Career Genius: Your July Guide to Slaying It at Work
Your future income growth can be planned for, but it’s not assured
Plan B: How to choose a new field
If that career in clock repair or community theater isn’t providing the remuneration you were hoping for, how do you pick a new field? The key is to consider not just a new job, but also how job advancement would play out in your city over the next decade. Especially for you, since you probably didn’t do that the first time around.
Think of a job you’re considering, and ask yourself: Ten years down the line, after I’ve been promoted a few times and burned some bridges, what jobs and incomes will be available to me nearby?
For example, of the top 10 growing jobs in America, six are in healthcare, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: nurse practitioner ($111,680), occupational therapy assistant ($62,940), physical therapy assistant ($59,770), medical and health services manager ($104,280), physician assistant ($115,390) and home health aide ($27,080 — a friendly side hustle for many healthcare students). So the field is obviously booming, but how would you choose which is best?
—Opt for a job that easily upgrades with education. An assistant occupational therapist or assistant physical therapist can pop back into night school to become a full-fledged occupational therapist or physical therapist. But a massage therapist (America’s 28th fastest-growing job)? Not so much.
—Pick a locally in-demand path. Yes, your town may have a bunch of wind turbines that need technicians (this is, in fact, the country’s fastest-growing job), but after a few years you’ll likely be hanging out in the wind, with few local job openings for wind turbine managers, and even fewer for wind turbine executives. You want options now and later.
—Specialize broadly. A pediatric nurse practitioner seems like an excellent, high-paying job — and it is. But, in most small-to-midsize cities, jobs are mostly limited to gigs at a few pediatricians’ offices and local hospitals, predominantly 9-to-5, with swiftly narrowing opportunities to rise up the ladder. But an adult nurse practitioner? Tenfold more options, as well as numerous potential managerial and administrative positions, many with flexibility or off-hours options.
—Do your homework before going to school. While the field of healthcare is bustling, lots of healthcare education programs will leave you hopelessly in debt and underemployed. Allied healthcare jobs are a great example. While some associate degree programs are stellar, spiking graduates’ incomes, hundreds of programs produce students whose student loan balances increase three years after graduation. You can see a graph of that here.
You want plentiful opportunities no matter how many times you fall out with a boss, and which ways the economic winds blow. If your research reveals too few good opportunities locally, read my colleague Dee Gill’s three-parter on how to make new friendships, create an active social life and build your financial security in your new town.
Your 24-hour focus buddy
Next time you have trouble staying on task — or even starting the task — consider Focusmate.com, a round-the-clock virtual work buddies site. It’s nearly a public service for procrastinators. Any time day or night, you can log in and be paired with a stranger somewhere in the world who also wants to get $*@# done. No, it’s not creepy — creepers are not attracted to Focusmate. You say hello, state what you’re going to accomplish, then mute yourself (camera on) as you toil for 50 minutes. At the end, you share your accomplishments.
It’s surprisingly effective, and popular among graduate students, lawyers and ADD types. Pro tip: Book a morning session to get yourself out of bed and working — because you might hit snooze on yourself, but you would never stand up your focus buddy, right? Pricing: Three times per week free, or unlimited for $5/month.
No, your salary will not rise forever
Sorry to burst your bubble, but capitalism doesn’t pay people more just because their hair grays. For college-educated women, pay growth stops on average at age 44, and 55 for college-educated men, according to data from Payscale. But the youth of America are not aware of this. A recent survey of college students showed that most “believe that their earnings would grow rapidly as they aged.” Rapidly! Ha, that’s funny.
If you’d like to avoid this plateauing, a smart study from a Harvard economist finds that upon middle age, the workers whose incomes grow are in roles with decision-making power, either overseeing products or other people. Nearly everyone else’s incomes flatline. So save accordingly.
Screens are not causing humans’ continued stupidity at work
According to a new article in Nature Human Behaviour, there is no evidence that phones and laptops are making people dumber on the job. A team of psychologists says that digital technologies do often redirect how cognition is used, typically freeing up brain space to think about something else. For example, rather than calculating product sales, a manager presses a button to see what sold where — and then engages their cognitive abilities on increasing those sales.
“You put all this technology together with a naked human brain and you get something that’s smarter,” says co-author Anthony Chemero, a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. “And the result is that we, supplemented by our technology, are actually capable of accomplishing much more complex tasks than we could with our biological abilities.”
Planty: The must-have desk friend to make you grin
Did you know that you can order plants by mail? You can. A winning desk buddy is the Calathea Rattlesnake ($47 at The Sill), whose purple and green spotted leaves move day and night, and not subtly. Your plant will be in a different position each time you return to your desk, like a little waving friend.
There’s also the Xerographica Air Plant ($20 at The Sill), which doesn’t need soil, so you stash it in a nook where a pot wouldn’t fit. And the Moss Ball ($5 at The Sill), the workerbee’s answer to goldfish, which is not moss at all, but a green algae colony that happily grows in a transparent glass bowl while you type.