Career Coaching & Counseling Articles
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By Sharon Wiatt Jones
What life science majors give you the best return on your investment of tuition, time, and hard work? You have heard the media horror stories of unemployed and underemployed college graduates. They live in their parent’s basement until their late 20’s (or longer), balancing two or three part-time jobs--without benefits--while college loan payments mount. How can you increase your odds for a more promising future?
PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL: TO GO OR NOT TO GO Biology is one of the most popular majors chosen by students, many of whom plan to attend medical school. If you have second thoughts, you are not alone. About 65% of pre-med students change their minds by senior year. (By the way, a GPA less than 3.6 is considered merely "average" for a medical school applicant. MCAT scores and diversity considerations are also important factors.) You will find intense competition for acceptance to medical school. If admitted, you will face lengthy science, internship and residency training and educational debt that averages $161,298. If you are interested in dental and veterinary school, even fewer spaces are available. Although shorter in duration, dental school debt is estimated at $160,000-175,000 and veterinary school $125,000. The opportunity cost of foregone salary during years of professional school would add to your financial sacrifice. The recent change to healthcare funding is projected to decrease the income potential of physicians.
BETTER THAN BIOLOGY: BENEFITS OF OTHER MAJORS After working with college students for 20 years, I have discovered that many biology majors are disappointed with their prospects. They don’t want--or can’t find--a laboratory technician job. Technical sales, customer service, and other positions are not always appealing options. Allied health and science teaching positions require several years of prerequisites and education for a second major or bachelor’s degree. You may decide that it’s time for a pivot, a change in direction. Improve your odds of a good salary, plentiful job openings, and advancement opportunities by developing high demand skills.
EMERGING CAREERS Biotechnology and healthcare will be the source of many emerging occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*Net). Some examples relevant to life sciences are listed below:
Bioinformatics scientist and technician
Clinical data manager and researcher
Molecular and cellular biologist
Regulatory affairs manager and specialist
These occupations are projected to grow the fastest over the next decade: Biomedical engineer (61.7%); Clinical research associate (36.4%); Biochemist/biophysicist (31%).
MEDIAN STARTING PAY PayScale compared 120 college majors for median starting and mid-career salary, with the most lucrative in engineering, computer science, physics and applied math (statistics, actuarial). Here is a list of majors that might interest you: Biomedical engineering ($54,900); Nursing ($54,100); Occupational Safety & Health ($49,600); Medical technology ($49,600); Food Science ($44,000); Biochemistry ($43,200); Biotechnology ($41,400); Molecular Biology ($40,100); Biology ($39,100). Among the majors above, those with the lowest long-term potential salary are biology and nursing. The highest are biomedical engineering ($98,200), biochemistry ($87,500), molecular biology ($84,900), biotechnology (82,800), and food science ($81,100).
EMERGING MAJORS OF THE FUTURE Not available at all colleges, these are some majors of the future: Biology plus a quantitative discipline (e.g. biostatistics, biomathematics, computational biology, or bioinformatics); Genetics; Nanotechnology; Forensic science; Health informatics; Neuroscience.
Part II will provide details about how to enhance your prospects for a bright future related to life science. What careers would you like to learn more about?
By Cynthia Kivland
After researching very smart people and high achievers for the past ten years, Cynthia Kivland discusses the SMARTER emotional intelligence skills every employer wants and every employee needs (https://www.createspace.com/4067354). What would you add to the list? How do you integrate emotional intelligence into career development? To read a full transcript of the interview, click http://smart2smarter.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Interview-Transcripts-201208-CynthiaKivland1.pdf.
Workplace attractiveness is an optimistic attitude or a positive emotion an individual has towards an organization (Aiman-Smith et al. 2001). The attraction process involves a job seeker’s estimate of how well they “feel” their personal needs and values fit the organization’s culture. Gaining an understanding of the factors that can impact the attraction phase of this cycle is critical for workplaces who wish to attract the most qualified applicant pool possible. Recent research indicates workplaces that are perceived as “civil” not only attract more qualified candidates, these candidates tend to stay with the organization longer and perform higher levels.
By Joan Runnheim Olson
According to Catalyst (http://www.catalyst.org/publication/271/women-ceos-of-the-fortune-1000), the leading nonprofit organization expanding opportunities for women and business, "Women currently hold 3.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 4.0 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions." What accounts for the low number of women in high-ranking positions and what steps can be done to help increase the number of women in leadership positions?
