General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Smart young man, not academically inclined, needs to choose a vocation. What line of work has good potential right now?

Asked by Jeruba (46979points) April 14th, 2010

Let’s call him Gene.

He’s 23, physically strong, healthy, and of exceptionally high IQ, but he’s just not cut out for academic schoolwork and never has been. It’s time to give that idea up and look for training in a field that has some promise even in down times such as the present. Any recommendations?

These are some of his traits and abilities:

— great intuitive sense of what makes things (and people) tick—he sees the inner workings of things
— capacity for hard work and willingness to go to extra lengths to do a good job
— willingness and ability to take the lead when necessary
— sense of fair play
— personal integrity
— well-spoken; superior writing and speech abilities
— good manual dexterity
— good sense of structure and relationships
— creative problem-solving skills
— excellent memory
— untrained musical ability
— attractive appearance and scrupulous personal hygiene
— sensitivity to others’ feelings and motivations

On the down side:

— not strong in math
— tendency to give up easily if learning curve takes too long
— impatience with micromanaging and petty displays of authority
— lack of self-confidence
— poor self-esteem
— underdeveloped social skills

If you were advising this young man, what kind of vocational training or type of job would you encourage him to explore?

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34 Answers

hug_of_war's avatar

is this strictly hypothetical?

WestRiverrat's avatar

Mechanic or construction work of some kind come to mind. Until the boss knows he can do the job, he may have to put up with a little micromanaging. There are enough places that need good mechanics that if he doesn’t like where he is working, he should be able to find a job with someone he can work with.

unique's avatar

with all the financial incentives for solar installation and other energy efficient upgrades to commercial and residential facilities so called ‘green collar’ jobs are gaining traction locally. perhaps it is the same in gene’s locale?

Jeruba's avatar

@WestRiverrat, doesn’t new construction depend on a thriving economy? Aren’t construction workers on the job-loss side of the equation in a downturn? Electrician work was a possibility but seemed to depend on new construction. I’m afraid white-collar jobs are all I know about, so any comments are helpful.

@unique, “green collar” jobs and upgrades—never heard of that term, but that does sound like a possibly productive direction.

Vunessuh's avatar

Copywriter, grant writer, resume writer, screenwriter.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Depends on what kind of construction. There are lots of road repair public works contracts coming out of Washington as part of the stimulus package.

The folks putting up the wind turbines in my area can barely keep up with the demand.

janbb's avatar

A friend who is an engineer has just started his own business doing consulting for people who are converting their homes to solar power. Obviously, Gene does not have the education to do that, but maybe he could work as an apprentice or assistant to someone doing that kind of work. It sounds like he could do very well in a smaller business where he is able to use many of his skills. There might be courses at a local community college that don’t entail too lengthy of an academic commitment but could give him some background and skills in green energy.

Another possibility might be a patient advocate in a hospital since he has good communication skills and empathy.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Health care: Nursing. Paramedic.

janbb's avatar

Yes, as @worriedguy suggests, there are many healthcare jobs that need filling.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

If college is not completely out for him, I would suggest Warren Wilson. They have a program called Outdoor Leadership. A lot of graduates go on to manage summer camps, work for the parks service, etc.

Paramedic is a great suggestion. Also, a tree surgeon. The guy I use works with his son, and they earned over $400,000 last year. Rain barrel installation is also good, both for sourcing and installation.

This is a very clever niche service http://www.modernash.com/. Nashville does not have an IKEA, and they will shop for you and deliver the furniture to your home. They keep some items in stock.

Cruiser's avatar

Sales. I would hire him in a NY minute if what you say is true. Every element you have listed is pure salesmanship. The downside elements are easily overcome with a good sales manager who can mentor him and give him the confidence to close the deal. Sales is not always all hype pitchman type sales. PM me is there is any interest or curiosity towards what sales are about.

jazmina88's avatar

i dig counseling….after school program…...mentoring teens

talljasperman's avatar

Outreach worker

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Warehouse staff. Get in a big company and you get good benefits and a good salary.
At any job, this man will need to learn patience because you will get a boss that’s a jackass in your life. There’s no avoiding that.

Jeruba's avatar

Sales! I never would have thought of that. He psychs people out and can be incredibly persuasive, but I think he would have an aversion to “hype pitchman” type stuff. I guess that is my image of salesmen. What kind of sales isn’t like that?

