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Career Plan Instructions

Career Plan Instructions

By Richard Serlin
Note: This document is a bit long, 12 pages, but I encourage you to read all of it, in part for a better grade, but more importantly because doing so can help you do a significantly better career analysis and plan, which can yield very big dividends for your future. There is a lot of valuable information in these 12 pages. It is well worth your time to read the whole thing.

It is surprisingly common for an individual to train for years for a career, even obtaining graduate degrees, only to find that the area is much less desirable to her than she had thought, yet by then it may be enormously costly, or infeasible, to switch. Many people look back and say, “If only I would have known when I was starting out, I would never have chosen this career”. “If only I had known how good this other career was, I would have gone into it, only now it’s too late.”

As with personal finance in general, career decisions have become much more difficult. The first big change from when your parents were your age is that Americans work many more hours. In fact, Americans now work more hours than any other people in the world except, interestingly, the Bulgarians. Even compared to the Japanese we work on average 100 more hours per year. That’s 2 ½ (traditional) weeks. Compared to the Germans we work nearly 500 more hours per year, about 12 ½ (traditional) weeks.

According to the United States Council of Economic Advisors, in 1999 American parents had 22 fewer hours per week to spend at home compared to the average in 1969. At that time, the Americans and the French worked approximately the same number of hours. Today, Americans work almost twice as many hours as the French (a lot of this is because Americans have far less time off for maternity, medical emergencies, vacations and holidays).

For those interested in learning more, please see: The Parenting Deficit: Council of Economic Advisors Analyze the “Time Crunch” and International Labor Organization Hours Report .

Of course, some people may want to work heavy hours in exchange for the extra money and success they receive. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion of how many hours per week you should work, how many hours you should spend with your family, and how many hours you should spend on recreation and other pursuits. I just want to make sure that you know what you are getting into before it’s too late, that if you want a career which allows you a substantial amount of time for things besides work, you do not make a terrible and life altering mistake, spending years training for a career which allows for little time outside the job. Thus, this assignment. You research the career now, and find out what the hours are like now, before it’s too late, so you make a good career choice given your personal preferences for work hours, lifestyle, work activities, and everything else.

In addition to hours, job stress and job insecurity have increased substantially. Thus, it’s very important to research a lot more than just the pay. You should research the working hours, job duties, satisfaction, and lifestyle of a career (and later a specific job in that career). This is one of the most important things you can do to assure that you have the kind of life you desire. Because if you choose the wrong career, after years of schooling, this will be an extremely costly and perhaps impossible mistake to reverse.

And even after this course is over you should periodically read up on careers you may be interested in, and try to talk to people in those careers as much as possible. It is also important to look at not just the broad careers, but also at the more specific sub-careers. For example, just broadly researching lawyers is a good start, but stopping there may be misleading, because if you want to be an environmental lawyer you will typically make less than the average lawyer, but if you want to be a corporate lawyer, you will typically make more, and the hours, duties, and lifestyle will also be very different.

Even though choosing a career has become more risky, everyone can still find a career that’s right for them, one that’s enjoyable and fulfilling, and provides a balance between work and non-work that they consider appropriate. It just takes a lot more research and planning than it used to. So, let’s get started.

Your career plan should discuss a first and second choice career in depth, with your plans regarding those careers, in 7 to 10 double-spaced pages, plus a bibliography. You can go over 10 pages if you have good additional material, but it is possible to get an A with as little as 7 very good pages. Any clear format is fine. You are being graded on the quality of your career research and analysis here, and on the clarity of your presentation, not on formal details. So there’s no need to email me asking if Chicago formatting is ok, or APA, or whatever. Any style is fine, formal or informal, as long as it’s clear and the analysis and research is good. Along the same lines, using first person is fine, and usually best.

The paper should have endnotes giving the source of all important facts and information. Especially in today’s world, it’s very important to show that the source is credible and competent, because often it’s not, and the “fact” or “information” can mislead in a very bad way. If you’re not sure of how credible the source is, look at the “about us” section of their website, and/or google the source to find out more about them and what is being said about them.