Gender Stereotypes Stereotypes still exist as far as how females and males “should” act. Females are expected to be the quiet and nurturing “type,” while males are seen as the strong, take charge gender. These stereotypes can greatly impact whether a female pursues a leadership role from as early as elementary school and continues throughout their career. According to a study referred to in an article, (http://www.theglasshammer.com/news/2012/02/03/why-girls-need-mentors/) Why Girls Need Mentors, published in The Glass Hammer, “nearly 40% of girls said they have been laughed at or put down for “being bossy” when trying to lead.” The study goes on to say that, “This is a reminder of the reality that many women face in the workforce – walking the fine line between being liked and being a leader.“
Leadership Development Girls can start developing their leadership skills early in life, beginning with an organization such as Girl Scouts, which helps girls build courage, confidence, and character. Throughout school, girls can join and participate in career and technical student organizations (CTSO's) such as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). These organizations offer competitive events and opportunities to participate in leadership roles. Counselors, educators, and parents can help girls and young women find a female leader to act as a mentor. Having "been there, done that," a mentor can help shorten the learning curve by offering tips for success and share how to avoid roadblocks. Educators can invite local high-profile female executives to talk to female students about their career experience. Seeing and hearing someone of their gender share their career path will help them see that it is possible for them to be a leader also.
Actress Geena Davis is pioneering an effort to change female portrayals and gender stereotypes in children’s media and entertainment. In 2004, the Academy Award winning actor and advocate founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media (www.seejane.org/index.php) to “spotlight gender inequalities at every media and entertainment company through cutting-edge research, education, training, strategic guidance and advocacy programs.”
Gender Stereotyping. Just take a look at television commercials and you see the prevalence of gender stereotyping. Women are portrayed as the primary caretakers for their children and those responsible for housekeeping duties. Men appear in commercials depicting them doing “manly” duties such as lawn care and auto maintenance. And then there are the beer commercials. Men are typically featured in commercials involving alcoholic beverages, and when women do appear they are often dressed scantily. According to research on the Institute’s website (http://www.seejane.org/research/), “Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire.” The media also limits what girls and young women see as future career possibilities for themselves.
Why Should it Matter? Because a female is “conditioned” by what she sees in the media, if she sees someone that looks like herself doing something traditionally done by males, i.e., working on a car or mowing the lawn, she is more likely to see herself doing that as well. Taken a step further, if a female sees another female working in a nontraditional career, i.e., male-dominated, she is more likely to consider a career that is nontraditional. These nontraditional careers include architect, engineer, carpenter, etc. and typically pay 20-30 percent higher wages than those traditionally held by women. It's important for females to base their career choice on interest and aptitude not gender stereotypes.
Teaching continues to be a female-dominated career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 2 percent of pre-K and kindergarten teachers and 18 percent of elementary and middle-school teachers are men. In secondary school, however, 42 percent of teachers are men. Why are so few men in teaching, especially at the lower levels?
Reasons Males Don't Consider Teaching. According to a blog post in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-brown/why-so-few-male-teachers-_b_87562.html) "research suggests three key reasons for the shortage of male teachers: low status and pay, the perception that teaching is "women's work," and the fear of accusation of child abuse." Many men who do become teachers drop out because "of worries that innocuous contact with students could be misconstrued, reports the NEA." Because of the gender stereotype that males are supposed to be the "breadwinner," males often don't consider teaching as a viable career option, due to relatively low salaries as compared to salaries for male-dominated careers. And, males who do choose the teaching profession are often promoted to administrative positions, and at a faster rate than their female counterparts. This phenomenon is known as the "glass escalator" effect.
Why are Male Teachers Important? Having divorced parents and/or being raised solely by their mother or other female figure, boys may lack a male role model in their life. Studies show that boys benefit from a male role model in the classroom. According to a recent article, "As Stanford University Professor Thomas Dee has documented, in a study of more than 20,000 middle-school students, boys perform better when they have a male teacher...."
Increase Recruitment Efforts. So what can be done to move more males into teaching? An increased effort in recruitment efforts can help. The number one recruitment technique to encourage boys to consider a nontraditional career is using role models. Males need to see someone that looks like them teaching. MenTeach (http://www.menteach.org/resources/financial_resources_for_teaching) is a program that offers scholarships to males who want to pursue a teaching career. Scholarships can provide an incentive to students and parents when considering career options. An innovative program designed to increase the number of male teachers is Troops to Teachers (http://www.proudtoserveagain.com/index.html). This program was developed by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense program and helps eligible military personnel begin a new career as teachers in public schools.
Counselors play a critical role in steering students in class selection, and ultimately career choice. Gender stereotypes may result in an unknowing bias when providing guidance to students. What can be done to increase counselor's awareness of nontraditional careers for females, including those in science, technology, engineering, and math?
Gender Stereotypes. Gender stereotypes begin at birth when girls are dressed in pink, boys in blue. Girls are given dolls with which to play and boys are given trucks. Parents often assign stereotypical chores to their daughters and sons, with girls often washing dishes and cleaning house and boys mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage. In school, females are often guided to choose classes that are traditional for their gender and careers considered "pink-collar," those in the service or helping fields. While a traditional career may be a good fit for some females, it's important for them to be aware of all of their career options.
Setting a Goal. The Computer Networking and Technology (CNIT) department at the City College of San Francisco was able to increase the percentage of women in their classes from 19% to 35%. One strategy this college used was making a presentation to the counseling department about the CNIT program and other related careers and making the counselors aware that it was a key goal of their department to increase the number of female students.
