Faith's Blog

December 10, 2018
Culinary Careers and the Holidays

When you think of certain holidays, do you think of some favorite foods? Birthday parties and chocolate cake, July the 4th and potato salad, Hanukkah and latkes, Christmas and eggnog... I could go on, but then I would have to go and get a snack!

This a great time of the year to indulge in some delicious meals. Not only are there are lot of social gatherings, but something about the colder weather makes me want to head into the kitchen to whip up some comfort food.

In my family, we somehow started a tradition of eating trifle (a yummy concoction of custard and cake) on New Year's Day. I can't even remember how this started, but I like trifle enough not to question it.

It's interesting: for most of the year, food can be very trendy. Any chef will tell you that it's tough to keep up with food trends. But on holidays, many people like to stick to what they know. That's one reason why my mother gave me a cookbook she created filled with family favorites. What a great gift!

The first cookbook appeared in Rome about 1,600 years ago. A print edition of this book called De re coquinaria (Latin for "on the subject of cooking") came out in 1483. The recipes apparently involve a lot of salt and honey -- most likely because the chefs of the past didn't have refrigerators.

The directions in ancient cookbooks were pretty vague. Historians don't think they were intended to give specific directions for cooking meals. And that makes sense if you think about the structure of society back then. People who could read well were often in the upper classes, so they hired cooks. Cooks talked about various cooking techniques amongst themselves, rather than reading about them.

The recipes gave directions like, "Walk 20 times around the field," instead of giving specific cooking times. Once the cook circled the field 20 times, the dish was finished.

We've come a long way since then! Today's chefs study in culinary programs, where they can expect a healthy serving of theory and hands-on learning.

After their training, they can labor over boeuf bourguignonne or flip burgers. Chefs can create works of art in chocolate (and hopefully send some to me) or develop vegetarian delights. Entrepreneurial sorts can even build a business around their favorite family recipes! Food lovers can specialize in any number of culinary styles: the world is hungry for cooks and chefs!

I hope you have a safe, fun and delicious December!

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November 26, 2018
I'm a Word Nerd

There is a murder of crows outside my window as I write this. Should I call a crime scene technician? Or an animal control officer?

Actually, I would need an ornithologist. A murder of crows is the way we refer to a group of crows, just as we say a herd of elephants or a flock of birds. The word "murder" is the collective noun we use to refer to a group of crows.

Some of my other favorite collective nouns include a sleuth of bears, an ostentation of peacocks and a mischief of mice (if you've ever had mice in your house, that one will really seem appropriate).

I think learning new words is fascinating. For one thing, building my vocabulary helps my Scrabble game and makes it easier to complete crossword puzzles ! But it's also great to look at language and how it evolves and changes.

Lexicographers study new words. They're the people who decide to add new words to a dictionary. Did you know the word "zoodle" was recently added to the dictionary that I use? That addition was the work of a lexicographer. They would also write the definition: a long, thin strip of zucchini that resembles a string or narrow ribbon of pasta.

Linguists also study language and how we use it. More high-tech companies are calling on linguists' knowledge as we incorporate the concepts of human speech into new technology. If you think the rules of grammar are stodgy and outdated, just look at how speech patterns can be incorporated into things like robotics.

Now... what goes inside a zoodle casserole?

November 5, 2018
Staying Professional Online

What was the last crazy thing you did? What about the most embarrassing thing you've done all year? Is there photographic proof on Instagram? Would you show those photos to a parent? What about a college admissions officer?

Do I sound paranoid? I prefer "realistic." Believe it or not, more colleges are checking out students online when they're making their admissions decisions. They're reviewing social media, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - but don't forget they can also access sites like If it's on the Internet, it's public. Admissions officers say they're seeing more posts online that make them reconsider applicants. That's right: what you put online can impact your chances of getting into college.

Does this mean the best approach is to stay off social media altogether? Experts say there's no need to throw away your phone. Teens socialize and have fun, and in today's world, it's perfectly normal to document those experiences online. Just remember to stay professional!

