Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Seasonal Rhythms in the Workplace

I find this time of year a little depressing. Some of this malaise is because now is back-to-school season, and I never liked school (until I got to college). But I think a large share of my seasonal discontent stems from growing up in a beach town that effectively died each year at the end of summer. Although I didn’t think about it while I was growing up, I’m sure now that a lot of jobs also died each year when the beaches closed down. But seasonal employment is not restricted to beach towns and the summer jobs found there. You may be surprised at how many different seasons our economy experiences and the jobs that wax and wane with these seasons.

In the days when the economy was primarily agricultural, almost everybody was a seasonal worker. But even though nowadays farming employs a much smaller workforce, agriculture indirectly creates other seasonal job opportunities. In the apple-orchard hills of central Pennsylvania where my wife grew up, the canning plants still take on extra workers each autumn. Compared to most sectors of the manufacturing industry, food processing is much less threatened by foreign competition, so its seasonal rhythms will continue to affect employment patterns in agricultural regions for the foreseeable future.

In the retail industry, the main seasonal phenomenon is Christmas, of course. The December uptick in retail traffic creates opportunities for more than just those who directly handle merchandise, such as sales clerks and warehouse workers. It also creates jobs for security guards and loss-prevention officers, plus the workers at the food courts in shopping malls. Internet shopping has reduced some of the hurly-burly at retail stores, but it has created many seasonal jobs for package deliverers and order fillers.

Winter also gives a lift to the economy in tropical beach towns, on cruise ships, and near ski slopes. In northern states, snow removal provides many seasonal work hours. Furnaces are running more hours of the day and are inevitably breaking down and needing service by mechanics. Hospital emergency rooms typically are busiest at this time of year, treating people for flu, asthma attacks, and broken bones caused by slips and falls.

Accountants, financial clerks, and tax preparers get particularly busy in the winter and early spring, as tax documents need to be prepared and filed at this time of year. As spring progresses, nursery and greenhouse workers work extra hours to raise young plants for summer gardens.

Summer creates jobs not only in beach towns like my birthplace, but also in and around national parks and at lake resorts. Amusement parks and traveling carnivals take on workers. (It’s interesting that in Spain and some other warm-weather countries, the time and place for carnival rides is the Christmas season in shopping districts; one parent puts the children on rides while the other parent is shopping for presents.)

Some workers are able to shift from one job to another as the seasons change. For example, in my hometown a music teacher and a math teacher used their summers away from the classroom to run a miniature golf course on the Boardwalk. One of the English teachers worked at a soft ice cream stand near the beach.

In some occupations, the workers are employed year-round but are engaged in very different tasks according to the season. I once had a neighbor whose business consisted of painting stripes on parking lots. In the summer he was busy laying down white and yellow stripes, but in the winter he was lining up next summer’s clients and submitting designs. Many other businesses in the construction industry follow a similar rhythm.

Many of the job I have mentioned here provide opportunities for young people, especially during the summer vacation from school. On the other hand, as baby boomers get closer to retirement, seasonal jobs may provide opportunities for them to shift from year-round work to a schedule that is less continuously demanding.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Workplace Success for Introverts

In last week’s blog, I presented an updated list of the best jobs for introverts. (“Best” means those occupations [a] not requiring a large amount of social contact and interruptions and that [b] also have the highest economic rewards.) I felt the need to update this list because my YouTube video about this subject has drawn more than 40,000 views since I first posted it, plus many comments.

Many of the comments on the video were by introverted people who feel discouraged by their workplace experiences. For example, one wrote, “I applied for a job at Macy’s and Nordstrom, and they both give personality tests designed to SPECIFICALLY weed out the introvert! I was able to beat the test because I knew what they were doing, but still, you’d think they would want to weed out some ex-cons, child molesters, undercover terrorists...but noooo, they want to get those strange ‘introverts’ before we even make it to the interview!”

One of the reasons I wrote 200 Best Jobs for Introverts was to suggest strategies that introverted people can use to succeed in a workplace that often does not feel welcoming. Here are some to consider.

