Archive for November, 2009

The four quadrants of career choice

Here is what I came up with last summer while I was trying to help my students choose majors.

Strengths Interests

Values Preferences

The rationale behind the method is that in order to be happy and successful, you have to find the solid ground where all these elements overlap. We agreed that there are numerous ways to earn a decent living, so it would be better to do that in joy rather than in pain.

Strengths: these are the skills you are proud of, what people praise you for

Interests: these are the questions you ask, the topics that make you curious

Preferences: these are your likes and dislikes

: these are the pillars of your life – for some values might include family and trust, for others these might be fame and challenge – all these are things you find as essential as air, food and water

You might be a really smart person who can retain myriads of facts in her mind and see how they interrelate (strenths). You might also be interested in biology (interests). Some people might say you should become a doctor. Well, what if you hate dealing with people? (preferences) You’d better become a vet? Mmm, what if you hate the smell of animals and you could never imagine touching them? (preferences). You see, it’s  not as simple as drawing the cliche lines from favourite school subjects to what you could do as a job.

In class we are going to discuss that, and later I might write more on how you discover what your strengths, interests, values and preferences are. Some people feel they don’t have any of these :D, but that is barely possible. Meanwhile, you might start topics in the forum and discuss them 6 days a week while you are away from our classroom 🙂


No excuses

If you have already chosen a field to major in / a career to prepare for, you will be expected to demonstrate genuine interest in the field / career and motivation to study / practice it. Most often this is the element that will make or break your application.

Too many students cannot tell colleges more than “I have wanted to be a lawyer / doctor since I was a kid.” They believe that they don’t need to know anything about the field as learning about it is what they expect to do at college.

Colleges, however, do not think so. They want to make sure what you know about the field / carer is much more than what you have seen in the movies. Why?

1. Colleges want to attract students who will not be disappointed with the field / career. They need students who will be motivated to graduate from college, not ones who will drop out when they find out what the field / career is really about.

2. Colleges believe that if you are really passionate about a field / career, you will have tried to learn as much as you can about it before submitting your application.

Some students say they don’t have enough information, but I believe that’s the most ridiculous thing to say in the Internet era.

How can you find out more about a field? The least you can do is listen to video lectures. More and more universities are uploading their courses online. You can find some links in this blog.

How can you find out more about a career? The least you can do is read some career profiles online. You can find some links in this blog.

You can ask at least me and Google for more information anytime. That translates as “You have no excuse for ignorance.” Remember: what I have just mentioned is the LEAST you can do, the least colleges expect you to have done before submitting your application.

To the ones who plan to crack / hack / ace the SATs and other tests

An excerpt from a comment in my Bulgarian  blog:


в университета, в който преподавах, имах студентка от беден, западащ град. Благодарение на собствените й амбиции и тези на майка й, беше завършила училище с висок успех и беше изкарала добри резултати на SАТ, озовавайки се в съответния университет. Проблемът обаче беше, че момичето, макар да беше хванало цаката на въпросните тестове, нямаше никакви реални познания и умения за анализ и въпреки огромното си трудолюбие отпадна поради многото изпити, които не са в тестов формат.
Ако това работливо и умно момиче, някой ден завърши дните си в Уолмарт, причината ще бъде именно, че системата никога не й е дала шанс да се развие.

Our forum

We already have 18 members, and they have started 7 topics! I hope everybody joins and enjoys the discussions. Now you have a whole week off school to get used to the forum. I’ll join you as soon as I can. Have fun!

Justice with Michael Sandel

You thought you may never have the chance to take a seat in a Harvard lecture hall? Well, I took a front row seat tonight; no, I comfortably lay in my front row bed to watch Michael Sandel, one of the most famous Harvard professors, lecture and lead a discussion about what the morally right thing to do is.

This is the first course Harvard has ever made available to everyone. You are even invited to take part in the dicussions online. You are also offered further reading. You can even write some papers on the series … I’ll read them 🙂 You can start a discussion in our forum or in your own blog.

How is that useful?

First, it is useful to improve your listening skills.

Second, it is useful to take a look at a university lecture hall and experience one of the university teaching formats.

Third, it is useful to practice thinking about tough questions.

Fourth, it is useful to get an idea of political philosophy and law.

Fifth, it is useful to be able to tell colleges that you have already attended a good number of lectures to explore the field you claim to be interested in.

The website of the project

All episodes on YouTube

Курс по време на епидемия

Ще има за всички, които не са заразно болни 😀