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Where to After College? A Review of “How’d You Score THAT Gig?” by Alexandra Levit

Where to After College? A Review of “How’d You Score THAT Gig?” by Alexandra Levit

Where to After College?

    One of the few things scarier than going to college is graduating from college. Once you toss that mortarboard in the air, “real life” sets in: it’s time to get a job. Or better yet, to start a career.

    Therein lies the rub. For most college students, not only has there been little instruction  about how to start building a career, there’s also been little guidance about how to choose a career. Universities offer little in the way of self-examination with an eye towards what a student might want to do for the rest of his or her life — let alone whether he or she might actually be well-suited to it.

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    Score That Gig - Levit - cover

      That’s a shame, because it creates a kind of discontinuity between college and career that most students never bridge — leading to a rather detached attitude towards both. Into that gap steps career expert Alexandra Levit, author of How’d You Score That Gig: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs [And How To Get Them]. Levit has worked for years as a career consultant as the founder and president of Inspiration@Work, and Score That Gig brings that experience to bear on the question of how to find a career that best matches both your aptitudes and your personality.

      Levit works from the core idea that different jobs are best suited to different personality types. She outlines 7 broad character types in the book: Adventurers, Creators, Data Heads, Entrepreneurs, Investigators, Networkers, and Nurturers. What suits the detail-oriented Data Head, for example, might bore to death the fast-and-loose-playing Adventurer, while the Nurturer’s concern for others might not suit him or her to jobs that stress self-expression over attention to other people’s needs.

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      The book opens with a simple 20-question self-assessment quiz; at the end, categories that receive the most answer “points” are likely to be the ones you’d feel most comfortable in. Many people will fall into two or more categories; others, like myself, will strongly and clearly favor just one. Each personality type has its own chapter, with around 8 or so suggested careers, each featuring interviews with people who already have “that gig” — as well as a description of the background needed, resources both on and off the Web for finding more information and getting started, and information on how to start building a career in that area.

      Classify Me: What Gig Should Dustin Get?

      This is a book that’s meant to be used more than read, so use it I did. After taking the assessment exam, I discovered I am “The Investigator”.

      Investigators place a high value on learning (ok, I’m a college professor. Check!) and excel at research (yeah, I had to do a lot of research in grad school and was top of my Master’s class. Check!). According to Levit, Investigators are “happiest when they’re using their significant brain power [her words, not mine – but really, I am super-smart…] to pursue what they deem to be a worth endeavor” and therefore prefer work that makes a difference in other’s lives — which seem borne out by my choice of a career in education rather than, you know, something that pays.

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      Investigators aren’t fans of overly structured environments (I used to have panic attacks every Sunday night at the prospect of returning to work the next morning when I had a 9-5 job) and like to do things their own way. Finally, Levit says, Investigators are vigilant about keeping up with the latest developments in their fields — a demand well-suited to both my academic career and my other career as a Web worker.

      Of course, these kind of personality tests can be like horoscope signs — written broadly enough, everyone sees themselves in them. But in this case, Levit seems to be pretty close to the mark, at least so far as sussing out my personality is concerned. For further confirmation, let’s look at the kinds of careers she recommends for Investigators like me:

      • Antiques Dealer
      • Art Curator
      • Classic Car Restorer
      • Criminologist
      • Field Archaeologist
      • Forensic Scientist
      • Futurist
      • Historian
      • Psychology Lab Assistant

      Levit isn’t trying to be exhaustive here — instead, she’s presenting readers with a set of examples of cool jobs they might be comfortable doing. That said, it’s striking how closely this list matches up to my own work and academic history.
      True, I don’t have much interest in classic cars or antiques. But everything else here is pretty close. I’m a trained anthropologist, which in the US encompasses human biology (which is why a lot of criminologists and forensic specialists study anthropology — and a lot of anthropologists become forensic scientists), archaeology, human culture and history, and linguistics. My particular specialty is history of anthropology, particularly the career of an anthropologist who, among other things, organized a huge futurist conference in the mid-70s.

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      OK, how weird is all that?

      In short, if I had read How’d You Score That Gig? as a college student, the recommendation would have been pretty much spot-on — Levit would have told me to do basically what I’m doing today. This bodes pretty well for college-age readers looking for some kind of direction in their lives — and for other adults who might have lost their direction for one reason or another.

      Final verdict: This is a quite helpful guide to careers for the undecided or faltering. Keep in mind that unless you’re intensely curious, or maybe you’re a nurturer who wants to share Levit’s insight with everyone, you probably won’t be reading it straight through — this isn’t a book you have to finish to get your money’s worth! The self-assessment test is well-designed — a lot of tests like this make it clear what the answer “should” be to create a particular outcome, and Levit’s avoided most of those pitfalls. If you or someone you know is trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their life, pick up a copy of How’d You Score That Gig — you’re bound to find something you might have never thought of!

      More by this author

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

      This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

      The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

      The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

      Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

      Curiosity

      Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

      People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

      Patience

      Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

      When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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      Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

      A Feeling for Connectedness

      This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

      A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

      The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

      How to Self-Taught Effectively

      With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

      1. Research

      Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

      Learning the Basics

      Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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      Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

      What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

      Hitting the Books

      Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

      Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

      Long-Term Reference

      While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

      My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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      2. Practice

      Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

      A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

      Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

      Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

      3. Network

      One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

      These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

      Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

      Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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      4. Schedule

      For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

      Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

      Final Thoughts

      In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

      If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

      At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

      More About Self-Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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