Recruiting through Marketing Materials. The counselors were provided with marketing collateral featuring women in CNIT, which included brochures, posters, and flyers displayed throughout the college's multiple campuses. This marketing approach combined with sharing a key goal with counselors resulted in a 16% increase in the number of females in classes in the CNIT department. Counselors can provide a pipeline for female students. (http://www.vsgc.odu.edu/publications/gfb.pdf)
Assess yourself and your school for gender equity. Whether you are working with female students in an educational setting or working with clients in helping them explore career choices, be sure not to eliminate nontraditional career options.
In the 2012 Olympics, 269 American women and 261 men are competing in London. This is the first time more women than men are competing. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX. In 1972, fewer than 30,000 females participated in sports and recreational programs at NCAA member institutions nationwide. Today that number has increased six-fold. At the high school level, participation by girls in athletics has increased ten-fold. Title IX was passed by Congress in an effort to help women achieve a better economic future through education, and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
While we do have more female doctors, lawyers, and athletes, women still remain clustered in educational programs that prepare them for "pink collar" careers, i.e., low-wage careers in the helping or service fields. Nontraditional careers for women typically pay higher wages, oftentimes 20 to 30 percent or more than the traditional female careers. Why then don't more women consider a nontraditional career? One reason females don't consider a nontraditional career is because of the lack of female role models. Females need to see women who look like themselves doing work in a male-dominated field. Below are strategies secondary and post-secondary educators, counselors, career center staff, and recruiters can use to increase enrollment in classes/programs that prepare females for nontraditional careers:
1) Invite females who work in nontraditional careers to speak at high school enrollment or at a career open house. Reach out to women who work as firefighters, welders, carpenters, architects, pilots, etc. Ask them to share what they like about their careers and what challenges they face.
2) Include photos of females working in nontraditional careers in promotional materials, e.g., brochures, flyers, banners, school newspaper articles.
3) Bring students to a local business that employs women in a nontraditional career so they can see first-hand women performing that type of work.
The above strategies are designed to help females become aware of all of their career options, not just the ones typically held by women. If you don't work in an educational institution, perhaps you are a parent or an aunt or uncle? Encourage your child or niece to explore a nontraditional career.
I recently had the pleasure to speak at the Florida FFA State Convention & Leadership Conference. It was exciting to see so many young students walking around proudly in their blue jackets. My presentations were delivered to agriculture teachers/FFA advisors, with whom I shared strategies on increasing recruitment and retention of females in classes that prepare them for careers in agriculture, which are predominantly male-dominated. Before my presentation I asked one participant, who I'll call Ted, how often he's attended this convention. Ted proceeded to pull out a newspaper clipping dating back to 1969. The article included a photo of him with a fellow classmate at the FFA State Convention that year. That had been the last (and first) time he had attended the convention. Ted then went on to tell me that was the same year that the FFA started to accept females into the program. He did admit he was initially against the idea. When asked why, he responded that he didn't think girls were cut out for careers in agriculture. Ted has since shifted his mindset, recognizing that females have proven they can "do the work" in ag classes and successfully fulfilling leadership roles within FFA. Although he dabbled in ag throughout his life by raising beef cattle, his full-time career was in law enforcement as a police officer, another male-dominated career. When he started out as a police officer, Ted didn't feel women belonged. He saw a man's role as that of a protector. Once he witnessed women "proving" they could do the job, he changed that belief too. Hearing Ted's story and stories from other women working in male-dominated careers, a common thread seems to be that once women "prove" themselves, they are often accepted. The thread between what is considered "women's work" and "men's work" is continuing to slowly unravel.
Casey started out with a career as a biologist. After 10 years spent conducting environmental field research, he married and started a family. With seasonal work the norm for this line of work, Casey needed to explore other career options which would allow him to help support his family and that wouldn’t require a huge time or financial investment. He found a nursing program that would pay for his schooling, providing he committed to working in a geographic area with a shortage of registered nurses. Concerned with how he would be accepted by his female counterparts, Casey’s friends were somewhat apprehensive of him pursuing a nontraditional career. As one of only two males in his program, he didn’t face the challenges many women, and some men, in a similar situation face. The other male student in the nursing program did encounter some problems, but Casey attributed that to the student’s macho behavior.
Stereotypes of what’s considered “women’s work” are still entrenched in our society. Casey gained first-hand experience of gender stereotypes. Many of the older female patients assume he is the doctor. Being more modest, many of these same women request a female nurse for many of their intimate medical procedures. When this happens, Casey and his colleagues trade certain procedures for some of their patients.
Casey attributes his success in a female-dominated environment to being respectful of his female colleagues. Based on his experience, he recommends that males not go in and throw their weight around. After three years of working as an emergency room nurse, Casey really enjoys his career choice. “I receive instant gratification,” he remarks. “I see miracles on a daily basis.
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