You should describe the careers including compensation, job duties, typical hours, job satisfaction, lifestyle, advancement, and any other important factors. If your career might involve graduate or professional school, you must research this also. You must report what these programs are like. And, you should also provide a good informed strategy for how to get into a good one, including what kind of classes you should be taking now, what job experience these graduate schools like to see, and how to prepare for graduate admissions exams like the GRE, MCAT, and GMAT.

Taking a prep course, like those at Stanley Kaplan or The Princeton Review, is almost always a great investment. I had a classmate at the University of Michigan MBA school who lifted his GMAT score from the 78th percentile to the 97th after taking Kaplan; this moved him up perhaps two tiers in the MBA schools, resulting in probably millions of dollars in additional income over his lifetime.

With the way the world is today, most of you should be at least thinking about graduate school at some time in your future, and you should be researching it to see what it’s like, how much it can help you, and what you should be doing to increase your odds of getting into a good graduate school if you decide to go.

Your report should cite multiple sources from as many as possible of the following:


Yes, they cost money, but, like your education, books on careers are a great investment, one that pays big dividends in your future. They can provide quality information that is difficult or impossible to find on the internet for free, and career books are typically far less expensive than textbooks. Some good examples include, but are far from limited to:

I. General/Multiple Career Books – These books talk about careers in general and/or have sections for each of a wide range of popular careers. I strongly recommend a book like this. Even if you are pretty set on a certain career, there is still often a good chance that there’s some other career out there that you would have liked better (or much better) if only you had known more about it. Spending $4 – $20 for one, or more, of these books can be one of the best investments you ever make, and they are usually very interesting and entertaining to read. To find out how to obtain books of this type, please see the section below, “Finding Good Books at a Good Price”. The following are some good examples:

1) College Majors Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs: The Actual Jobs, Earnings, and Trends for Graduates of 60 College Majors

By: Neeta P. Fogg, Paul E. Harrington, and Thomas F. Harrington
ISBN: 1593570740
Format: Paperback, 656pp
Pub. Date: June 2004
Publisher: JIST Works, Inc.
Edition Number: 2
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $17.65 New

Publisher’s Description:

This terrific handbook offers the most accurate and helpful information available for making decisions on a college major—or what to do with a degree you have. Readers learn which majors are the best investment, the job and salary prospects for specific majors, the employment growth rates for particular majors, and how many graduates go on to additional education.

The new second edition includes substantial new information, including the important steps to take before college to ensure future career success, the rising earnings premiums related to a college education, and the misinformation that exists about college costs and the belief that the “sticker price” of college is the final price. Each chapter describes the major and the courses it requires; discusses jobs that graduates actually obtain; and gives information on employers, tasks, and salaries.

2) Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You through the Secrets of Personality Type

By: Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron-Tieger, and Deborah Baker (Editor)
ISBN: 0316880655
Format: Paperback, 416pp
Pub. Date: April 2001
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Edition Number: 3
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $7.79 Used, $10.78 New.

Publisher’s Description:

Discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of Personality Type. Unlock the secrets of Personality Type–how you process information, make decisions, and interact with the world around you–and discover the career that is right for you. Do What You Are introduces Personality Type and shows you how to discover your own. Then, using workbook exercises and explaining specific job-search strategies, it lists occupations that are popular with your type, including today’s hottest career tracks in growth areas such as biotechnology, health care, and telecommunications. Throughout, the authors provide savvy career advice and highlight the strengths and pitfalls of each personality type with real-life examples. If you are a recent graduate, job seeker, or career switcher, this lively guide will help you discover the right career for you. Join more than 100,000 satisfied readers and Do What You Are.

3) The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career For a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success

By: Nicholas Lore
ISBN: 0684823993
Format: Paperback, 400pp
Pub. Date: December 1997
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $7.38 Used, $9.49 New.

Publisher’s description:

From executives caught in the corporate jungle to students who are clueless about career choices, readers are expertly coached through the process of designing a career by the award-winning founder of the Rockport Institute.