Try to negotiate arrangements with co-workers so that you’ll have times when you’re not interrupted except for emergencies. Perhaps you can get your boss to allow you to work at home for one or more days in the week. But in any such arrangement, accept the fact that at other times, when you are easy to access, you will have to make accommodations for people who interrupt your work. In meetings, ask for ground rules that allow everyone to be heard and try to schedule time-outs that will allow you to gather your thoughts.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is not doing the job well, but getting the job. The most effective way of finding a job—networking—is a technique that introverts may resist using because it involves so much social contact. Introverts can network successfully by concentrating on the strengths that they bring to the task: their understanding of themselves, their ability to articulate their skills, and their ability to cultivate relationships over time.

Finding a job opening is only half the battle; you still need to convince the employer to hire you. Introverts may be highly effective at crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, but they run the risk of being misunderstood in job interviews, especially if the person interviewing them is an extrovert. The interviewer may perceive them as “guarded,” “reserved,” “standoffish,” “private,” or “too serious.”

Again, you can compensate by using your strengths, especially your ability to prepare for the interview. Apply your research skills and do a thorough job of finding out whatever you can about the employer—and, if possible, the interviewer. Jot down some notes that will suggest intelligent questions you can ask about the business and your future role there. Assemble a portfolio that will provide examples of your best work. Your thorough knowledge of the business, your pointed questions, and your specific examples of your work will help dispel the notion that you are “aloof.”

You should also apply your strengths to the question of choosing a career goal. Remember that research in books or on the Web is not thorough enough for a decision of this importance. When you have identified a job that looks promising, you should visit a workplace and observe the workers, their tasks, and their surroundings. Prepare some questions to ask workers or the people who educate and train workers. They probably won’t mind if—in true introverted style—you cut through the chit-chat and move quickly to your specific questions. You’ll save them time from their workday and you’ll find out what you need to know about the job.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

200 Best Jobs for Introverts, Updated


The best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, has raised people’s awareness of introversion. Although I have not achieved a similar level of success with my 2008 book 200 Best Jobs for Introverts, the video in which I discuss this book has received 48,000 hits to date and lots of comments. With the passage of time, some of the facts in the video have gone out of date, so I thought it would be helpful to create an updated list of 200 best jobs for introverts.

To create this list, I followed a procedure similar to what I used for the book. Using the latest edition of the O*NET database (release 17), I found the ratings for the work value Independence (which is defined as doing the work alone) and for three work context descriptors: Contact with Others, Face-to-Face Discussions, and Work With Group or Team. All of these descriptors are rated on a scale from 1 to 5. For the three work context descriptors, I subtracted the rating from 5 and thus created a rating for the lack of the feature. For an overall introversion rating, I calculated the average of the four ratings. Then I ranked the 605 occupations for which I had introversion ratings and discarded the lowest-ranked half.

Next, I removed 24 occupations with median annual earnings of less than $22,380; three-quarters of salaried workers earn more than that. I removed another 24 occupations because the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that they will shrink in size from 2010–20 and create fewer than 500 job openings per year. Two more occupations had to go because they lacked annual earnings figures.

At this point, 251 occupations remained on my list. I sorted these three times, based on these major criteria: median annual earnings, projected growth through 2020, and number of job openings projected per year. I then added the three numerical rankings for each job to calculate its overall score. To emphasize jobs that tend to pay more, are likely to grow more rapidly, and have more job openings, I selected the 200 job titles with the best total overall scores.

Here’s the list. The earnings figure represents the medians for May 2011. The growth percentage is projected for the years 2010–20. The job openings number is the average annual number of openings projected for the same period.


