Category Archives: Managing My Career

Too many adults are in the wrong job or wrong career. Some are returning to the work world after having raised kids. Some are just proactively interested in staying up on managing their own career. This blog is for anyone in the work world. If you are a manager or leader of an organization you might be interested in our monthly e-newsletter, The Nielson Report. To subscribe go to www.nielsongroup.com.

Career Mapping Catching on in High Schools


The article Career Mapping Eyed to Prepare Students for College by Caralee J.  Adams, reviews the current state of high school student preparation strategies for researching and making career choices. I’ve pulled a few quotes and provided some comments and insights into what the reality of today’s efforts are producing.

Secondary schools are becoming more intentional about helping students discover their career interests and map out a plan to achieve them.

This effort is only as good as the foundational approach. As the article suggests, “Finding time during the school day can be a challenge, and the job of overseeing the process often falls on already stretched counselors, according to researchers and program administrators.” The assessments that schools use (see comment further down about Naviance) are not valid and can not be used in the work world to match people and jobs. Students recognize these issues quickly and consequently dismiss the entire exercise as a “waste of time”.

About half of all states mandate that schools help create individual or student learning plans, and most others have optional programs.

A student learning plan is something schools have been providing since student guidance counseling was created. Designing and attaching a student learning plan to a career direction is not something that should be done until high school. Mandating this activity has not created any measurable change that can be associated with increased post-secondary education, higher GPA or better test scores.

Enabling students to make their own plans puts them in the driver’s seat and encourages a long-term look at their course selection so their choices match their career goals, experts say.

The key here is “match their career goals”. A high school student is not equipped to make sense of the assessment results and do not have the necessary knowledge about different career paths to make decisions about career direction on their own. Schools do the best they can to expose students to different career areas but it is a shot gun approach that results in students feeling lost and/or overwhelmed.

Often, districts give students online accounts with passwords to track classes; create an electronic portfolio of grades, test scores, and work; research careers; and organize their college search.

These online accounts, including the one mentioned in the article, Naviance, have been around long enough to measure their effectiveness. Ask any student, and I really mean any student, that attends a high school with Naviance (or other online solutions) and ask them how they used Naviance. The answer I receive is “I didn’t.” or “It wasn’t helpful at all.“.

Schools, meanwhile, have not yet experienced the payback on their investment. As with many education programs, the rollout is left up to districts, creating a patchwork of approaches throughout the country.

This is a great “excuse” for the companies such as Naviance and the school administrators. A person I respect who works with at risk kids and served on a school’s trustee board and knows Naviance very well stated the online solution was “used only to help students get into a preferred college” – not to help them identify and focus on career direction.

Students create plans starting as early as the 6th grade. Of course, they can—and often do—change their minds about their career path. …Typically, a student might have a career-exploration unit in 7th grade. Through an interest inventory, in which the student answers a series of questions about preferences for working, say, with people or numbers, indoors or outside, his or her interests are matched with career clusters and pathways.

Childhood development studies clearly show that a student’s behavioral style and motivators are being established through middle school. The motivators (personal values) are set earlier. Behavioral style is in “wet cement” as students enter high school. The behavioral style and motivators are key to aligning a person’s “talent” to career options. Therefore, serious career exploration and career mapping is not useful until high school. Schools need to use a broader “exposure” strategy until high school. In high school, the focus needs to be at the individual level. That is where true career coaching is most effective. Also, did I mention the assessments used in school are not valid and reliable.

Knowing that high school students today connect best with online materials, the College Board recently launched a new interactive college-planning site, the BigFuture.org. And U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., recently introduced a bill to pilot a project in which students beginning in 1st grade could start portable online college-planning and -savings accounts.

Students connect best with online materials? Give me a very talented teacher and the student will choose the teacher over online every time. The issue may not be the “preference for online materials” but rather a rejection of low quality teaching. With respect for Senator Coons, if we want to make college more affordable, fund the use of career coaching programs like Career Coaching for Students™  that are known to reduce the risk of changing majors in college and provide a student with an exciting personal future view that leverages their motivational and behavioral career match.

Todd Bloom, the chief academic officer for Hobsons, the Cincinnati-based company that produces Naviance, an online career- and college-readiness system, said the depth and breadth of individual learning plans are expanding, and the cost can run less than $5 per student per year. “It’s not a hard sell,” he said. “It’s socially desirable to have that vehicle. ”

And here you have the issue. School boards look at their budget and what they are “required” to provide and see online systems like Naviance as an “easy” solution to implement. Parents that are aware of the offering assume it is providing something helpful. The saying “you get what you pay for” is very applicable here. There is no hard data that shows any ROI on these “low cost” online system solutions like Naviance.

Yet a goal of the program was to increase high school graduation rates and that did not happen, said Jay Ragley, the director of the office of legislative affairs for the state. “It’s difficult to peg why we are not increasing graduation rates. That goal has still eluded the state,” he said, adding that it’s been a challenge to get parents used to the idea of career planning as early as middle school.

Until parents demand and receive better solutions in schools, I strongly recommend engaging a career coach for your high school student – as early as incoming HS Freshman rank and no later than the beginning of the Sophomore year.

Side Note from the trenches: We’ve approached school districts about integrating the Career Coaching for Students™ program as part of a high school curriculum. This program can easily fit into one class per week for a semester with other classes referencing parts of the program throughout the four years of high school. Students have access to the online career and education research tools throughout the four years. The most common statement we received as feedback: “Wow! This is exactly what we need. If we had this, we’d push our “online-only system” to middle school and have this for all of our HS students.” Our response to that: “Great! What is the next step to make this happen?” Reply: “Oh no, we’re too invested in what we have now. To go back to the school board and say we’ve got something better would not work out well for us. And besides, we know we won’t receive more funding to cover a more expensive solution.

