Category Archives: best career

Student Career Coaching and the Cure for Alzheimer’s


by Janet Blount, licensed facilitator, Career Coaching for Students™, serving Baltimore, MD and Atlanta, GA

Career Coaching for Students article imageThere are 5.3 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is a debilitating brain disease that robs people of their memories, the ability to speak, read, swallow and enjoy life.

My mother is one of the millions who have Alzheimer’s. I am watching this once vibrant, intelligent woman become a shell of her former self. Those of us who have seen the devastation this disease causes, shout out in despair, that this disease must be cured.

Alzheimer's Effect on the brainSomething that is equally devastating to watching your loved one succumb to this disease is to think that someone who could cure this disease will not because they have not had the opportunity to identify, understand and pursue career paths that match their interests and talents.

The Career Coaching for Students Program is the leading career exploration and planning program that takes a proven approach to coaching students. This program empowers students to gain greater self-awareness and clarity about their strengths and passions, understand the connection between their personal strengths and different career choices, identify high-potential career options that align with the student’s talents and pursue their passion.

The students in the upcoming high school graduating class may invent the cure for Alzheimer’s – if they really know more about themselves. Think about it. It’s about the Science of Self.

Helpful links about Alzheimer’s:

Alzheimer’s Association Website

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)

To learn more about Janet Blount:

Careers Are Us website

On LinkedIn

Career Coaching for Students

Email Janet

Before you choose a career, Choose to be a Linchpin


Linchpin by Seth GodinSeth Godin published a book in 2010 called Linchpin which quickly became popular. This article is dedicated to his teachings from the book – mostly quotes from the book. I encourage any high school student to buy the book and read it. If you are a parent of a student, read it. If you work in the home or outside the home, read it.

In the book, Godin positions work by first stating “The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.

On the other hand, your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo of your own work, and influencing change in people and processes to achieve goals.

Godin shifts our perspective. He calls the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.  The job is not the work.”

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? Godin states that he doesn’t think it has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo of their work. And an artist takes personal responsibility.

That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artist, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.

Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artist, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artist because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.

The secret to being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.

Here’s the truth you have to wrestle with: the reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can’t tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there would be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map.

The dimension of work that has a map isn’t where your art is applied. Your art is applied where the map stops.

Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.

If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.

At the age of four, you were an artist. And at seven, you were a poet.

The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry. The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.

A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain.

The only correct answer to ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is ‘Because it’s lizard brain told it to.’ Wild animals are wild because the only brain they posses is a lizard brain.

The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.

Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone. When your uncomfortable actions lead to success, the organization rewards you and brings you back for more.

If you need to conceal your true nature to get in the door, understand that you’ll probably have to conceal your true nature to keep that job.

Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.

…Treasure what it means to do a day’s work. It’s our one and only chance to do something productive today, and it’s certainly not available to someone merely because he is the high bidder.

A day’s work is your chance to do art, to create a gift, to do something that matters. As your work gets better and your art becomes more important, competition for your gifts will increase and you’ll discover that you can be choosier about whom you give them to.

The competitive advantages the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected, and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotiating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion. All of these attributes are choices, not talents, and all of them are available to you.

The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.

The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.

As our society gets more complex and our people get more complacent, the role of the jester is more vital than ever before. Please stop sitting around. We need you to make a ruckus.

You cannot create a piece of art merely for money. Doing it as part of commerce so denudes art of wonder that it ceases to be art.

…the greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce. To create solutions and hustle them out the door. To touch the humanity inside and connect to the humans in the marketplace.

Not only must you be an artist, must you be generous, and must you be able to see where you can help but you must also be aware. Aware of where your skills are welcomed.

When you set down the path to create art, whatever sort of art it is, understand that the path is neither short nor easy. That means you must determine if the route is worth the effort. If it’s not, dream bigger.

I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.

The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.

A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.

If you can’t be remarkable, perhaps you should consider doing nothing until you can.

The reason you might choose to embrace the artist within you now is that this is the path to (cue the ironic music) security.


Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving businesses ranging from Fortune 100 multi-national corporations to small family-owned businesses. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that really works. Professional-grade assessments and co-directed career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892 or submit an inquiry here:

Do I Need to Have A Career Plan in High School?


dream-job-nextexitThe old saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” means if you do not know about a problem, you will not be able to make yourself unhappy by worrying about it. That belief is supported by the belief “ignorance is bliss“.

When it comes to creating/having a career plan, focusing on it (worrying about it) will actually create a great deal of happiness, help you avoid major stress and save you (and/or your parents) thousands of dollars. Based on almost daily news, the amount of college loan debt has escalated to levels considered very dangerous for our economy and for individuals. Having excessive education loan debt is a personal accountability issue – not a national economy issue.

How much debt do you want or plan to have when you graduate college? According to an article in the Huffington Post, “the average college graduate obtained a degree in 2012 with $29,400 in student debt, up from $18,750 less than a decade before in 2004, according to a new report.” To avoid unnecessary costs (which frequently ends up becoming debt) during college, avoid changing majors and choose the right college or university for you. If you are unsure about a career direction and go into college as an “undeclared major” you are likely to not have any revelations about a career direction by the end of your Freshman year. Whether you put it off or tackle career planning in high school, the only way to avoid unnecessary expense and find true happiness is to do the career planning work.

So, the short answer to the question, Do I Need to Have a Career Plan in High School?, is that you need to be doing the work of creating a career plan. The Career Coaching for Students program looks at this work as developing Decision Making skills. Decision making is a recognized skill of highly successful people and happens to be one of the weakest skills for incoming Freshman in college. You don’t necessarily need to have made a career decision but you need to be well on your way to identifying and understanding your career interests and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with your career interests.

A career plan is the reward for the work you’ll do to determine your skills and interests, what career best suits your talents, and what skills and training you need for your chosen career.

By developing a career plan, you can focus on what you want to do and how to get there without worrying and without unnecessary expense. To do this well, you must start with a “professional-grade assessment” that helps you understand your personality strengths. Career planning is only one benefit of using assessments to become much more self-aware.  You’ll also find you will have a better understanding of your skills and experiences to discuss with potential employers (on your resume and in future interviews).

To eventually have a defined career goal, get started now.

A career goal can be a specific job you want to do — such as doctor or teacher — or be a particular field you want to work in, such as medicine or education.

Rather than limiting your future, a career goal may help you discover career possibilities you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. There are several job possibilities with any chosen career. For instance, if you choose a medical career, you may want to be a scientist, a nurse, or a doctor.

A career goal can also guide you into doing what you want with your life.

  1. Become Self-Aware.
  2. Identify Career Interests.
  3. Narrow your career interests to a top two or three.
  4. Determine what you need to do to prepare for your chosen career.
  5. Besides the right college major, do you need special training? Some careers need the specialized training but don’t require a college degree. If so, find out what schools offer the training you need. Also, determine what kind of experience will you need to be successful in the career. Consider an internship as a way to get work experience in the career field.
  6. Write your career plan.  Use online tools to help you create a visual career plan.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

3-D Printing to Energize Student Pursuit of STEM Careers


3D Race Car Microscopic SizeIn March 2013, Harvard Business Review published an article, 3-D Printing Will Change the World. The author, Richard D’Aveni states, “It is a small evolutionary step from spraying toner on paper to putting down layers of something more substantial (such as plastic resin) until the layers add up to an object. And yet, by enabling a machine to produce objects of any shape, on the spot and as needed, 3-D printing really is ushering in a new era.” His article focuses on world markets, the balance of trade among countries and the impact that 3-D printing will have on the China-USA trade imbalance. It certainly looks like many good things will come from the invention of 3-D printing.

The most exciting part of the 3-D printer revolution for me is the impact it will have in our schools, especially in the STEM fields. Students will be able to learn and create new things with the help of 3D printers – at a much faster pace that is more aligned with the speed of information gathering in the Internet era. Using physics, math, and engineering, students can use 3D printers as high-speed feedback tools for their learning. Not only will it help them grasp the fundamental principles of the sciences with greater speed, it will engage the creativity of students like nothing before.