Posting content that shows your interests outside of school can show colleges and potential employers that you're a well-rounded person. You want your online presence to be something you can be proud of down the road.

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September 17, 2018
Peaceful Careers

Did you know that September 21st is recognized as the International Day of Peace? I didn't know about this day, but I'm glad to learn it exists! The United Nations established this day in 1981, and devoted it to "commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and peoples".

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes peace as "a state of tranquility; freedom from civil disturbance; harmony in personal relations; a state of accord and agreement between governments".

Everyone understands the importance of peace. But we know that living in harmony takes effort. So, the International Day of Peace is a good reason to explore careers devoted to keeping things calm.

In the business world, peace-relations skills are used in all areas of government, private industries and non-profit organizations.

It is a common practice for companies to hire a mediator to resolve disputes about employment, business contracts and other claims. Many public and private institutions employ an ombudsman whose duty is to investigate and resolve complaints made by individuals. They play an important role in helping an organization maintain the public's trust. Large corporations might hire a labor relations negotiator or an arbitrator in an effort settle disagreements and avoid strikes.

In the community at-large, police officers are often referred to as "peace officers". Their duties are to maintain law and order. Often, the mere presence of a police officer is enough to bring peace to an excited situation.

Ever hear of a justice of the peace? This is a type of judge who hears cases that involve civic complaints, like small-claims court, or minor criminal complaints and also performs marriages.

On a global level, there are thousands of peacekeepers assigned to troubled areas around the world. They navigate between conflict and peace to help countries and their citizens.

Are you interested in a peaceful career? If you enroll in a peace and conflict studies program, you will learn the art of tact, diplomacy and negotiation--crucial skills when handling negotiations between people.

Here's to peace! Let's pursue it and appreciate it.

September 3, 2018
Back to School Resolutions

I don't know about you, but I always loved the start of school. At first, it was all about fashion and socializing. Returning to school was a time for new clothes in richer colors and cozier fabrics. It was the chance to reconnect with friends and fill my social calendar with plans and parties.

Then classes started. Shopping and mingling gave way to studying, and before I knew it, I was a student again -- albeit a better dressed one.

Fortunately, I liked school and loved learning things. However, it always took a while to figure what worked for me when I was studying. Sometimes, I learned the hard way, like the time a bad mark on a physics test taught me that studying while watching Wonder Woman reruns wasn't the best idea.

Now is a great time to make some resolutions about your own study habits. Try thinking back to last year to figure out the areas in which you can improve.

Did you allow enough time for studying? If not, you might want to have a good look at a typical week's schedule, perhaps starting with your TV viewing. (I speak from experience.)

Were you able to concentrate on your work? If focusing was a problem, think about your study environment -- are there a lot of distractions? Get some tips on making the most of your study time from our article Successful Study Techniques.

Did you have trouble keeping up with your schedule and were you often surprised by due dates? Learn to manage your time with the article Time Management 101.

Did you have a hard time figuring out "the point" of an assignment or required text? It could be time to brush up on your critical thinking skills. Find out what this means in How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills.

Take it from me: a little thought now can go a long way towards a successful academic year. Good luck!

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June 11, 2018
Are You Ready for Summer?

Summer's here, and very soon the classrooms will be empty of students! When it comes to summer vacation, many would agree with Calvin, hero of the popular comic strip Calvin and Hobbes: "There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want."

Isn't doing nothing what summer is all about? It's enjoyable to relax in the sun with a glass of cold lemonade and think about nothing in particular.

But if you want something to do, summer is a great time to do career exploration on your own?

Allow me to share some of my summer days as a student. One year, I worked in a fast-food restaurant, serving customers and cleaning tables. Fast food service is a popular form of entry into the working world. It can also be an effective way to learn some great work habits -- you have to stay on your toes. In the years that followed, many potential employers mentioned that they liked that part of my resume.

The next summer, I couldn't work because of a sports injury. I'll admit that I spent my share of time in the sun doing nothing that year, but I also enrolled in a writing class, which still looks great on my resume!