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of the nationally recognized program Career Coaching for Students™ and managing principal of The Nielson Group, a management consulting firm specializing in hiring and selection, team effectiveness and executive coaching.

What Advice Did Successful People Receive? Sounds Like Great Advice for Teens


Business Insider.com recently posted snippets of advice that highly successful people received from mentors as they were growing and developing. As I read each one, I felt like they were speaking to teens (or should have been). Yet, the quotes were pulled from speeches, articles and interviews intended for adults already in mid-career. Since most teens don’t have Business Insider que’d up as an RSS feed I thought I’d post the quotes. You can click on the link above to go directly to the article.

Also, if you are looking for more in the “advice for success” you can find some great videos including Steve Jobs infamous 2005 Stanford college graduation commencement speech posted on the Career Coaching for Students “Got Motivation” page.

Great advice and motivation videos - best motivational videos

1. Terry J. Lundgren, CEO, Macy’s
Gene Ross, the man who recruited Lundgren at Bullock, told him: “You’re not going to do this forever. There’s a finite amount of time you’re going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. And if you do this really, really well, everybody will see that, and they’ll move you onto the next thing. And you do that well, and then you’ll move.”

2. Richard Branson, founder and chairman, Virgin Group
“My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me. I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

3. Marissa Mayer, VP, Google
“My friend Andre said to me, ‘You know, Marissa, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to pick the right choice, and I’ve gotta be honest: That’s not what I see here. I see a bunch of good choices, and there’s the one that you pick and make great. I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.”

4. Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs
His boss at Goldman during the 1980s told him:
“First, it’s good to solicit your people’s opinions before you give them yours. And
second, your people will be very influenced by how you carry yourself under stress.”

5. Maureen Chiquet, Global CEO, Chanel
Mickey Drexler, CEO of Gap at the time, told Chiquet:
“I’m going to give you some important advice. You’re a terrific merchant. But you’ve gotta learn to listen!”

6. Tory Burch, co-founder and creative director, Tory Burch
“When I started my company, many people said I shouldn’t launch it as a retail concept because it was too big a risk.They told me to launch as a wholesaler to test the waters — because that was the traditional way. “But Glen Senk, [then] CEO of Urban Outfitters and a mentor of mine … told me to follow my instincts and take the risk. I wanted to create a new way of looking at retail.”

7. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Google
“Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.”

8. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook Sheryl Sandberg COO Facebook
When Sandberg was thinking she wouldn’t accept an offer to be Google’s general manager, Eric Schmidt told her, “Stop being an idiot; all that matters is growth.” She says that’s the best advice she ever got.

9. Larry Page, co-founder, Google
“In graduate school at Stanford University, I had about ten different ideas of things I wanted to do, and one of them was to look at the link structure of the web. My advisor, Terry Winograd, picked that one out and said, ‘Well, that one seems like a really good idea.’ So I give him credit for that.”

10. Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks
“Jim Sinegal, the founder of Costco, gave me fantastic advice because we were going down the wrong track. We brought him in to look at our plan and he said, ‘You know, I don’t want to be rude but this is exactly the wrong thing to do.’ This was my idea, and he was right. “His advice was the cost of losing your core customers and trying to get them back post-recession would be much greater than trying to find new customers, so we completely shifted.”

11. Maria Bartiromo, anchor, CNBC
“My mom says, ‘You have to have alligator skin. You can’t believe the good stuff, and you certainly can’t believe the bad stuff’ and that’s something I’ve come to accept. “So when I see someone say anything nice about me in a magazine or anywhere, I probably won’t read it, because I don’t want to be in a place where I start believing my own press releases.”

12. Richard Parsons, former chairman, Citigroup
Steve Ross, the former CEO of Time Warner, told him:
“Just remember, it’s a small business and a long life. You’re going to see all these people again.”

13. Jennifer Hyman, CEO and co-founder, Rent The Runway
“Just do it. There’s no benefit to saying, ‘I’m just doing this because it will get me to this new place,’ or ‘I’m just going to go into this analyst program because it will prep me for X.’ “If you’re passionate about something, go for it, because people are great at what they love and when they’re the happiest.”

14. Edward Rust Jr., chairman and CEO, State Farm
“[My father] had the uncanny ability with just a couple of little phrases. One: ‘You know better… don’t you,’ and ‘you can do better… can’t you.'”

15. Joe Uva, former CEO, Univision
“Always have the courage of your convictions. Always state what’s on your mind. Follow your gut. And observe what other people are doing around you.”

16. Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-chief investment officer, PIMCO
“I remember asking my father, ‘Why do we need four newspapers?’ He said to me, ‘Unless you read different points of view, your mind will eventually close, and you’ll become a prisoner to a certain point of view that you’ll never question.'”

17. Kenneth Burdick, president and CEO, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota
Burdick received this message from various successful people he has met:
“Surround yourself with good people. And part of that is surrounding yourself with people who think differently than you. Surrounding yourself with people who have different experiences than you. In business, it’s all about the team.”

18. Steve Schwartzman, chairman and CEO, Blackstone Group
“[My high school] coach, a 50-year-old named Jack Armstrong … would shout, ‘Remember—you’ve got to make your deposits before you can make a withdrawal!’ …”Coach Armstrong came to mind in one of my first weeks on Wall Street, 35 years ago. I’d stayed up all night building a massive spreadsheet to be ready for a morning meeting. … The partner on the deal, however, took one look at my work, spotted a tiny error, and went ballistic. “As I sat there while he yelled at me, I realized I was getting the MBA version of Coach Armstrong’s words. Making an effort and meeting the deadline simply weren’t enough.”

19. Peter Swinburn, president and CEO, Molson Coors
“The then-big boss asked me to go and do basically a turnaround job. And he said, ‘I don’t mind what you do, as long as you don’t do what we’ve done before.'”

Fear of Failure, Success, the Unknown: Which One Controls You?