A 3-D printed Jumbo jet? TEDTALK

3D printers appear to have great potential for changing how students can experiment with creating things. Jason Krueger, blogger and founder of StratoStar, a site dedicated to STEM projects for students, states [With 3-D printing,] “today’s students are in a prime stage in scientific and technological development.”

The Motley Fool Report about 3D Printing

Stay tuned on this one. The 3D printer revolution will draw more students into STEM-related fields which is sure to be a great thing. This is where the Apple marketing model of making the product affordable for schools to purchase will be critical in giving U.S. students a competitive edge.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl has helped thousands of students find a better way through the career exploration process that works.  Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer – 30-days coaching support with the Home Study student career coaching package. Summer special ends August 31, 2013.

Countering College Student Objections to Joining LinkedIn


LinkedIn5 COLLEGE STUDENT Objections to Joining LinkedIn

While it is true that some college students may be beyond help, below are some excuses you can meet head on. To support students, my connections exceed over 2,000 which connect me to over 17 million on LinkedIn. I use my connections to help both high school and college students find people in their career of interest as part of the Career Coaching for Students program (high school program or college student program).

Your key to success1. “Creating a LinkedIn profile takes too much time” is a common complaint; however, creating a profile is actually a motivational exercise. Students can easily copy and paste their résumé to their LinkedIn profile and revise it from there. Once their profile starts to fill out, they begin to feel better about their developing profile.

2. “I don’t have time to add a LinkedIn update once a week?” Posting an update once a week is not that hard to do. With most students now on Facebook and Twitter, posting an update takes the same effort. It’s as simple as commenting on a topic such as something interesting being covered in a core course that aligns with your career direction, attaching an article, posting a great quote, letting people know what you are up to, etc.

3. “I don’t think people in my occupation use LinkedIn” might have been a valid point two or three years ago. Some occupations, namely the trades, were slower to jump on the LinkedIn wagon. Today, people in all industries and all types of work are on LinkedIn. With the number of connections I have, I love taking friendly bets on this false perception. I’ve won every bet.

4. “There’s no way I can get 50 connections” is an interesting challenge. LinkedIn allows users to download contacts from their e-mail account from the beginning of registering for membership. One just has to select the members they want to invite and soon acceptances and invites will come their way. An exercise I do with high school and college students is to have them write down on a worksheet everyone they know (friends, extended family, parents of friends, professional contacts). I then poll everyone to see how many they wrote down. In a 5 minute time limit, the average student writes down between 30 and 50 names. I then ask them if it is reasonable to expect each person they wrote down to have the same number of contacts. We then do the math. Using the least (30), the math looks like this: 30 x 30 = 900. Each of us can easily get something between our direct contact count and the 900 within one week. For college students, making this a competitive challenge with a reasonable $$ prize for the highest number of contacts after one week generates amazing results.

5. “I’m just a college student.” LinkedIn will most likely not offer immediate gratification. This isn’t a sprint; it is more like a marathon. The smartest students will invest in the time to begin their lifelong network. They’ll be ahead of their classmates and will most likely receive more interviews and offers when the time comes for the payout.

Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, professional career and executive/leadership coach and creator of the nationally recognized program Career Coaching for Students™ . Career Coaching for Students is available as a district-wide high school program, college program and in group and on-one-one offerings through certified career coaches throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. Contact Carl Nielson at carl@successdiscoveries.com or call 972-346-2892 to discuss specific needs. Or visit us at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

Job Hunting in the 21st Century for Students and recent College Grads


Forbes The ConnectorFor some time now, I’ve watched the number of college students graduating without a job go to unacceptable levels. We can blame the economy of course. But how does that explain that some students are getting jobs. And these are graduating seniors with GPA or class standing all over the board. In fact, there are some graduating seniors with extremely high GPAs being passed over for others with a substantially lower GPA. The solution is more complex than any one thing. The economy isn’t even close to the top reason (I’m sure some readers will disagree and argue this point but watch the slide show below first).