By the next summer, I had some firm ideas about my career path. With a little research, I found an internship program that fit perfectly with my studies. I think I learned as much that summer as I did during the school year. There are many ways to make good use of your "nothing" time.

As for me, I'll be taking a short break from blogging while you enjoy the break. I'm hoping to visit the beach a few times, and perhaps play some volleyball. I also plan to visit the farmers' market often, and have plans to take a poetry class. Beyond that, I will exercise my right to do nothing. It should be an interesting and busy summer.

Whatever your plans are, I hope you have a great summer too. See you in the fall!

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May 21, 2018
Are Good Manners Becoming a Thing of the Past?

I'm not a manners expert myself, but I tend to agree that people are becoming a little ruder. Simple things like "please" and "thank you" seem to be less common. Of course, that's just my sense based on unscientific observation. What do you think?

I wonder what a protocol officer would say? They make manners their business. They advise government leaders on the customs and proper etiquette of different cultures.

Speaking of different cultures, there's one place where it sometimes seems acceptable to be rude: online. But it's just as important to stay professional and polite when you're dealing with online social networks. The Internet has a long memory and one moment of rudeness can come back to haunt you -- and even affect your job search!

Declining standards or not, proper manners are essential in the working world. Obviously, you'll want to remember your manners during a job interview. And that includes sending a thank-you note! Putting a little extra thought into your manners during the application process may make the difference between landing a job and hitting the pavement again.

Once you've entered the working world, there's no excuse for bad manners. Politeness is part of presenting a good attitude -- a vital part of achieving success on the job. I'm not talking about knowing which spoon to use with sorbet, but simply treating people with respect.

Remaining polite when others are blowing their cool might be hard, but it's the best strategy in the workplace. Even when you're dealing with difficult co-workers, staying calm and remembering your manners will get you further than reacting with rudeness.

Your negotiation skills, your ability to manage stress and your adaptability will all improve with basic good manners. As the labor market changes and new jobs appear and others fade away, they'll never go out of style!

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April 16, 2018
Money Matters -- Or Does It?

My e-mail shows that a lot of readers have keen interests in money topics -- like salaries! Many people wonder about careers with high salaries, how important having a high salary is, how to make more money and why some salaries are so low. They're all good questions, but questions without easy answers.

Just how important money is in career decisions will vary a lot by person. For some people, money is the most important thing. Others would prefer to do something they love, even if it means making less. It's a very personal thing.

Of course, the ideal situation is a job you love that also happens to pay very well. Personally, I don't think that's so hard to accomplish. Think of it this way: if you're really interested in a job, you have a better chance of rising to the top to make the top dollar.

On the other hand, if you choose a career solely because of its salary, you might not have enough interest to really succeed. And since salary is often based on performance, you might end up making less than if you choose a job with a lower average salary.

Let's consider some examples. The Money and Outlook section of each career information article contains the annual average salary across the country. Check out the salaries for Baker and Computer Programmer.

Those figures represent an average of what every person in that field made in a year. However, consider the net worth of computer programmer Bill Gates: $91 billion.

And what about Debbi Fields? She's the woman who started the Mrs. Fields cookie empire. She turned baking into a $500-million-a-year business. That's a lot more than the average salary for bakers!

Gates and Fields are extreme examples of how success can be driven by your ideas and ambition. Obviously, most of us will be closer to the national average -- otherwise, it wouldn't be the average! But their success does prove that having talent and passion for something can help boost your earnings.

Another thing to consider is the cost of starting in a career. According to the Department of Labor, surgeons have the highest annual salary. However, it takes a lot of investment to get there in both time -- at least 11 years -- and money. That's according to our article Is Medical School for You?

So how important is salary? That's ultimately a question only you can answer. If you're not sure yourself, you might want to imagine your life in 20 years. Will you only be happy if you own a lot of big-ticket items and expensive cars? Or do your dreams focus on other things? Where do you plan to live? Some cities are more expensive than others. What about family?

It might also help to talk to people working in the field, since salaries will vary with things like region, specialization and experience. Talking to someone in your area will give you more ideas on what to expect once you enter the working world. If you have salary questions, talking to an expert can be invaluable.