I’m afraid college (and a hoped-for degree in psychology) is completely out. He’s just not going to make it through. I have literally lost count of how many false starts he’s made, with a couple of A’s and the rest incompletes. He didn’t even go to high school, not at all; he got his GED about 15 minutes after he turned 18.

There are some great ideas here. More are welcome! I’m looking for anything that doesn’t require academic coursework and that holds good promise for a bright, capable nonscholar.

WestRiverrat's avatar

It sounds like Gene just can’t learn in a school setting. He is actually in pretty good company, Einstein and Edison both had the same ‘problem’ to varying degrees. So do I, I didn’t find what I wanted to do with my life until I was 30.

If he can tolerate some micro managing and pettiness from his bosses, I would suggest he look into the Coast Guard. There is enough variety involved that he should have a good idea of what he wants out of life by the time his hitch is up.

They will also give him the self esteem and self confidence he seems to lack now.

gailcalled's avatar

Does his manual dexterity include the ability to learn construction, plumbing, carpentry, wiring, landscape and gardening skills? The advantage to them is that they can be done with very little social skills, other than promptness and minimum courtesy.

I would think that selling or counselling would be counterproductive. I had a guy here today who replaced a screen door that the wind tore off, dusted the tops of ceiling fans, fixed some crank windows that were off the true and will come tomorrow with a chain saw to remove large downed limbs from same wind storm. He makes $50/hr., works with skill and speed and leaves no mess behind.

Jeruba's avatar

Yes, he could do all those, @gailcalled. His fine motor coordination is excellent. He has a nice touch on the guitar and has done some surprising work modeling with wire. He also has some skill at drawing. I don’t know how a person would get started acquiring the handyman skills you mentioned.

How would sales be counterproductive?

Coast Guard. Another hmmm, @WestRiverrat. And he’s on the coast, too.

gailcalled's avatar

Re; Sales: From what you wrote below, these skills seems to be part and parcel of an unsuccessful salesmen.

— tendency to give up easily if learning curve takes too long
— impatience with micromanaging and petty displays of authority (that doesn’t bode well for a military career.)
— lack of self-confidence
— poor self-esteem
— underdeveloped social skills

I guess handymen start with a hammer and nails and an how-to book? I really haven’t a clue. My father, a CEO of a small company, was very handy. It was an odd juxtaposition. Around here, in the summer, young men sign on as crews for roofers, construction, road work, landscaping and learn on-the-job.

Haleth's avatar

I agree with @Cruiser about sales! It seems like it would capitalize on his natural abilities, although his low self confidence could get in the way.

He could also work as an administrative assistant or eventually, an office manager. Is he good at multitasking? People I know who work these jobs say that you don’t train much, just pick up most of the work intuitively as you go. Other people have suggested a lot of really cool jobs, but as a college dropout 22 year old who was recently job hunting, I didn’t find many openings for cool/ unusual jobs for people like me. You have to already have experience in the field, which you get by doing internships or residencies, which you find through your college.

On the other hand, Gene sounds like an intelligent underachiever, the type who would like to do mental work rather than physical work. If he doesn’t have the patience for a long learning curve, is he good at multitasking? He could like retail or food management. It’s a pretty common path for a lot of young people who haven’t finished college/ will not finish college (and construction work scares us.)

I actually love my job and find it challenging and rewarding. Some other people I know hate their retail management jobs (they work for big corporations) and say it’s like being on the suck train to suckville. At least you can work your way up from any entry level position. My salary is roughly the same as the salaries of my friends who just graduated college.

shego's avatar

If he likes to work with his hands, I would say welding, machine shop, and automotive.

DarkScribe's avatar

You are looking for a career, Sales is a “when times are good” type of career – not much security unless you do something like get into Real Estate and build your own business. At least as a business owner you can have a better chance of riding out the bad times.