Your key to successFear of Failure. Fear of Success. Fear of the Unknown. Any of these can be the handcuffs for teens looking at the future and wondering what it holds. What career direction should I pursue? What educational strategy is best for me? What college should I choose? Any of these questions can play an invisible role in hindering pursuit of our potential.

High school academics doesn’t reveal much when it comes to identifying those that have a fear that hinders their success. A student can excel in academics, even be labeled “most likely to succeed” by their class mates. Yet, we see many of these enter college, change majors multiple times and procrastinate as they approach college graduations.

Teens that are academically performing at a level lower than their potential may also be challenged with fear. Today’s educational system allows just about anyone to excel if they have the ambition. Most students are very bright and capable regardless of their academic standing. If they missed developing the foundation for success in reading, writing, math, it is harder to show academic excellence but that does not change the fact that they are likely very bright.

If fear is playing a role in limiting a person future, it is helpful to understand which fear it might be. Fear of success, fear of failure and fear of the unknown are reviewed in this article. A few strategies are also offered for conquering the fear.

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is related to fear of criticsim and rejection. Successful people see failure as simple feedback and nothing more. Unsuccessful people or those not moving forward look at mistakes as permanent and personal.

Most people self-limit themselves. They don’t achieve a fraction of what they are capable of achieving because they fear they will fail.

Fear of Success

Fear of success can be just as paralyzing as fear of failure. Many people fear success because it tests their limits and makes them vulnerable to new situations. Even worse, success can expose weaknesses and force people to deal with their flaws.   Success is scary because it involves change.

For people with a fear of success, the internal feelings when thinking about the possibility of success are very close to what is felt when we are failing at something. Success can be intimidating and hard to handle. With success comes more challenges and responsibilities – and that can be threatening.

Sometimes people fear success because they don’t know if they can live up to their achievements. They don’t think they’re good enough or smart enough. They’re afraid they don’t have what it takes to rise to the challenge, and they don’t know if they can sustain their success.

There is another condition that feeds the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up” – which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us-especially if we’ve been subject to verbal abuse-have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don’t deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition.  Take a simple Fear of Success quiz.

Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the unknown is a peculiar condition in most of us, where we find ourselves freezing up as we think of embarking upon something we are not acquainted with.  Fear of the unknown can leave a person in a frozen status. They are afraid of entering and exploring the new ground, because they think they might get in trouble. They are afraid of losing what they already have by jumping into the unknown.

Fear of the unknown is a common phenomenon with young people, when they don’t wish to accept or pursue anything unfamiliar. There is a certain safety radar in our body that keeps us alarmed of the various dangers that come into our life.  These safety limits are learned during our growing years as a child.

While as a child we were often restricted by our parents or taught to fear unusual situations. We then become apprehensive about meeting anything new and foreign. This fear, in a way, restricts an individual into a particular fenced area of the “known”, depriving him from the excitement of meeting the future with enthusiasm.

If allowed to persist, the fear can ultimately lead to a very restricted lifestyle, devoid of the various essences in life. They know what they should be doing, but they can’t take action because they think there is a risk involved with this big life transition.

The Internal Conflict Between What You Want and What You Already Have

Yes, you will be leaving your well known life and begin to embrace a totally new lifestyle. But, here’s something that’s worth thinking about: Aren’t you already in trouble? What urged you to search for your true passion? Aren’t you hungry for a meaning in your life? Aren’t you already feeling the fear of being lost and wandering aimlessly through life lacking a real purpose? Are you happy with the idea of doing work that has no meaning and wasting your precious time doing something that doesn’t really matter to you?

Be Smart About FearSo what can you do?

If you think you have a fear of failure, start looking at life with a new paradigm: there is no failure, only feedback. The only way we learn is through trial and error experience. The only way you have learned anything is through mistakes. The only way to be successful is to learn (fail).

To overcome the fear of failure, first take action. Bold, decisive action.  Fear of failure immobilizes you. To overcome this fear, you must act. When you act, act boldly.   Action gives you the power to change the circumstances or the situation. You must overcome the inertia by doing something. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? As the Nike commercial says, just do it. If it doesn’t work out the way you want, then do something else. But DO SOMETHING NOW. Second, be persistant. Successful people just don’t give up. They keep trying different approaches to achieving their outcomes until they finally get the results they want. Third, don’t take failure personally. Failure is about behavior, outcomes, and results. Failure is not a personality characteristic. Fourth, do things differently. If what you are doing isn’t working, do something else. There is an old saying, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” If you’re not getting the results you want, then you must do something different. And finally, look for possible opportunities that result from the experience. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, says “every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit.” Look for the opportunity and the benefit.

If you think you have a fear of success, first differentiate between feelings of excitement (positive) and a “trauma reaction.” Think of a time in your past when you were very successful. Recall your body’s physical response. Perhaps your heart rate was up. What other physical responses can you recall? Now think of a time when you failed and the failure was a public embarrassment. What was your body’s physical response? What we’ve found is that failure (stress) and success (excitement) produce similar physical reactions in our body. So differentiate your feelings of success as positive, not negative.

Second, look for actions or behaviors that are self-sabotaging. For example, partying or watching TV the night before the big exam or presentation at school, or you somehow always ruin the opportunity for a good night’s sleep. Third, stop procrastinating. Putting projects, assignments, or duties off while you take care of non-essential fluff or “make-work” chores can be a sign of fear of success. If you putter around instead of taking care of business, you may be subconsciously sabotaging yourself.

Fourth,  stop talking about it and start doing. Sometimes certain behaviors look like laziness, but they reveal a fear of success. For instance, you may talk about your life dreams and goals all the time, but you watch TV every night and surf the Internet for hours every day. You never actually take practical steps or exert self-discipline to move in the direction of your goals.

And last, stop creating negative, pessimistic talk. Fear of success can involve an extremely negative perspective of life. “What’s the point of dressing up for the job interview? I probably won’t get it anyway.” Not trying – and focusing on all the things that can go wrong – is self-sabotaging behavior.

