Advice for successful career decisions

One of the things I do more or less full time now is give students unsolicited advice.  I talk to both graduate students and undergraduates, and they are mostly worried about the same things:

  • Did I make the right choice when I decided to study ____?
  • Will I get a good job?  Is *this* job (graduate program/major/whatever) the one for me?

puppy!

I actually have a mathematical formula that I use to help people figure out when they are in the right major or the right job, or if a career change is a good idea.  And I’m going to give it to you, for free, because you read my blog, and are, Post hoc ergo prompter hoc ipso facto, cool.

Ready?

Here it is.

Job = Puppy

Yep. A job is like a puppy.  When you first get a job (or start a degree program), it’s wonderful and cool. Here, look –>

Doesn’t that make you smile?

Puppies are awesome. And if you have an actual puppy, you realize that puppies also have some downsides. Like…..poop.

There is no such thing as a poopless puppy.
There is also no such thing as a job with no shitty tasks.

The trick is to find a job that maximizes what I call the cute to poop ratio.

In other words, the quantity

recipe for happinessmust be greater than one.

If  the cute of your job is overwhelmed by the poop–it’s time to start looking for a new job.

I’ve made some really radical career changes–including walking away from a tenure-track faculty position.  Each time it was because the amount of poop in the job became overwhelming, and drowned out all the fun and cute elements.

Obviously, right now is not the easiest time to be starting a career, or make a career change.  Other things can modify this equation; health care benefits, for example, can turn a negative cute : poop ratio into a positive for me, at least in the short term.  If you are someone just starting out on your career path, taking a job that is not exactly what you want may also balance out, so you can get your foot in the door and start building a resume.

Just don’t stay in a job where the crap piles up around you and you are miserable longer than you have to be.
Life is short.  There has to be a balance.

Thus endeth today’s sermon. Back to bugs tomorrow!

2 thoughts on “Advice for successful career decisions

  1. Pretty sound advice. I also employ the formula of when I wake up in the morning I ask myself “Do I want to go to work today?” as long as the ratio of “yes” days to “no” day is greater than one things are good. When it moves down into that 1:1 range it’s time for some soul and possibly job searching. I don’t work in education circles any longer but I would also encourage students to find someone in their field that’s out in the world to talk to. I was always surprised by the number of students that have decided to major in that have never done any research on the actual jobs (responsibilities) that their degree will get them.

  2. I agree! I talk to a LOT of students–and even grad students–who have never spent a day job shadowing someone in the field they say they want to work in. Kind of amazing.

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