Title
Earnings
Growth
Openings
1.
Personal Financial Advisors
$66,580
32.1%
 9,020
2.
Financial Analysts
$75,650
23.0%
 10,420
3.
Cost Estimators
$58,460
36.4%
 10,300
4.
Electricians
$49,320
23.2%
 28,920
5.
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
$43,380
33.7%
 13,760
6.
Accountants and Auditors
$62,850
15.7%
 45,210
7.
Brickmasons and Blockmasons
$46,800
40.5%
 5,450
8.
Actuaries
$91,060
26.7%
 1,890
9.
Industrial Machinery Mechanics
$46,270
21.6%
 11,710
10.
Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
$41,510
23.5%
 16,280
11.
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health
$62,920
18.7%
 4,320
12.
Lawyers
$113,310
10.1%
 21,200
13.
Commercial Pilots
$70,000
21.2%
 1,930
14.
Construction and Building Inspectors
$53,180
17.9%
 4,860
15.
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
$84,470
21.2%
 1,710
16.
Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
$37,930
20.6%
 64,940
17.
Biochemists and Biophysicists
$79,230
30.8%
 1,340
18.
Credit Analysts
$60,730
19.7%
 2,590
19.
Medical Equipment Repairers
$44,870
31.5%
 2,230
20.
Operations Research Analysts
$71,950
14.6%
 3,000
21.
Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers, Except Line Installers
$53,960
14.6%
 5,930
22.
Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers
$35,600
34.6%
 7,290
23.
Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Except Engines
$45,600
16.2%
 5,250
24.
Sheet Metal Workers
$42,730
17.5%
 4,700
25.
Technical Writers
$64,610
17.2%
 1,830
26.
Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers
$51,720
13.6%
 5,140
27.
Automotive Body and Related Repairers
$38,180
18.4%
 6,520
28.
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
$36,180
17.2%
 31,170
29.
Graphic Designers
$44,010
13.4%
 12,380
30.
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, Including Health
$42,270
23.6%
 1,950
31.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
$57,010
11.3%
 5,210
32.
Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists
$41,640
14.5%
 8,780
33.
Painters, Construction and Maintenance
$35,430
18.5%
 15,730
34.
Statisticians
$73,880
14.1%
 1,870
35.
Tapers
$44,910
34.7%
 1,430
36.
Tile and Marble Setters
$37,080
25.4%
 2,770
37.
Boilermakers
$56,910
21.3%
 1,180
38.
Billing and Posting Clerks
$32,880
19.7%
 18,760
39.
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers
$35,920
15.0%
 14,070
40.
Hazardous Materials Removal Workers
$38,120
23.1%
 1,890
41.
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
$33,310
21.0%
 7,370
42.
Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks
$37,160
14.6%
 6,570
43.
Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic
$35,220
19.2%
 4,780
44.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
$36,950
14.7%
 5,510
45.
Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers
$37,990
48.6%
 1,320
46.
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
$34,740
13.6%
 46,780
47.
Pest Control Workers
$30,220
26.1%
 4,850
48.
Excavating and Loading Machine and Dragline Operators
$37,380
17.3%
 2,890
49.
Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity
$35,720
14.8%
 6,350
50.
Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors
$32,280
20.2%
 6,970
51.
Physicists
$106,360
14.2%
 800
52.
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
$55,970
22.2%
 610
53.
Ship Engineers
$70,840
18.0%
 620
54.
Music Directors and Composers
$47,410
10.2%
 3,220
55.
Transportation Inspectors
$62,230
14.4%
 1,070
56.
Biological Technicians
$39,480
13.5%
 3,790
57.
Geographers
$74,760
35.4%
 130
58.
Paving, Surfacing, and Tamping Equipment Operators
$35,270
22.1%
 2,200
59.
Surveying and Mapping Technicians
$39,350
15.9%
 2,000
60.
Writers and Authors
$55,870
6.5%
 4,760
61.
Machinists
$39,220
8.5%
 9,950
62.
Mechanical Drafters
$49,200
11.1%
 2,050
63.
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians
$54,590
6.3%
 4,520
64.
Audio and Video Equipment Technicians
$41,630
13.4%
 2,560
65.
Insurance Underwriters
$60,830
5.9%
 3,910
66.
Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers
$23,410
20.9%
 44,440
67.
Hydrologists
$75,680
17.8%
 360
68.
Rail Car Repairers