April 2, 2018
It's Poetry Month

Do you have a favorite poem? If you do, try writing it out and putting it in your pocket on April 26. That's Poem in Your Pocket Day. It's all part of Poetry Month, which is April.

Not sure if you have a favorite poem? Do you think poetry belongs in dusty libraries, to be studied by serious scholars only? That's a perception that poets would like to change. Poetry is a dynamic, evolving art, and today's poets are writing about events and feelings happening in the modern world.

If you've never written a poem, now is a good time to try. You might be surprised to find it's a good way to get some feelings out. Historians believe ancient peoples told stories in rhyme because rhyming words were easier to remember -- ever notice it's easier to remember rap lyrics than a political science text?

Poetry has a lot to offer today's readers, but are they listening? Stats show that not many people are buying poetry books, and it's harder than ever to make a living as a poet. In the past, some poets were like today's rock stars, adored by fans who followed their every move.

Maybe you love poetry: your journal is full of poems, your rhyming dictionary is dog-eared, and you're starting to think in iambic pentameter. Can you turn your art into a career? A lot of students write to me with questions about the likelihood of making a career writing poems.

Many of today's poets find they have to supplement their writing with other higher-paying jobs. Some teach writing in high schools or colleges. Others use their flare for words in creative positions like copywriting.

Even if you're not sure you want anyone to read your poetry, writing a poem can be satisfying and even therapeutic. Why not celebrate Poetry Month this April by writing about what's going on in your life?

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March 19, 2018
Technology and Careers

It's easy to take technology for granted. Sometimes the only time we really think about "technology" is when it doesn't work, like when the Internet is down.

However, technology has completely changed the way we live our lives. It has never been easier to find your way around a city (using GPS) or connect with someone on the other side of the world!

Today, we can even stream movies 30,000 feet off the ground while hurtling through the air in a plane.

Just a few years ago, these feats would have seemed impossible. Now they're available to us with the touch of a finger! It's amazing, really, when you think about it.

Technology has also introduced many new careers into the marketplace -- careers that simply didn't exist a generation ago. Take all the Internet-related careers, for instance. The Internet only became available to the public in the 1990s. That means that multimedia designers, Internet researchers, Internet marketers, bloggers, online producers and careers in telemedicine didn't exist before that.

Advances in technology have introduced new scientific careers and made sweeping changes. For instance, the work of DNA analysts has completely changed crime scene investigation.

At the same time, new technologies have paved the way for alternative energy. This has led to "green" careers like alternative energy researchers, environmental engineers, fuel cell engineers, and environmental technicians.

But technology hasn't been kind to all industries. Print shops and traditional animators, for instance, have been hurt by changes in technology.

Researching your career interests, including the labor market information, is one way to stay ahead of the game. With all the advances in so many fields, it's an exciting time to be choosing a career!

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March 5, 2018
Salaries and Majors

This week, I was reading an article on a survey conducted by National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The survey looked at the college majors (for bachelor's degrees) whose grads have the highest salaries in their first jobs.

There's no question: college is a big investment. If you decide to go to college, you probably want to make sure you eventually get some return on that investment. There are many ways to consider the value of a college degree: the joy of learning, the fun of the college experience, the discovery of new ideas. Those are all worthwhile things -- but you probably want to make some money at the end, too.

According to the survey, engineers are in luck. The top three highest starting salaries were all from engineering programs: petroleum engineering, computer engineering and chemical engineering.

Engineers might read that last paragraph and argue with my use of the word "luck." And they would be right -- it takes a lot of work to become a computer engineer! That's why we also have to consider other options besides salary when choosing a major.

If you choose a major solely because of its predicted salary, you might not have enough interest to really succeed. And since salary is often based on performance, you might end up making less than if you choose a job with a lower average salary.

Let's consider some examples. The Salary and Outlook section of each career information article contains the annual average salary across the country. Check out the salary for Baker.