4) How to Choose a College Major

By: Linda Landis Andrews
ISBN: 0844281204
Format: Paperback, 160pp
Pub. Date: October 1997
Publisher: NTC Publishing Group
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $4.79 Used, $6.79 New.

Publisher’s Description:

How to Choose a College Major Learn how to weigh the pros and cons of potential majors and their corresponding careers. Includes interviews, statistical data, worksheets, where to get professional guidance, and 21st century trends.

II. Books on Specific Careers – Some books are on broad career fields, like finance, while others others are on very specific careers in the field, like investment banking. Note that a broader book on careers in the field of finance isn’t specifically devoted to just one single career, like a book on investment banking is, but it can still have a some very valuable information on investment banking.

These kinds of books are also a great investment. Again, to find out how to obtain them, please see the section below, “Finding Good Books at a Good Price”. The following are some good examples of books of this type:
1) Careers in Finance (VGM Professional Careers Series)
By: Trudy Ring
ISBN: 0071437363
Format: Paperback, 182pp
Pub. Date: October 2004
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, The
Edition Number: 3
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $12.11 New

Publisher’s Description:

The world of finance has experienced vast changes in recent years. With advanced computers taking over many number-crunching duties, financial firms are in need of analysts. The economy is going global at breakneck speed, making a career in finance more vibrant and exciting than ever. The opportunities are endless for young, creative thinkers. With keen foresight and thorough knowledge of the industry, you can get on the fast track of this ever-expanding industry. Before you invest time, money, and effort, though, let Careers in Finance provide you with an accurate picture of what various specialties entail. This concise let comprehensive guide provides numerous tips for finding and keeping the job that’s right for you. Careers in Finance includes expert guidance from those in the field as well as an appendix of resources for additional information. Here’s the first step in preparing yourself for what to expect and what to project in order to succeed, no matter which path you choose.

VGM Professional Careers Series Offers high-level information about the many job choices within various professional career fields. Each book provides complete information about a given specialty, including responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, and salaries. An excellent choice for career planning courses offered by professional schools and departments.
2) Top Careers for Business Majors (Top Careers Series)
By: Ferguson, Manufactured by Facts on File Inc
ISBN: 0816054886
Format: Paperback, 200pp
Pub. Date: October 2003
Publisher: Facts on File, Incorporated
Series: Top Careers Series
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $11.50 New

Publisher’s Description:
The world of business offers opportunities to suit almost any interest. But discovering the right opportunity means making many tough decisions. From choosing the right school and major to landing that first job, Top Careers for Business Graduates gives you the information you’ll need to start a rewarding business career. Covering high school, college, and beyond, this book explores all aspects of the business-major experience, including: classes that benefit all business majors, choosing the right school for you, where business majors work and how much they earn resume and interview tips the pros and cons of a graduate degree.
Based on the most current information from the U.S. Department of Labor and other sources, each career article includes a detailed description of the job, typical work environments, salaries, and outlooks for growth and advancement. Interviews with business professionals and additional resources for information shed even more light on the careers, the college-selection process, and many business topics.
Whether you are just beginning to think about a future in business or are a graduate looking to change your current career path, Top Careers for Business Graduates tells you all you need to know to join the ranks of today’s business professionals.
3) Should You Really Be a Lawyer : The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During and After Law School

By: Deborah Schneider, Gary Belsky
ISBN: 0940675579
Format: Paperback, 239pp
Pub. Date: October 2004
Publisher: Niche Press, LLC
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $17.81 New

Publisher’s Description:

Walk through any bookstore and check the sections on Reference, Careers or Graduate School. You find all sorts of books that can help you ace the LSAT, get into a good law school, succeed on law school exams, land a legal job, and then manage your career. But none of them can help you answer the most basic question: should you go into law at all Schneider and Belsky’s book is the first to help you decide whether to become a lawyer … or whether to remain one.