$47,740
16.9%
 930
69.
Helpers—Carpenters
$26,400
55.7%
 3,820
70.
Stonemasons
$36,640
36.5%
 890
71.
Epidemiologists
$64,220
23.6%
 150
72.
Anthropologists and Archeologists
$56,070
20.7%
 380
73.
Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers
$29,080
14.7%
 29,590
74.
Parts Salespersons
$29,350
16.0%
 10,720
75.
Chemists
$69,760
3.8%
 2,990
76.
Social Science Research Assistants
$38,800
15.0%
 1,700
77.
Elevator Installers and Repairers
$75,060
11.3%
 820
78.
Marine Engineers and Naval Architects
$84,850
17.5%
 230
79.
Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters
$35,170
15.7%
 2,830
80.
Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents
$50,130
7.3%
 2,300
81.
Microbiologists
$65,230
13.3%
 720
82.
Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers
$46,210
14.3%
 1,220
83.
Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate
$48,870
7.4%
 2,220
84.
Radio, Cellular, and Tower Equipment Installers and Repairers
$42,160
29.4%
 450
85.
Mathematicians
$101,040
15.7%
 230
86.
Soil and Plant Scientists
$58,940
12.1%
 860
87.
Pile-Driver Operators
$45,500
36.0%
 230
88.
Sociologists
$73,670
18.1%
 180
89.
Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters
$30,530
16.8%
 4,020
90.
Postal Service Mail Carriers
$55,160
–12.0%
 10,340
91.
Materials Engineers
$84,550
8.7%
 810
92.
Insulation Workers, Floor, Ceiling, and Wall
$32,420
23.4%
 1,460
93.
Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs
$22,760
19.6%
 7,670
94.
Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers
$34,040
8.0%
 12,390
95.
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
$60,440
15.5%
 320
96.
Coin, Vending, and Amusement Machine Servicers and Repairers
$30,820
22.1%
 1,630
97.
Motorboat Mechanics and Service Technicians
$35,520
20.6%
 960
98.
Fence Erectors
$29,580
23.8%
 1,640
99.
Court Reporters
$48,530
14.1%
 640
100.
Locksmiths and Safe Repairers
$36,680
17.7%
 930
101.
Mechanical Door Repairers
$36,640
24.6%
 550
102.
Bus Drivers, School or Special Client
$28,110
12.0%
 14,450
103.
Tire Repairers and Changers
$23,440
18.5%
 4,390
104.
Sawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Wood
$26,220
24.7%
 1,810
105.
Legal Secretaries
$42,460
3.5%
 3,940
106.
Materials Scientists
$84,600
10.2%
 370
107.
Computer, Automated Teller, and Office Machine Repairers
$36,360
6.5%
 4,540
108.
Motorcycle Mechanics
$32,410
23.6%
 890
109.
Demonstrators and Product Promoters
$23,770
17.5%
 4,210
110.
Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers
$22,720
15.5%
 7,400
111.
Painters, Transportation Equipment
$39,600
9.4%
 1,430
112.
Architectural and Civil Drafters
$47,250
3.2%
 2,090
113.
Food Scientists and Technologists
$58,340
8.0%
 680
114.
Atmospheric and Space Scientists
$89,790
10.6%
 210
115.
Medical Equipment Preparers
$30,050
17.5%
 1,620
116.
Carpet Installers
$36,750
10.4%
 1,520
117.
Outdoor Power Equipment and Other Small Engine Mechanics
$30,200
19.1%
 1,350
118.
Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators
$53,070
6.2%
 1,060
119.
Woodworking Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Except Sawing
$27,090
20.2%
 1,740
120.
Metal-Refining Furnace Operators and Tenders
$38,680
16.3%
 550
121.
Economists
$90,550
6.1%
 580
122.
Astronomers
$95,500
11.0%
 90
123.
Electronic Home Entertainment Equipment Installers and Repairers
$34,470
13.9%
 1,410
124.
Political Scientists
$103,860
7.9%
 280
125.
Earth Drillers, Except Oil and Gas
$40,200
13.8%
 620
126.
Animal Scientists
$61,230
12.8%
 180
127.
Maintenance Workers, Machinery
$39,490
6.5%
 1,740
128.
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipment
$52,320
1.1%
 1,770
129.
Photographers
$28,860
12.5%
 3,100
130.
Recreational Vehicle Service Technicians
$34,000
22.3%
 480
131.
Subway and Streetcar Operators
$63,820
9.8%
 280
132.
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay
$67,450
4.9%
 690
133.
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
$57,420
7.4%
 590
134.
Chemical Technicians
$42,070
6.7%
 1,290
135.
Driver/Sales Workers
$22,770
10.3%
 12,290
136.
Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic
$45,890
10.8%
 490
137.