If you think you have a fear of the unknown, first know this type of fear is not that fatal to an individual, yet it should definitely be remedied in order to enjoy a healthy life. For that, first of all, we have to turn the unfamiliar into the familiar.

This can be successfully achieved through meditation and by playing upon our imagination. Our mind does not care for any restriction. Neither does our imagination. Our thoughts and imagination, if applied, can definitely solve much of the problem of the fear of the unknown. As Steve Jobs says, “You’re already naked, so there is no reason why you don’t follow your heart”.

The only way to beat the fear of the unknown is to take the first step. If you’re afraid of getting in trouble, remember that you’re already in a bigger trouble by not following your heart. If you listen to the voice of your fears, you’ll live an empty life. But, if you listen to the voice of your heart, you’ll live a remarkable life.

Take the first step and beat your fears. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of Career Coaching for Students™ and managing principal of The Nielson Group, a management consulting firm specializing in hiring and selection, team effectiveness and executive coaching.

Mountain Top or Dung Heap?


Dung Heap is smelly and dirtyMy colleague Steve Straus provided this insightful thought provocation to his newsletter subscribers. Adults appreciate the distinction Steve provides around being on the Mountain Top vs. being on a Dung Heap when it comes to one’s career. But do high school students see the distinction? Are parents sensitive to the lesson’s in Steve’s message?

“There are many paths to the mountain top” is an ancient bit of wisdom which means don’t get too enamored with the path you’re on, believing it is the only way. If your path works for you, use it.

Let others choose their own, if theirs works for them. It’s an interesting thought, applicable to careers, study, leadership, and families.

However, there is a problem that many who have taken the upward journey have learned. They have discovered, once reaching the top, they were climbing a dung heap. They found themselves dirty, smelly, and exhausted, and looking ‘over there’ at the real mountain top.

Before embarking on your journey make sure of your destination.

Coaching Point: Have you been pausing periodically to take a deep breath and notice the smell of your mountain?

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of Career Coaching for Students™ and managing principal of The Nielson Group, a management consulting firm specializing in hiring and selection, team effectiveness and executive coaching.

Is it time to revamp career guidance in schools?


As a corporate management and organizational development consultant with over 25 years of hiring, firing, training, coaching and development, I find a mixed population when it comes to people with clear, passionate career direction and those without that clarity and passion. My observations and various academic, corporate and government surveys suggest more people fall into the latter category. Yet those in positions of authority within the secondary and higher education career guidance field seem satisfied with the status quo.Is it time to revamp career guidance in schools?

What has changed over the past 30+ years in career counseling in most schools can be summed up in three letters: WWW. Schools are now offering students an online portal to career information. Most of these programs offer personality assessments that point the student to Holland codes.  So if that is an appropriate assessment for students, how many employers use Holland code type assessments to match people to jobs? My informal scan came up with zero. 

Why revamp career guidance in schools?
I’ve listed some reasons (goals and rewards) that support an effort to revamp career guidance in schools.

  • Higher student self-esteem
  • Higher academic achievement across all student populations
  • Better choices for higher education
  • Shorter time in higher-ed (a change in majors delays a student by at least one semester)
  • Lower student loan debt
  • Higher quality workforce
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Improved society
  • Higher personal income
  • Higher quality of life
  • and greater employability in a passionate career

Career Guidance redefined.

Career guidance starts with bringing self-awareness to the student. This is minimized by schools, or, if attempted, counselors use personality assessments with relatively low validity and reliability. The typical public school administrator thinks they do not have the budget to consider highly reliable, valid assessments and properly conduct counseling or coaching with each student. As one administrator explained, “we need to leave something for the parents to do”. Colleges and universities are found to have very few resources as well. Many continue to use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as the tool of choice for expanding students’ self-awareness.   

With solid self-awareness, a valid connection needs to be made to career possibilities. Most students get off the train at this point. They didn’t find the “personality assessments” valid (face validity is critical) and found the career suggestions from the assessment report made no sense. The reality is that making the talent-to-career connection requires the help of a professional career coach or a well-developed career coaching program that guides the student through the process.

From initial investigative research to in-depth career analysis, the ability to research careers has been improved drastically thanks to the Internet. However, left on their own, students find the Internet is a rather large, disorganized information bank that has the potential to get the researcher distracted or totally lost and confused. Students don’t need a Google list of Internet resources or school marketing website disguised as a career guidance site. Internet resources need to be found, evaluated, vetted and categorized in a way that allows the student to stay focused with their research and avoid chasing links to questionable or low-value content.

Career research can’t be defined by Internet resources. At some point, the student must meet people in careers of interest, interview these people, go on job shadowing ventures and get internships working for companies that employ people in his career of interest.  There are several other strategies students can take to learn and identify career choices. Most students don’t complete any of these steps. A very few might do some of this.

Researching ideal careers is half the battle. Today’s students lack skills such as decision-making. Life skills that are learned early support students as they go to college or enter the work world. Life skills are just that, skills learned by experiencing life. However, our culture has changed significantly in the past 30 years. Students do not live in an environment that enables them to develop these life skills the way kids did 50 or 100 years ago. Yet school administrators and parents seem unaware of programs they can use to introduce students to key skills required for success. What are the key skills found in highly successful people? Here is a short list of 18 skills. Which of these aren’t needed to be highly successful? 

  1. Continuous Learning (try this one!)
  2. Personal Accountability
  3. Self Management
  4. Decision Making (Conceptual Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Role Confidence, Balanced Decision Making)
  5. Goal Orientation
  6. Proactive Thinking
  7. Initiative
  8. Project and Goal Focus
  9. Planning and Organizing
  10. Flexibility
  11. Problem Solving
  12. Persistence 
  13. Creativity Innovation
  14. Futuristic Thinking
  15. Influencing Others (Conveying Role Value, Gaining Commitment, Understanding Motivational Needs)
  16. Interpersonal Skills (Evaluating Others, Personal Relationships, Persuading Others)
  17. Written Communication
  18. Personal Drive

What are the chances the typical high school student is being developed in these skill areas? I think it is time to revamp career guidance in schools? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box.