III. Books on Finding and Getting into a Good Graduate/Technical School – Once more, a great investment. The tips in these books can easily move you up one or more tiers, and on top of that, they can help you greatly now in getting prepared for graduate school, making the experience much more successful and enjoyable. Once more, to find out how to obtain good books of this type, please see the section below “Finding Good Books at a Good Price”. The following are some good examples of books of this type:

1) Business Week’s Guide to the Best Business Schools

By: Jennifer Merritt, John A. Byrne, and Margaret Littman
ISBN: 0071378243
Format: Paperback, 384pp
Pub. Date: August 2001
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, The
Edition Number: 7
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $3.54 Used, $5.77 New.

Publisher’s Description:

The preeminent guide to business schools is bigger and better than ever.

Here is the only business school guide that delivers the latest ratings of the schools by the people who know them best: more than 14,000 recent graduates and corporate recruiters.

This edition features:

Coverage of the top 25 business schools plus 25 runners-up

New data on how the best-schools compare

Insider tips on taking the GMAT prep courses and finessing the application process

Complete E-mail and Web site addresses

Free application software from the Princeton Review

These are just a few of the reasons that the book called “the Bible for prospective business school students in the U.S. and abroad” will continue to be the first choice of MBA candidates.

2) Getting in: A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology

By: The American Psychological Association
ISBN: 1557982198
Format: Paperback, 221pp
Pub. Date: January 1996
Publisher: American Psychological Association

Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $7.79 Used, $8.29 New.

Publisher’s Description:

“Getting In” clearly and systematically guides readers through each phase of graduate school admission. Using this book, readers will gain practical insights from university administrators, faculty, and financial aid directors. This resources enables readers to create an application strategy that they can pursue confidently from the first step until the last.

3) Get into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach

By: Kaplan, Inc.
ISBN: 0743240952
Format: Paperback, 307pp
Pub. Date: November 2003
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $11.48 New.

Publisher’s Description:

Choosing and getting into the right school is crucial to getting the most out of your graduate school years – and your future career. We’re here to help. Kaplan has brought together some of the nation’s top admissions experts to create this exclusive guide to getting into grad school.
IV. Books on Improving your Graduate Admissions Test Scores – A great investment. It is probably best to take a course, but if you can’t do that, you should at least get one or more books, and even if you are taking a course, these books can nicely add to it.

1) Cracking the GMAT with Practice Tests on CD-ROM, 2005 Edition

By: Geoff Martz and Adam Robinson
ISBN: 0375764089
Format: Paperback, 541pp
Pub. Date: June 2004
Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
Edition Description: 2005 Edition, Book & CD-ROM
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $24.38 New.

Publisher’s Description:

If It’s on the GMAT, It’s in This Book
The Princeton Review realizes that acing the GMAT is very different from getting straight A’s in school. We don’t try to teach you everything there is to know about math and English-only the techniques you’ll need to score higher on the exam. There’s a big difference. In Cracking the GMAT, we’ll teach you how to think like the test writers and

-Eliminate answer choices that look right but are planted to fool you
-Raise your score by practicing with our GMAT Warm-Up Test, Scoring Guide, and Explanations
-Master even the toughest sections: Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, Data Sufficiency, Critical Reasoning, and more
-Practice online with full-length GMAT exams and instant score analysis

Study the techniques and strategies in this book, and then perfect your skills on more than 200 practice questions inside. We also give you four full-length practice GMAT exams on CD-ROM with instant score reporting. Our practice test questions are just like the ones you’ll see on the actual GMAT, and we fully explain every solution.

2) Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry

By: Jonathan Orsay, Concept by Jordan Zaretsky
ISBN: 1893858227
Format: Paperback, 153pp
Pub. Date: March 2002
Publisher: Osote Publishing
Edition Description: REVISED
Edition Number: 1
Lowest Current Price, Including Shipping, on www.campusi.com: $18.49 Used, $23.19 New.
Publisher’s Description:

1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry provides practice questions in all chemistry topics covered by the MCAT. The questions and explanations are designed to teach the student to think intuitively. Like the MCAT, conceptual thinking is encouraged while lengthy calculations are discouraged. Memorization of basic formulas is required, but usually will not, in itself, provide the fastest method to finding an answer. Questions are conveniently arranged by topic. Question difficulty ranges from easy to very difficult. Questions are formatted exactly like the MCAT. Answers and explanations are provided in the back of the book.