Farm Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians
$34,230
13.4%
 1,290
138.
Mail Clerks and Mail Machine Operators, Except Postal Service
$26,610
12.1%
 3,960
139.
Order Clerks
$28,940
7.4%
 7,520
140.
Tax Preparers
$32,320
9.8%
 2,630
141.
Broadcast Technicians
$36,570
9.0%
 1,380
142.
Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators
$44,600
7.8%
 810
143.
Set and Exhibit Designers
$48,480
9.9%
 480
144.
Weighers, Measurers, Checkers, and Samplers, Recordkeeping
$27,390
12.0%
 3,420
145.
Couriers and Messengers
$24,750
12.6%
 4,300
146.
Avionics Technicians
$54,720
6.9%
 580
147.
Archivists
$46,750
11.7%
 240
148.
Layout Workers, Metal and Plastic
$39,870
13.7%
 290
149.
Extruding and Drawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
$32,300
8.3%
 2,090
150.
Butchers and Meat Cutters
$28,460
7.9%
 4,680
151.
Helpers—Production Workers
$22,520
8.7%
 9,980
152.
Reservation and Transportation Ticket Agents and Travel Clerks
$33,300
5.8%
 3,080
153.
Terrazzo Workers and Finishers
$41,240
15.0%
 110
154.
Postal Service Clerks
$53,100
–48.2%
 1,550
155.
Chefs and Head Cooks
$42,350
–0.8%
 1,800
156.
Floor Sanders and Finishers
$33,350
18.2%
 420
157.
Bicycle Repairers
$23,210
37.6%
 630
158.
Rolling Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
$36,920
8.2%
 880
159.
Traffic Technicians
$42,300
11.2%
 280
160.
Conservation Scientists
$59,530
5.2%
 400
161.
Fashion Designers
$64,690
0.2%
 670
162.
Telemarketers
$22,520
7.4%
 8,350
163.
Conveyor Operators and Tenders
$29,320
11.5%
 1,490
164.
Painting, Coating, and Decorating Workers
$25,660
17.2%
 980
165.
Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials
$23,190
19.9%
 880
166.
Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders
$34,770
6.6%
 1,380
167.
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
$28,750
12.8%
 1,320
168.
Coating, Painting, and Spraying Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders
$30,020
6.1%
 2,310
169.
Slaughterers and Meat Packers
$23,490
8.3%
 3,330
170.
Molders, Shapers, and Casters, Except Metal and Plastic
$28,940
8.0%
 1,930
171.
Home Appliance Repairers
$35,440
6.5%
 1,190
172.
Control and Valve Installers and Repairers, Except Mechanical Door
$49,600
–0.1%
 810
173.
Mixing and Blending Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders
$33,590
–2.2%
 3,720
174.
Packaging and Filling Machine Operators and Tenders
$25,620
3.8%
 6,840
175.
Embalmers
$43,800
5.3%
 370
176.
Separating, Filtering, Clarifying, Precipitating, and Still Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders
$37,720
5.1%
 810
177.
Engine and Other Machine Assemblers
$36,420
5.3%
 830
178.
Refractory Materials Repairers, Except Brickmasons
$42,700
8.6%
 60
179.
Molding, Coremaking, and Casting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
$28,480
5.1%
 2,510
180.
Paperhangers
$37,760
10.3%
 190
181.
Wellhead Pumpers
$41,320
4.6%
 520
182.
Fish and Game Wardens
$50,070
4.7%
 220
183.
Chemical Equipment Operators and Tenders
$45,550
–7.5%
 760
184.
Museum Technicians and Conservators
$38,010
6.8%
 410
185.
Multiple Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
$33,220
3.8%
 1,610
186.
Agricultural and Food Science Technicians
$33,550
7.0%
 870
187.
Plating and Coating Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
$29,640
9.3%
 960
188.
Pesticide Handlers, Sprayers, and Applicators, Vegetation
$29,980
10.2%
 820
189.
Camera and Photographic Equipment Repairers
$37,140
10.3%
 120
190.
Lathe and Turning Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
$36,070
–4.7%
 1,520
191.
Radio and Television Announcers
$27,280
6.9%
 1,720
192.
Agricultural Inspectors
$41,390
1.5%
 600
193.
Statistical Assistants
$38,570
6.0%
 410
194.
Parking Enforcement Workers
$35,340
9.6%
 340
195.
Dental Laboratory Technicians
$35,590
0.8%
 1,320
196.
Meter Readers, Utilities
$35,400
1.2%
 1,270
197.
Electro-Mechanical Technicians
$51,220
0.5%
 320
198.
Bakers
$23,250
2.3%
 4,680
199.
Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
$29,720
2.5%
 1,820
200.
Crushing, Grinding, and Polishing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders
$32,390
5.1%
 1,170