Part of the solution is something called “networking”. Let me share a real story that emphasizes the value and “fun” in networking as part of that solution.

Recently, a college junior (engineering major) discussed their passion for sports equipment engineering as a career. Short term, this student had hoped for a student internship before entering their senior year. Long term he wanted to know the industry and work for the best company engaged in sports equipment engineering. – What a vision! –

I suggested he “search for and find” the professional association that served the continuing education needs of sports equipment engineers. Sure enough there is such a thing (http://www.continuinged.uml.edu/isea2012/) and he signed up as a student member (discounted price) and flew from Dallas to Massachusetts to attend the conference last summer. He met many in the “business” and has built a networking foundation that will very likely lead to a great first career job and perhaps a career company when he graduates this next year. He doesn’t have a 4.0 GPA. What he has is passion for the career, a good GPA from a good university and a vision.

To help students and recent grads in the job hunt, I’ve put together a slide show that can easily be narrated by a Career Services professional but is also of value as just a slide show for anyone trying to figure out the mystery to effective job hunting. This “guide” applies to the hunt for an internship as well.

Click on the “Full Screen” button (bottom right) to view the presentation. Good luck in your job search!

Career Coaching for Students is the solution
Career Coaching for Students™ offers high school and college students (two versions of the program) the opportunity to develop a clear picture of self and their future that lifts self-esteem, increases academic performance and helps the family avoid unnecessary costs of changing majors and extending college due to changes in direction. Student Resource Central is the most comprehensive resource portal for career exploration and educational strategy research links. The Career Coaching for Students program assists students in finding their passion and establishing a path to success. For more information, visit the website at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net.
Chief Discovery Officer, Success Discoveries

Carl Nielson

Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, professional career and executive/leadership coach and creator of the nationally recognized program Career Coaching for Students™ . Career Coaching for Students is available as a district-wide high school program, college freshman class and in group and on-one-one offerings through certified career coaches throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. Contact Carl Nielson at carl@successdiscoveries.com or call 972-346-2892 to discuss specific needs. Or visit us at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

Choosing and Changing Majors: Status Quo or A New Standard?


The following graphic is from The College Board. We’ll start the discussion here.Is Changing Majors OK?

From the quote in the green bubble, “It’s okay to change your plans even if it means changing your major.” Well, yes, if you find yourself going in the wrong direction, change direction. But The College Board position, and that of most colleges and universities, is that changing majors multiple times to “find yourself” is okay. It isn’t. What it tells me is that the student didn’t do the work to determine a career path prior to showing up at college.

Many colleges and universities report the statistics that support the 2005 article by MSNBC.com that indecision about what major to choose can prove very expensive.  According to Dr. Fritz Grupe, founder of majors.com, eighty percent of college-bound graduating high school students have yet to choose a major before arriving on campus.

With tuition averaging $18,000 or higher in 2012-2013 at public universities, and much higher at private universities, indecisiveness can drain college savings accounts as students restart course sequences or transfer schools – losing credits in the process. Ultimately the result is that the student extends their college days beyond the four years parents planned to finance.

According to College Board, five- and  six-year students are not uncommon. Roughly 40% of those who start a four-year degree program still have not earned one after year six!

There are a variety of good reasons for dragging a college career into its fifth and sixth years—from taking time off for foreign study, to taking advantage of internships and co-ops or needing to balance academics with part-time employment to pay tuition. But changing majors is the one thing that drives up an education’s cost while potentially driving down a student’s self-esteem. It is also the easiest to avoid.

Bad Advice?

There are many (too many) assessments that aren’t valid and reliable. There are also “exercises” that professional counselors recommend if you don’t have access to professional tools such as valid and reliable assessments.

Kate Brooks, director of liberal arts career services at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks surveys can help focus a student’s attention on potential courses of study but she warns about the the students tendency to apply the results too inflexibly. “Often a student will say, ‘the test says I should be a florist, so that’s what I have to be,’” she says. A valid and reliable assessment and process doesn’t result in one career choice. A student that has that belief wasn’t counseled properly and was most likely not using a valid and reliable assessment instrument.