But what about Debbi Fields? She's the woman who started the Mrs. Fields cookie empire. She turned baking into a $500-million-a-year business. That's a lot more than the average salary for bakers! She is an extreme example of how success can be driven by your ideas and ambition

So how important are salary statistics? That's ultimately a question only you can answer. If you're not sure yourself, you might want to imagine your life in 20 years. Will you only be happy if you own a lot of big-ticket items and expensive cars? Or do your dreams focus on other things? Where do you plan to live? Some cities are more expensive than others. What about family?

Before you choose a major, it might also help to talk to people working in the field, since salaries will vary with things like region, specialization and experience. Talking to someone in your area will give you more ideas on what to expect once you enter the working world. If you have salary questions, talking to an expert can be invaluable.

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February 12, 2018
Double Decisions

Imagine you and a friend are arguing about what kind of pizza to order. You want the meat-lover's special, and your friend wants to go vegetarian. You can't agree, so you decide to flip a coin.

Is that a fair way to settle a dispute? After all, you both have a 50-50 chance of winning. You could also draw straws or play the classic game Rock, Paper, Scissors. Better still, you could ask the pizza place to put veggies on one half and meat on the other.

Choosing between two things can be tough -- and it seems many of you are trying to choose between two careers. Some readers ask about taking the double-sided pizza approach: they wonder if they can work at two jobs at the same time.

It's hard to give one answer here. A lot will depend on the careers. To start with, you want to look at the time demands for both, the typical working hours and the required training -- you can find these in the What They Do section of each career article. You'll also want to consider your own time-management skills and willingness to work hard.

Here's a good example. Lawyers and surgeons often work long hours. Each career requires extensive training and many years of study after high school. From those simple facts, we can assume that it would be extremely difficult to work as both a lawyer and a physician. I'm not saying it would necessarily be impossible, but you'd have to do a lot of research on how to make it work.

On the other side of the coin, working at two careers is a popular choice for those pursuing creative careers that are hard to break into. For example, many aspiring singers work on their singing by performing in the evenings. But when you're just starting out, singing doesn't always pay enough to take care of your bills. That's why some singers work at other jobs during the day. If you watch American Idol, you'll notice that many of the contestants have other careers.

Sometimes it's possible to find related jobs to support your artistic dreams. I have a friend who wants to be a famous novelist, but is having trouble finishing his novel. He writes every night and teaches writing during the day. That way, he's still working in the writing world, but he's able to pay his bills.

If you're thinking of having two careers, you'll need to do a little research, perhaps starting with the career orifiles in Career Planning. You should also arrange an informational interview with people in the field to find out how realistic the dual-career plan is.

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January 8, 2018
New Year, New You

"A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other."
-- Anonymous

That sounds familiar -- to me, at least. In the past, I've filled an entire piece of paper with ambitious plans, only to toss it in the recycling bin a predictable two weeks later. Apparently, that's typical: I have read that the average resolution lasts just two weeks.

Experts say that making small goals and breaking them into achievable steps can increase your odds of success. Instead of resolving to "get straight As," you might have more luck by vowing to "study for an extra 30 minutes every night." Doesn't "sign up for recreational soccer" sound more doable than "get in the best shape of my life?" It helps to make your plans concrete so they don't seem quite so overwhelming.

Self-improvement coaches help people define their goals -- and follow through with them. This is a new career, but one that's really taking off. It seems a lot of us need help when we want to make changes!

A survey found that the most popular resolution is to spend more time with family and friends. This is one of those resolutions that will vary from person to person. Like other resolutions, it might help to make it a bit more specific: "Play games with my family every Sunday night" or "Eat lunch with my friends at school."

Running a close second in the resolutions race is fitting in fitness. Anyone who's gone to a gym in January knows this is a popular time for people to return to working out. Unfortunately, many people start out by doing too much right after the indulgent holiday season. Personal trainers can help put together a workable fitness plan.

Another popular resolution is to get more organized. Professional organizers help people get their stuff in order. Obviously, you have to be pretty organized yourself to help others with their organization. Anyone who's seen my desk knows that this may not be the job for me, but perhaps next year I should resolve to hire one.

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