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), an international corporate organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.   Carl speaks to groups on request and offers parent webinars and seminars for communities.

If you are looking for true career guidance for a student, check out http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out resources and services at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered.   

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

Career Talk for Students with Dr. Bruce McLaughlin webinar series starts July 7, 2010: New, Emerging and High Demand Jobs for Students


I am very honored to be Bruce’s first “guest” for Career Talk, a free program for students and parents available by registering at http://tinyurl.com/yk7nfw9.

My topic is New and Emerging Careers for Students. Please forward the info to any parent or student interested in the future (that should cover just about everyone).

Career Talk is a series of free conference calls hosted by Dr. Bruce McLaughlin. Topics cover a wide range of issues important to students and parents of students in high school and college.

Career Talk Series One (July through September 2010)

Format: Interactive conference call (phone) with online screen sharing.
Call in instructions:
1. Call the conference line (one-time register at http://tinyurl.com/yk7nfw9) to connect to the call using your unique PIN
2. At beginning of call go to http;//www.successdiscoveries.glance.net. A session key will be provided at the beginning of the call. Follow the online instructions to connect to the presentation screen.

Interactive Q and A with guest experts will be included on each call.

Wednesday 7/7/10 (7:00 P.M. central) – New and Emerging Careers with Carl Nielson
What careers are going to be in demand in the future? How can you prepare yourself to move into the new job market? This session will address careers and their requirements that are relatively new (non-traditional) or anticipated to be developing over the next ten years. We will discuss the differences between ‘New Occupations’, ‘Emerging Occupations’, and ‘Evolving Occupations’. Carl Nielson is founder of Success Discoveries and the Developer of the Career Coaching for Students program.

Wednesday 7/29/10 (7:00 P.M. central) – College Costs & Funding Strategies Part One
Your family’s security depends upon careful planning for college expenses. A typical education can cost over $100,000 and leave the young student in debt for years. Prepare in advance for one of the most important events of your life. Dr. McLaughlin will be joined by Susan Young, CPA to cover this important topic.

Monday 8/30/10 (6:00 P.M. central) – Know the Score on Standardized Testing
Learn about the role standardized testing plays in the college process and gain simple tips to assist you in preparing for the SAT/ACT.

Monday 9/27/10 (8:00 P.M. central) – College Costs & Funding Strategies Part Two
Your family’s security depends upon careful planning for college expenses. A typical education can cost over $100,000 and leave the young student in debt for years. Prepare in advance for one of the most important events of your life. Dr. McLaughlin will be joined by Susan Young, CPA to discuss and share valuable information.

At the end of each call, Bruce will answer questions and explain some of the specifics about the upcoming St. Louis-area career workshops specifically tailored for students in high school or college.

Bonus: As a Registered Call Participant, we’re providing you access to the Life Skills for Students Continuous Learning module (one of the 16 Life Skills for Students modules included in the workshop).

Bonus #2 for Students: Complimentary “Parent User Manual” assessment. Students are being “assessed” and “tested” constantly. Let’s turn the tables and have the parent take an assessment. Participating parents on the call will be invited to take a complimentary behavioral style assessment. The report will be enlightening for the parent and the entire family. Instructions will be e-mailed after the call.

To learn more about upcoming workshops http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net/career-coaching-for-students-events/30-st-louis-student-career-workshop.html

Career Coaching for Students workshop is highly recommended for high school students:

Incoming Freshmen
Sophomores
Juniors*
Seniors*

*This workshop is critical for Juniors and Seniors if they are making college and major choices without a clear career plan., Talent Development: Hire,Train & Retain the Best. Executive Coaching, Team Development, Student Career CoachingTriMetrix, CPVA, CPBABy Carl Nielson,

Adora Svitak: What Adults Can Learn from Kids


Adora Svitak is a young teenager (teen, tween?). To watch her give a speech to a TED audience gives any parent a moment of wonderment. In her speech she talks about what kids bring to the world and how adults can learn a few things that, perhaps, we’ve forgotten. It is a great speech, great presentation, very polished. Well done Adora!

Now for the most interesting part. Read the comments that are coming in (watch the video at the link above first, the comments are listed below the video). If you are an adult, teacher or parent, some of the comments are extremely positive, perhaps even helpful toward Adora’s points, others not so much, even making Adora’s points even more valid. For example, Dani wrote “Adora, thank you. I’m an educator and as the school year nears it’s end you have reminded me to trust my students, to allow them to express themselves and to provide them with an environment where they can thrive.”  A very positive statement. Very helpful in reminding us that children are “diamonds in the rough” and that, if given the opportunity, children can be brilliant. Of course the key here is “given the opportunity”.

Most kids do not grow up in a perfect environment (home, school, social). This imperfection in the environment takes its toll on the “self view” of “potential” that each person has as they grow. For most, once the self view is tarnished, motivation decreases. A negative bias on one’s self view does not have to be cause for decreased individual motivation.

Based on data coming from an extremely valid and reliable assessment, a negative bias for self view is found in 85% of the population. It turns out that a negative bias for self view is what gives most of us a “continuous learning” attitude. Otherwise, we become so egotistical in our own abilities that we would be intolerable in relationships (personal, work, etc.). So a negative bias for self view is important to understand and put to use.

Many students develop the negative self bias and fail to see themselves as worthwhile, deserving of a great future and “high potential”. Some teachers, with their own imperfect self, make the situation worse. We see these students in high school acting out in many different ways but they all seem to have one common theme – under achievement academically and a preference to play to an extreme that results in avoidance of intellectual development).  