“Nationally, we see statistics quoted that as many as 80% of all college students change their major or that the average college student changes his/her major an average of 3-5 times. If you were able to count how many times students change their mind about what they want to do after graduation, it would be much higher. “
University of Missouri • MU Career Center, 2010
Student Success Center

Rather than properly designed, validated and reliable assessments, Brooks favors an exercise to help undecideds identify and translate interests into majors and eventually careers they will succeed in and enjoy.

She sends students to the nearest Barnes & Noble to browse the magazine racks. They are instructed to buy the three magazines they find most interesting. “We then discuss what prompted them to buy those magazines. It may be they chose Newsweek because they are interested in current events and politics. Or possibly there was an article in ESPN about nutritional sports bars. We talk about how pursuing chemistry could lead them to create a better bar or sports drink. Or maybe it is the marketing aspect that appeals to them — the ads. The point is to help them understand what things excite them and what careers are connected to those things, and which majors would lead them to those careers,” explains Brooks.

That exercise is wonderful but too simplistic. Choosing a career and the best major for that career direction is a little more complicated than that.

Tips for helping your student choose major

What can parents do to help their children get through college in a timely fashion while staying passionate about their choice of major? Here are some suggestions I think are worthy of considering:

  • Refrain from pressuring children into making quick choices or pursuing majors associated with high income professions. Not everyone should or can be a doctor or a lawyer.
  • Focus attention on pursuing courses of interest based on a career direction, even if the immediate relationship to a major or career is not obvious.
  • Double-majoring is a great way to keep opportunities open. With good planning in high school, double-majoring is not only very doable, it may very well be more interesting and provide an extra level of motivation and self esteem.
  • Encourage participation in job shadowing — going to work with people to see what their jobs actually entail and asking people they meet how they got into their careers. While in high school, interview people in the career of interest that are passionate and successful. Parents can help set this up.
  • If they do enter school undecided, engage in a career coaching program that provides professional-grade (highly valid and reliable) assessments and a process that leads to clarity and good decisions. It doesn’t hurt that the program will also assist in a broader sense of creating success across the bigger picture of life.
  • Refrain from giving advice based on the job market of twenty-some years ago or the “parent ego”. Today’s employers need a different kind of worker and favor different degrees. Many parents see their own career as a great direction for their son or daughter. Genetics may have played a part in creating that awesome son or daughter but choosing a career is a highly individualized event.
  • Urge them to take full advantage of campus advisory services to avoid floundering, shifting from one course of study to the next, and prolonging their dissatisfaction and their academic careers. While I am generally strongly negative in my bias about college advisory competencies when it comes to assisting students in choosing a career direction and then matching potentials majors for that career, if you are taking any of the other advice above, this may not be necessary but it is usually the first option. students rely on and is the one option with the greatest gap between expectation of value and actual value. Just keep in mind, you might be told to go to the local magazine store to find your career.
  • Help them understand that a major is not a career. There are multiple paths to most careers, just as there are multiple careers that can be had from a single major. Encourage them to explore their options. Having a career direction is much more powerful than choosing a major.
  • Help them prepare academically before arriving at college to avoid spending their high-priced time on remedial or review classes.
  • If a child is undecided, consider seeking out a college with the resources to acquaint them with all the options to make a well-founded decision. Not all schools have or emphasize such programs.
  • Understand that the student-to-counselor ratio averages 450-to-1 nationally at the high school level. Do not rely on high school counselors to guide children through the exercise of choosing a major.

However they get there, encouraging children to think through their career interests before choosing a school or program can help them avoid future frustration, academic let-down or feelings of failure. It is also key to helping them graduate in four years and move into their ‘real’ lives before they out-spend their college savings accounts.

A more up-to-date and informative article is available.

2015 national webinar to be held in July for career exploration and planning that leads to choosing a major