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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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      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      No!

      It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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      But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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      What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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      But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

      1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
      2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
      3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
      4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
      5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
      6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
      7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
      8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
      9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
      10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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