Now fast-forward to high school. I recall having “moments” of brilliance but not getting much recognition. Those moments of brilliance were camouflaged with an abundance of mediocrity. Knowing what I now know, mediocrity is the air that everyone breaths. There are two components or “ingredients” that, when added to our air, change things dramatically. The first is something called life skills. The second is career exploration.

These two components, specific life skills and clear career match to talents, were consistently found in highly successful people. To see what life skills were identified in highly successful people go here. To see what a real student career coaching program looks like go here.

So, based on the 12 key life skills identified in highly successful people, which of those does Adora display as she takes her audience on the journey to “learn from kids”?

Commencement Speeches are Coming Too Late, Let’s Aim for Incoming Freshmen …in High School


Tony Balis of humanity.org posted a great article on commencement speeches that culminated from work he began in 1989. He listed speeches from 1936 to 2009. Balis states, “The commencement ceremony affirms each student’s search for knowledge. It often includes a graduation speech which seeks to put their recent hard (or not so hard) work into the context of their future. Yet — as we graduate from one year to another, one relationship to another, one experience to another — we always are learning.”

This article highlights some of the “better” points made by various commencement speakers and provides a commencement speech for incoming high school freshmen.

It isn’t about being a doctor, lawyer, President of the United States, accountant or CEO. It is about passion for what you do. What the world needs is more people who are passionate about what they do.

Whether the remarks above were given decades ago or just a year ago, they are as relevant and important, perhaps increasingly so, as the state of our world evolves. Ask yourself, have you found your passion? Are you equipped for life’s challenges? The links are to solutions for each question. Enjoy.

Sting (born Gordon Sumner), Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA, May 24, 1994
“There’s always something more to learn.”

Michael Josephson, http://www.CharacterCounts.org
“Listen to both your heart and your head. Pursue your passions, but don’t confuse feelings with facts. Almost nothing is as good or as bad as it first appears, and all things change. By all means, set goals and go after your dreams, but know that your ultimate happiness will depend not on your plans but your ability to cope with unexpected turns and unavoidable ups and downs. You may not get what you thought you wanted, but if you’re willing to adapt, you can get something even better.”

Paul HawkenPaul Hawken, “The Earth is Hiring”, Univ. of Portland, May 3, 2009
The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you. You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

Barack ObamaBarack Obama, “Make Us Believe Again”, Commencement address at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, USA, May 28, 2008
“…And at first we didn’t get very far…It wasn’t easy, but eventually, we made progress…Through service, I discovered how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of America…You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy. …But I hope you don’t. …It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. …There are so many ways to serve and so much that needs to be done at this defining moment in our history. You don’t have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President. …know that you’ll experience the occasional frustrations and the occasional failures. Even your successes will be marked by imperfections and unintended consequences. I guarantee you, there will be times when friends or family urge you to pursue more sensible endeavors with more tangible rewards. And there will be times where you will be tempted to take such advice. …But I hope you’ll remember, during those times of doubt and frustration, that there is nothing naïve about your impulse to change the world. …I can still remember a conversation I had with an older man all those years ago right before I was headed for my new job in Chicago. He said, “Barack, I’ll give you a bit of advice. Forget this community organizing business and do something that’s gonna make you some money. You can’t change the world, and people won’t appreciate you trying. But you’ve got a nice voice, so you should think about going into television broadcasting. I’m telling you, you have a future there.” Now, I’ve wondered, he might have been right about that TV thing, but he was wrong about everything else.”

Barbara KinsolverBarbara Kingsolver, “Your Money or Your Life”, Commencement address at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA, May 11, 2008
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides. …The happiest people are the ones with the most community. … The hardest part will be to convince yourself of the possibilities, and hang on. If you run out of hope at the end of the day, to rise in the morning and put it on again with your shoes. Hope is the only reason you won’t give in.”

Bill GatesBill Gates, “Great Expectations”, Commencement address at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts USA, June 7, 2007
“…Radcliffe (residential college at Harvard) was a great place to live. There were more women up there, and most of the guys were science-math types. That combination offered me the best odds, if you know what I mean. This is where I learned the sad lesson that improving your odds doesn’t guarantee success. …One of my biggest memories of Harvard came in January 1975, when I made a call from Currier House to a company in Albuquerque that had begun making the world’s first personal computers. I offered to sell them software. I worried that they would realize I was just a student in a dorm and hang up on me. Instead they said: “We’re not quite ready, come see us in a month,” which was a good thing, because we hadn’t written the software yet. From that moment, I worked day and night on this little extra credit project that marked the end of my college education and the beginning of a remarkable journey with Microsoft. …Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and in the meantime, make the smartest application of the technology that you already have-whether it’s something sophisticated, like a drug, or something simpler, like a bednet.”

Ken Burns, “A Vanguard Against this New Separatism”, Commencement address at Georgetown University
Washington D.C., USA, May 20, 2006

“…I am now absolutely convinced that he was right and that your future lies behind you. In your past, personal and collective. In the last thirty years of filmmaking, I have learned many things, but that the past is our greatest teacher is perhaps the most important lesson. …But for the most part we live, today, in a culture so dedicated to an all-consuming present, where people can name you ten brands of blue jeans or perfume or handbags, but can’t name you that many presidents, that we are all, I suppose, complicit in helping to eradicate our past and its valuable lessons. …As you pursue your goals in life, that is to say your future, pursue your past. Let it be your guide. Insist on having a past and then you will have a future. Do not descend too deeply into specialism in your work. Educate all your parts. You will be healthier. Replace cynicism with its old-fashioned antidote, skepticism.

