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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!

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

      More About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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