The Credential Conundrum—Limiting Whose Qualified for Which Jobs

Recently I wrote that I’m lucky that my work as a college prof affords me ample opportunities to learn about myself and become a better person. That doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about other work.

Depending upon the day, I’d like to be Dustin Johnson’s caddy, write a newspaper column, be a subsistence farmer, have a radio talk show. The alternative work that loops the most in my peabrain is money counselor by which I mean a hybrid of a financial planner and a financial therapist. I enjoy managing money a lot and I’m always intrigued by people’s disparate thinking about money’s relative importance and how those differences complicate partnerships. Most of all, I’d enjoy helping people reduce the gaps between what they think about money and how they live their lives.

I didn’t know shit about investing thirty years ago when my parents gifted me some money to save on their federal taxes. Somehow, as a modestly paid school teacher, I knew the gift was an exceedingly rare opportunity to build a little bit of a financial cushion, that is, if I didn’t blow it. So I started reading John Bogle’s books, the first step in my personal finance self education. Today, I’m a good money manager for at least two reasons—my independent studies and I internalized some of my dad’s self discipline.

What I’d like to do for an alternative living is listen to individuals or couples talk about their dreams, their finances, their greatest challenges and then help them clarify their priorities, adjust their spending, restructure their portfolios, and enjoy more open and honest communication about money. There’s gotta be people interested in that doesn’t there?

There’s only one problem, to do that work I’d need a long list of personal finance and counseling licenses and certificates. Absent an alphabet soup of credentials, my self education and life experience don’t count in the formal economy.

Licenses and certificates are required in many sectors of the economy. They are designed to help consumers know they can trust that the holders of the licenses and certificates are competent. Take my work with teachers-to-be. Often people bemoan the fact that a Ph.D. can’t teach elementary, middle, or high school without first completing a formal teacher education program that typically lasts 1-2 years, not to mention passing related requirements including content area exams and a student-teaching based performance assessment.

Similarly, if you want to work on people’s nails or hair, you can’t simply rent a space and hang out a shingle, beauty schools offer formal training that culminates in licenses that enable you to “join the club”. Sometimes, when work is complex and requires specialized expertise, the Credential Industrial Complex contributes to public trust. Other times though, when the related work isn’t terribly complex, like working on nails or driving a cab, they can be used to limit competition.

Money counseling is on the “complex, requiring specialized expertise” end of the continuum, but wouldn’t it be nice if our job gatekeepers, the credentialing officials, devised intelligent ways to give some credit to individuals for self study and life experience. Absent that, everyone has to start from scratch, meaning people on the back nine of life, like myself, are less likely to switch things up.

 

Job Prospects in the New Economy

Last Sunday the family and I woke up at 3:45a to drive the college junior to the Portland airport to catch an early flight. The airport was the midway point of our ultimate destination, a vacation spot in central Oregon. Like a couple of comatose puppies, the high school senior was curled up with her older sissy in the back seat of the car. Picture overlapping blonde hair everywhere. While they dozed the GalPal and I listened to a BBC segment about job prospects in the new economy.

The participants were Oxford or MIT professors. Cut me some slack, at 4:30a.m. the world’s best universities all kind of blur together. They made two points, the first which I’ve been making for awhile. The more my daughters (and their friends) develop sophisticated data processing knowledge and skills, the more job opportunities they’ll have. Quantitative analysis is probably a better term since data processing might conjure up mindless keypadding. This turn towards numbers is not a fad, the Quantitative Era is here to stay. Nearly every organization is analyzing more data than ever before—hospitals, schools, businesses, prisons, college and pro athletic teams, churches, you name it. People steeped in statistics and adept at using SPSS will be able to write their own tickets.

Which doesn’t help the sound asleep sisters. They did well in math, but didn’t embrace it, and have and will stop as soon as they’re able. According to the egghead professors, all is not lost, there’s another strand in the economy that holds promise for secure employment. Work that requires empathy.

They highlighted the work of preschool teachers. I was surprised by the choice, but clearly, unlike most jobs today, skilled preschool teaching can’t be automated because it requires nonstop empathy. The problem of course is unlike most quantitative analysis jobs, preschool teaching doesn’t pay a livable wage.