William Allen White, Commencement Address at Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois, June 1936

“Our American Constitution, for instance, is a national compact of our individual and of our social duties. It has worked in this country after a fashion. Yet the same Constitution, or nearly the same, has been adopted in a dozen other lands and has failed. Why has it held us to an essential unity? I am satisfied that our Constitution has stood up because Americans actually have established here a sort of code of duties. That has been the crystallizing principle that has held us together – duty of man to man, of region to region, of class to class, of race to race, of faith to faith. That duty has bred something more than neighborly tolerance. It has engendered a profound desire in very American’s heart to make life as pleasant as it may be made – not merely for himself, indeed not chiefly for himself, but for others. Thus we have found and cherished true liberty. …Now, as an ancestor, let me caution you, my heirs and assigns, that “new” political attitudes are symptoms of greed for power. They will fool you if you channel your thinking into narrow dialectics. Don’t take your logical premise from your class self-interest. Don’t build your logic upon a purely selfish structure. Don’t think as plutocrats. Don’t reason as members of the middle class or as proletarians. Such thinking is too sure of its own syllogisms ever to be just. Such thinking rejects the possibility that there is truth and that there may be reason in the contention of another class of society. This same discord that has torn as under so many peoples in Europe, where fifty years ago democracy seemed to be taking root, today is seeding in our land. …You must reorganize life in your America and point your achievement toward a fairer distributive system. Abundance is here for the taking. don’t bemoan your lost frontier. It is even now flashing on our horizon. A gorgeous land lies before you fair and more beautiful than man before has ever known. Out of the laboratory will come new processes to multiply material things for your America, to multiply them almost infinitely; but only if you will hold open the channels of free science, unfettered thought, and the right of a man to use his talents to the utmost provided he gives honest social returns for the rewards he takes. And now, in closing, on behalf of your fathers who are bequeathing to you their choicest gifts, let me say that your heritage is not in these great lovely cities, not this wide and fertile land, not the mountains full of undreamed of riches. These you may find in other continents. What we leave you that is precious are the few simple virtues which have stood us in good stead in the struggle of our generation. We will and bequeath to you our enthusiasm, our diligence, our zeal for a better world, that were the lode stars of our fathers. As our legatees we assign you our tolerance, our patience, our kindness, our faith, hope, and love, which make for the self-respect of man. These qualities of heart and mind grow out of a conviction that the democratic philosophy as mode of thinking will lead mankind into a nobler way of life…”

Anderson CooperAnderson Cooper, Tulane University, 2010 Commencement Keynote
“I do hope at some point this weekend, if you haven’t already, you’ll look your parents in the eyes, hold them close, and thank them for their sacrifices. As hard as you’ve worked to get here, they have worked even harder. So parents if your kids haven’t said it, let me just say it for them, thank you. …I must admit I always find it odd to hear myself introduced as a TV anchor.. I never set out to be one and am always suspicious when of anyone who tells me that’s what they want to be. …its like a kid who tells me they want to be a politician. I think you should be a real person before you become a fake one. …After months of waiting, I decided if no one would give me a chance as a reporter, I should take a chance. If no one would give me an opportunity, I would have to make my own opportunity. …I wanted to be a war correspondent, so I decided to just start going to wars. As you can imagine, my mom was thrilled about the plan. I had a friend make a fake press pass for me on a mac, and I borrowed a home video camera… and I snuck into Burma and hooked up with some students fighting the Burmese government… then I moved onto Somalia in the early days of the famine and fighting there. …I figured if I went to places that were dangerous, I wouldn’t have as much competition, and because I was willing to sleep on the roofs of buildings, and live on just a few dollars a day, I was able to charge very little for my stories. As ridiculous as it sounds, my plan worked, and after two years on my own shooting stories in war zones, I was hired by ABC news as a correspondent. I was the youngest correspondent they had hired in many years. Had I gotten the entry-level job I’d wanted, I would have never become a network correspondent so quickly, I probably would never have even become one at all. The things which seem like heartbreaking setbacks, sometimes turn out to be lucky breaks. …While I don’t remember commencement, I do remember my senior year of college feeling paralyzed, because I thought I had to figure out my future all at once. Pick a career, start down a path I’d be on for the rest of my life. I now know it doesn’t work that way. Everyone I know who is successful, and by successful I mean happy in their professional or personal life, every successful person I know could never have predicted when they graduated from college where they’d actually end up. …I’m not saying you should take it easy and just see what happens. You need to outwork everyone around you. You need to arrive early, stay late, you need to make yourself indispensable – you should also probably get rid of those Facebook photos of you passed out on bourbon street. …But as you consider what to do now, you shouldn’t necessarily feel that your next step is the most important one you’ll ever take. It’s not. You will go down many paths that go nowhere. Especially you English majors. You will try things on and realize they don’t fit. And that’s how it should be. Learning what you don’t want to do, is the next best thing to figuring out what you do want to do. …Anyway, I’m not much for giving advice. Especially after reading some other people’s speeches. I’ve quoted this before, but I think it’s one worth repeating. This is what Goldie Hawn told graduates several years ago. “while you are continuing to walk down that sometimes-bumpy road of life, develop the art of laughter and joy. Keep in your backpack of treasures the whole you, the best you. The “you” that won’t fear failure, because lessons learned are the only way to grow.” I know. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit too.”

All of these commencement speeches, and many more I read for this posting, have inspired me to give my own, very short speech. But my commencement speech isn’t for college graduates. My commencement speech is for junior high graduates – those entering into high school – and for any high school class, freshman, sophomore, juniors or seniors. So here goes:

Carl Nielson, Commencement Speech for Incoming Freshmen…in High School

http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net  http://www.nielsongroup.com  http://www.successdiscoveries.com
“Your past is a part of your future. Your first kiss (if that has happened already), your favorite book, favorite TV show, favorite movie. Your parents. Your teachers. All of this is going to impact your future. If it is a strong positive past, it will serve you well as a foundation for the future. If your past was less than ideal, it can serve you well as a motivator for creating that better future for yourself. Either way, the future is totally in your control – others do not have control of your future – only you do.

