How my career got to be my career

In October, after on-going discussions in our various classes about possible careers in those fields, we were scheduled for a 15 minute meeting with a counselor to talk about our interests, thoughts about college and possible careers.   For a few weeks all day long at five minutes before the quarter hour someone would walk out of class and head to the counselors’ offices.

Now I’m sure that sometime in the past those counselors went through the same procedure themselves and talked to their own high school counselors about education and helping young people and I’m sure they dreamed about someday encouraging a Bobby Adams to go to college and then hearing Dr. Robert W. Adams at an awards banquet fondly remember that it was his counselor who pointed him in the right direction.  The link between the counselor and Bobby’s success would probably have been true and why?  Because Bobby Adams (Adams with an “A”) would have been in to the counselor’s office at about 8:30 on the first Monday of “Career Month”.

“Let’s talk about your skills and talents and experiences and dreams, Bobby.  Take your time and let’s try to work together and make sure you choose the right career path” later in the month turned into “Hi. Sit down, ah, Tom, I see you in the janitorial trades.  Good luck with your career and send in the next kid” if it was Tom Wilbert or maybe if it was Anna Zucker, “Hi. Have you ever thought about the food service industry, Amy, ah, Anna?  It’s really all about choosing the right restaurant.  Good luck and send in the next kid”.  Those who made their visit to the counselors’ offices two or more weeks into Career Month got to sit opposite a burned-out counselor for maybe ten minutes and that included the time it took to dig out their file.  And why? The alphabet.

Using Google I did some research and found that if the first letter of your last name is one of the first 6 letters of the alphabet you have an 8.4 times greater chance of becoming a physician or lawyer than if your name begins with one of the last six letters of the alphabet (if your name begins with the 7th to 12th letter that chance drops to 4.1).  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Those with the most respected careers (physicians, lawyers, teachers, accountants, and higher level business managers) tend to have names like Anderson, Barker, Collins, Davis, Edwards and Foster and it’s all because of a simple letter, a letter that got them in to see a counselor early in Career Month.  The letter “A”?—judge, surgeon, rocket scientist, CEO, author.  “J”?—vacuum cleaner repair technician. “P”?—-landscaper helper (edger, sweeper, sprinkler). “T”?—-plumber’s drain cleaning assistant. “W”?—the guy who scrapes gum off the floor of the airport terminal: a gum scraper.

Something must be done and I think that something is the students should be called in randomly and also be given a report with the names of the students counseled and their current careers with the counselor’s pay rate for the next year linked to the scholastic ranking of the college attended and the grade point average or salary of the counseled students.

“You’re going to see Mrs. James?  You’ll like Arby’s” would turn into, “You’re so lucky that Mr. Evans helped you with something better than Arby’s, Wendy’s is much nicer”.  Imagine the thrill when Mrs. Becker says, “I don’t see you at Arby’s at all, Marty, let’s just see if we can get you into MIT” and Mrs. Becker’s pay rate would go up, the student would be successful and everyone would be happy except Arby’s.

It’s just so sad that my counselor, Mrs. Higgins, didn’t take the time to recognize my abilities and talents when she spoke to me long ago during, you guessed it, the fourth week of Career Month.   I could have done much better for myself.  I could have had a meaningful career.  Instead of working in the main terminal maybe I could have had a chance to run that Arby’s slicer.

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