This excellent BBC dialogue made me think about our empathetic daughters who may end up leveraging their empathy as teachers or counselors. Other empathy-dependent jobs include pastor, social worker, nursing home worker, and nurse.

Had the BBC invited me to participate in the dialogue I would have posed some questions.

• Given the breadth of probable work in the future, why do we emphasize STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) at the expense of the humanities and related disciplines?

• Certainly, empathy is part nature, but also part nurture. How do parents nurture empathy?

• How do primary and secondary teachers encourage it—without usurping parents’ rights?

• More specifically, how do we help young males be more empathetic?

As always it seems more questions than answers, for me, for you, for the sleeping sisters and their friends.

How Well Do You Know Yourself?

The wife recently asked me to take the Jung/Myers Briggs personality test available here. Probably wanted to find out what’s wrong with me. It was relatively pain free and the results mostly jived with my sense of self. Take it and tell me what you think of the results.

I’m an INFJ or “Idealist Counselor”. Here are some excerpts from the “Idealist Counselor” description:

Counselors have an exceptionally strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others, and find great personal fulfillment interacting with people, nurturing their personal development, guiding them to realize their human potential. Although they are happy working at jobs (such as writing) that require solitude and close attention, Counselors do quite well with individuals or groups of people, provided that the personal interactions are not superficial, and that they find some quiet, private time every now and then to recharge their batteries. Counselors are both kind and positive in their handling of others; they are great listeners and seem naturally interested in helping people with their personal problems. Not usually visible leaders, Counselors prefer to work intensely with those close to them, especially on a one-to-one basis, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes.

Except for the fact that I could be a much more patient listener, that’s accurate to the point of almost creepy. Helps explain why I prefer small dinner get-togethers to large cocktail parties and why I loathe self-promoters. There’s more.

Counselors are scarce, little more than three percent of the population, and can be hard to get to know, since they tend not to share their innermost thoughts or their powerful emotional reactions except with their loved ones. They are highly private people, with an unusually rich, complicated inner life. Friends or colleagues who have known them for years may find sides emerging which come as a surprise. Not that Counselors are flighty or scattered; they value their integrity a great deal, but they have mysterious, intricately woven personalities which sometimes puzzle even them.

Isn’t blogging going against the Counselor grain? Not necessarily. I share thoughts and emotions, but not my innermost thoughts or most powerful emotional reactions. I’ll probably peel more layers off over time, but never get to the core in this format at least.

Counselors tend to work effectively in organizations. They value staff harmony and make every effort to help an organization run smoothly and pleasantly. They understand and use human systems creatively, and are good at consulting and cooperating with others. As employees or employers, Counselors are concerned with people’s feelings and are able to act as a barometer of the feelings within the organization.

That explains in part why I’ve been in a professional funk. My workplace has lacked harmony for quite awhile. Outnumbered by those who think people’s feelings are unimportant, I’ve thrown in the towel on trying to help things run smoothly and pleasantly.

Blessed with vivid imaginations, Counselors are often seen as the most poetical of all the types, and in fact they use a lot of poetic imagery in their everyday language. Their great talent for language-both written and spoken-is usually directed toward communicating with people in a personalized way. Counselors are highly intuitive and can recognize another’s emotions or intentions – good or evil – even before that person is aware of them. Counselors themselves can seldom tell how they came to read others’ feelings so keenly. This extreme sensitivity to others could very well be the basis of the Counselor’s remarkable ability to experience a whole array of psychic phenomena.

Psychic phenomena strikes me as over the top. And do you think they purposely write all the descriptions as positively as possible so that everyone feels better about themselves? And you gotta love the examples of other Counselors—Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Goodall. Nice company to keep. I’m a confident writer and speaker, but as clearly demonstrated in Wednesday’s “Fall” post, I’m anything but poetic. And when it comes to others’ feelings, my antenna do seem more finely tuned than most.

For example, I picking up on things right now. You think I’ve been a bit self-absorbed in this post and I’ve gone on too long. Points well taken.