Even though you’ve taken several history classes already, you can only see and feel your own past clearly right now – your own past is like a drop of water in all the oceans of our great world. What that means is, don’t let your personal experiences overwhelm you. Don’t let your current self perception dictate what you do tomorrow. The majority of teenagers feel inadequate and insecure. Some show their insecurity through shyness. Others through egotistical behaviors. The insecurity comes partially from being intelligent and partially from giving too much power to the concern for others’ perceptions. The intelligent part refers to the fact that you recognize your current ignorance about yourself and the world around you – that’s smart. Giving too much power to others comes from a lack of self-confidence. A lack of self-confidence is coming from the fact that you haven’t walked through the fire much, say, relative to your parents. The more you do…that is, the more activities you engage in – especially outside your comfort zone, and the more you do for others, will give you fire-walking experiences…without much of the fire that can burn you. If you choose to disengage or to follow others rather than lead yourself, you’ll still get experiences. They will come along slower and they will probably include the kind of fire-walking that tends to burn.

Give yourself permission to study and enjoy history. To give you an idea of how important history is, place yourself into the future, let’s say about 30 years. Today becomes the past. Your entire high school experience is part of your past. Now let’s say you are extremely successful 30 years into the future. How did that happen? How did you become extremely successful? Was what you did in high school a part of why you are so successful 30 years out? Did any world events during your school years frame your thinking and shape your motivators? Now that you are successful, how do you define success?

As you emerge into adulthood, life experiences will be overwhelming at times. For some of you that time has already happened. You will continue to experience overwhelming events through your entire life. It isn’t a matter of “if” you have a hard life. You will have a hard life. The real question is “how will you lead your life?”. Will you see your life with happiness and gratitude? To answer the question for myself, my life has been a journey. Not an easy journey. I’ve come to realize that that isn’t good or bad. I’ve chosen my view of acceptance of life’s hard work and have developed an appreciation for myself and for so many people that have been in my life.

There was a time I thought I wasn’t too intelligent. It was during junior/senior high school. I learned many years later that I had many intelligences and in fact some were much higher than average. Instead of being egotistical about my abilities, I am humbled by my abilities. I also see everyone else with the same colored glasses…each of you are extremely talented and above average.  You see, I’ve been running a quasi-experiment for 30 years without really knowing it. In my work as a consultant to corporations, I help CEOs and managers select the best person for a particular job or position in those companies. In all of my work, I never measure IQ or “intelligence quotient” to  predict how well a particular candidate will perform. What I measure has more to do with something you already have right now. Your talent.

Your talents are already established. All you need to do is add a little ingredient called Life Skills and use your moral compass. Together, your talent and a solid foundation in specific life skills guided by a moral compass will take you to a successful future – I guarantee it! Don’t let anyone convince you that you aren’t smart enough. You are smart enough – regardless of your grades today. What will count most is that you find what excites you. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive. For success to find you requires finding what excites you. There are many paths. You will take several of them to find your success in life. You can do it by chance or you can take control. Either way you’ll get there. One path is much slower than the other path. But in the end it is your choice.”

In closing, remember the words stated by many including Drew Brees at the Loyola University New Orleans, 2010 Commencement: “Love what you do. You will know it when you find it. Enjoy the journey.” But be sure to include quality research at the beginning of your journey and you’ll find your journey to be awesome.” Link to Drew Brees’ speech: http://www.loyno.edu/news/story/2010/5/3/2115

I hope you found this entire article helpful including the links to the full commencement speeches. More 2010 commencement speeches are available at http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/03/commencement-graduation-speakers-2010-leadership-speech.html

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), an international corporate organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered. See what a real career coach looks like.

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

School Principal – Most Hated Profession?


The website About.com has a post to ask the question “why is school principal one of the most hated professions”? Is the school principal really hated? As the about.com article suggests, the school principal is like the CEO of the school. If a school principal did their job in a very respectable manner (highly effective communicator, consistently making good decisions, setting clear strategies and goals, supporting all stakeholders effectively) would they really be hated? Experience and research  in the work world suggests that someone in a job that can be “disliked for what it is” can actually change the perception, and in fact, not be hated. It is based on the person’s talents and how well they match to the job’s requirements.Teacher to School Principal - Should I or Should I Not?

The position of School Principal is ususally obtained through the teaching path. So which teachers make good Principals? Is it possible that there are some teachers that are not cut out to be teachers but could be great school principals? The two jobs are so different that it is very likely that a mediocre teacher can make a great school principal. However, there are certain personal leadership qualities that a teacher must have that will serve a person in the principal’s role. Without those, the person would fail in the principal’s role.

If you are a teacher or Principal of a school and want to assess your personal talent skills (no cost) please complete the information request form on our home page.  You may also e-mail directly to Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer, Success Discoveries. For the subject line, please reference: Personal Talent Skills for School Principal, skill assessment request.

Frontline Exposes Fraudulent Student Enrollment Practices


Frontline College Inc. Exposes Fraudulent PracticesThe award-winning PBS series Frontline has produced a program called College, Inc. that exposes the promises made and recruiting tactics used by for-profit schools to enroll students. If you, or your son/daughter, are being pressured by for-profit schools we recommend you watch the video. The program exposes extensive fraud associated with “career counseling”. There are employees with job titles that imply career counseling is what they do. These are sales people that have one objective – to sign up as many students as possible.

The issue has become so large that the U. S. Department of Education has become involved. Federal aid to for-profit colleges has become an issue as it has jumped to $26.5 billion in 2009 from $4.6 billion in 2000, according to the Education Department, prompting concern that these students are taking on too much debt (see Bloomberg Businessweek “Obama Plans New Rules as For-Profit Colleges Mobilize“). If the earning potential of graduates were high enough to pay back the loans within a reasonable time period, the issue wouldn’t be nearly as significant. However, these for-profit programs are not delivering on promises they make to students. They will say anything to enroll a student.

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered. See what a real career coach looks like.