrial jobs in the physical sciences) will be so impressed with you that you will be hired into a tenure track position two years out of graduate school. Maybe. But the general cheapening of scientific labor means that even the most talented stay on the postdoctoral treadmill for a very long time; consider the job candidates described above. And many who appear to be very talented, with grades and recommendations to match, later find that the competition of research is more difficult, or at least different, and that they must struggle with the rest.

Suppose you do eventually obtain a permanent job, perhaps a tenured professorship. The struggle for a job is now replaced by a struggle for grant support, and again there is a glut of scientists. Now you spend your time writing proposals rather than doing research. Worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort and talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the important scientific problems. They're not the same thing: you cannot put your past successes in a proposal, because they are finished work, and your new ideas, however original and clever, are still unproven. It is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for a proposal; because they have not yet been proved to work (after all, that is what you are proposing to do) they can be, and will be, rated poorly. Having achieved the promised land, you find that it is not what you wanted after all.

What can be done? The first thing for any young person (which means anyone who does not have a permanent job in science) to do is to pursue another career. This will spare you the misery of disappointed expectations. Young Americans have generally woken up to the bad prospects and absence of a reasonable middle class career path in science and are deserting it. If you haven't yet, then join them. Leave graduate school to people from India and China, for whom the prospects at home are even worse. I have known more people whose lives have been ruined by getting a Ph.D. in physics than by drugs.

If you are in a position of leadership in science then you should try to persuade the funding agencies to train fewer Ph.D.s. The glut of scientists is entirely the consequence of funding policies (almost all graduate education is paid for by federal grants). The funding agencies are bemoaning the scarcity of young people interested in science when they themselves caused this scarcity by destroying science as a career. They could reverse this situation by matching the number trained to the demand, but they refuse to do so, or even to discuss the problem seriously (for many years the NSF propagated a dishonest prediction of a coming shortage of scientists, and most funding agencies still act as if this were true). The result is that the best young people, who should go into science, sensibly refuse to do so, and the graduate schools are filled with weak American students and with foreigners lured by the American student visa.
 

del

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I just took classes I found interesting, applied to jobs I found interesting, learned to cut my losses when I knew something wouldn't work out, and never put myself in a position where I was held captive by a career. And I ended up in a pretty happy place. I'm sure I'll move on to another adventure someday, though.
 
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