Finding Good Books at a Good Price

The first step is to go to the website of a bookseller with a good search engine, like amazon.com and/or barnesandnoble.com, and enter various versions of your career and career area in the title and subject fields.

When you find books that look promising, copy their ISBN numbers onto the computer’s clipboard, then you can paste them into book shopping web sites to search for the best prices. These sites search through all, or almost all, of the major booksellers on the web finding the prices of the book that you entered. The prices are then presented to you ranked from least expensive to most expensive, including used prices.

You can then select the least expensive seller to make your purchase from. The best book shopping web sites I have been able to find are:




When looking for good books, some specific searches you might try include, but are not limited to:

1) Careers

2) Careers in <enter your career of interest here>

3) Graduate Schools

4) Graduate <enter your area here> schools

5) <Enter your graduate school entrance exam here>
Web Sites

There are many excellent career web sites and pages on the web, but be careful of the source. Yahoo Finance is certainly more trustworthy than JoeBlow.com. Joe can make up whatever facts he wants, and his opinions may reflect no expertise or training whatsoever. He doesn’t have to worry if he gives out incorrect information; he doesn’t do this for a living. He has little or no reputation to start with to worry about ruining, and his operation is so small, and he has so little money, that getting sued is not much of a concern, plus the first amendment basically protects the little guy spouting opinions.

Yahoo, on the other hand, is a company whose name and reputation are worth billions. Millions of people come to their web sites because they consider them high quality and trustworthy. As a result Yahoo can charge billions to companies advertising on their sites. With this much money at stake, Yahoo is going to be careful not to anger its visitors by printing inaccurate material, and Yahoo will have the resources to hire competent people, and to double check their facts.

So bigger organizations, with a valuable reputation for accuracy to protect, are typically much more trustworthy. It is still possible that you can learn something valuable on a JoeBlow.com, but you want to be careful about believing it if it’s not backed up by a trusted source, like, “According to the U.S. Department of Labor…”, and even then, if the fact is important, you probably should go to the Department of Labor web site to make sure that they really said it, or do a google search on that fact to find a more credible source that also said it.

Another important part of credibility is whether there’s an ulterior motive. For example, if someone is trying to sell you something for a profit or commission, they have all sorts of incentive to mislead, or even flat out lie, so be careful.

As a start to your web search, I suggest trying the 5 specific searches I listed above.

Examples of good web sites are:

1) United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Information Web Site – Strongly recommended. Everyone should visit this site.

2) United States Department of Labor’s Online Occupational Outlook Handbook – A must see, extremely good and detailed information for most occupations.

3) JobStar Guides for Specific Careers – Strongly recommended. Everyone should also visit this site. JobStar is a public library sponsored guide to information for the job search.

4) http://www.itcareers.com/home/index.html – Information Technology Careers.

5) http://www.careers-in-business.com/

6) http://www.beanactuary.com/

Talking to People in that Career

This can be a great way to find out the details of the career, especially hours, job duties, and job satisfaction, but keep in mind that this is just one person. You may have run across a person who has an unusually good or bad job for this field, or the person may just be very hard to please, negative, and grumpy, the type who would be disgruntled at virtually any job, so you want to compare what they say to credible books, web sites, newspaper articles, etc., and try to evaluate it appropriatly.

Essentially, you want to try to ascertain whether this persons experience was basically typical for this field or whether it was unusual in some way or ways, either for the better or for the worse, and you can just ask him this. For example, you can ask questions like, “Did most people do that well ”, or “Did most people work that many (or few) hours ”, etc.


Newspaper articles, TV segments, and videos from trustworthy sources can all be valuable if you can find them.


Good luck on your career search, and remember the saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” Careful planning and research for something as important as your career, beforehand, can yield great dividends. It can make your career choice, your career success, and your life much better.

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