I would suggest Real Estate, Boat Brokering and associated Marina activities, or even a small business with potential to build into franchises. I know of a young guy with a similar description who began cleaning and doing minor repairs to rental houses for Estate Agents some eight years ago who now has a thriving franchise company. He built the advertising aspect of it up until he needed to put on staff, then started with Franchise “packages” financing a vehicle and the equipment for each contractor.

gemiwing's avatar

I have a question for the question- sorry. What specifically, makes him not enjoy the learning curve? Is it because he feels stupid when he doesn’t get something perfect from the get-go or is he bored because he’s not being taught in the framework of his learning style?

mattbrowne's avatar

Everything that has to do with installing green technologies

Jeruba's avatar

@gemiwing, since you asked, I think it is a combination of things. He is a very fast learner (but more right-hemisphere than left) and starts out being right on top of or ahead of everything. He can also be a very diligent student. But then some kind of setback—almost any kind—causes him to lose his grip, and it’s all downhill from there. He falls behind, can’t catch up, sees the A disappear, and quits. Until he gains some positive experience, he is probably not going to overcome this pattern.

He was also bullied in grade school, was taunted and mocked and marginalized in middle school, failed eighth grade despite an off-the-chart IQ, and didn’t really go to school again until junior college. He missed the high school experience completely and got a GED as soon as he turned 18.

Examples of setbacks are so wide-ranging that it is hard to see a single pattern:
1. A very green novice language arts teacher in middle school gave a completely inane assignment with incomprehensible requirements, and he struggled so hard with trying to understand it that he just got disgusted and ditched it. A less compulsive student would have turned in something. He went from an A to an F in the class.
2. A middle school math teacher had the class cut out circles for one math period. He thought this was kindergarten work and challenged the purpose of the assignment, which the teacher declined to state (“This is your assignment. Just do it.”). A minor confrontation ensued, and after that he did not want to go back to the class or do any more work in it. He has not made it through any math class since.
3. In a junior college English class, the teacher asked students to pick a topic and a position to defend in a paper. He chose a topic that excited him and decided to take the unconventional stance on it for the challenge of it. She approved all the topics. At the last minute the teacher said “Now—whatever position you’ve chosen on your topic, switch sides and take the opposite view!” This was supposed to stimulate them. Gene had already switched sides, so reversing his position mean taking the bland conventional position, and he completely lost interest. He did not have the confidence to ask the teacher if he could keep his position since he’d already reversed it.
4. In a psychology class the group was divided up into small teams for group projects, and he wound up in a threesome with two young women, one of whom he was attracted to and both of whom, it turned out, were attracted to him. I probably don’t have to spell out the kind of mess this turned into or how he wound up doing the project alone for a grade two of them did nothing to earn while having to sit down three times a week with two young women who started out hating each other and ended up both hating him, to the point of falsely accusing him behind his back.

It seemed as if he might thrive in a private, individually paced tutoring relationship, but there were never the means to provide him with that. Finally he did get referred to the county for independent study in lieu of some high school program, and this went well until he quit keeping appointments and simply fell through the cracks for several years.

wmspotts's avatar

Park Ranger. Don’t need too many social skills and math is usually not a big part of the job. It does however require outdoor abilities and a certain amount of integrity.

Zen_Again's avatar

He sounds a bit like me back then. I would also say sales, which I also did not like. The key is to find something you believe in and sell it – something which doesn’t involve “little money” – perhaps fundraising for a good cause. At the same time, keep taking courses – even one at a time – both towards credit, but mostly for keeping his nose to the ground and academic wits about him. Stay connected to studying – the key is learning (it seems so strange that it has to be explained nowadays) something he enjoys and might be useful. While working, know that everything is temporary – and to be aware of potential job offerings and opportunities. To be aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and to ultimately find what makes him happy, and money. I only found out in my forties.

zenele's avatar

@Jeruba So what became of the young man? It’s been a month.

Jeruba's avatar

Still fudging, not deciding. I have no idea what it will take to achieve some movement.

crm4803's avatar

Hi Jeruba, i guess commenting on this section after a gap of 5 years looks unusual. For a small introduction, i am based in Bangalore, India and have helped out my father in our real estate business. My father and I too share the same personalities and, we hated formal education. My father, couldn’t muster grades to pass the first time at junior college, but did so eventually. I was a miserable student when i went to college in USA. Later, i did manage to complete an Associate Degree online from Excelsior College in Business Administration. I took a combination of CLEP / DSST exams and two exams from Straighterline. I feel that online education could help or just blend in to Gene’s schedule.

It is better to aim for an Associates first and then a Bachelors. I would recommend real estate business, since it needs lots of empathy, patience and sharp communication skills. The presence of an elderly mentor could really help as well.

talljasperman's avatar

@Jeruba How about being a social worker? Or unit clerk in a hospital?

janbb's avatar

Jeruba be gone long time ago.

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