Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Social People
Lots of people enjoy helping others—whether it's simply offering a kind word or propping up a friend or family member during a crisis. And, of course, many people choose service professions in fields like medicine, education, or counseling. As part of our guide to career chemistry, here are our top choices for "social" types of people who prefer to work in a cooperative environment—rather than a competitive one—and have a knack for helping people:
School-based counselor. The job today requires more sophistication than simply dealing with kids kicked out of class for chewing gum. School counselors coordinate activities that often include sex education, health awareness, career counseling, gang violence prevention, and on-site social-work services. And yes, counselors still spend a lot of time telling Johnny that he'd better shape up—or else. The quality of these jobs varies: Some counselors are respected members of the faculty, while others are glorified clerks.
More info: American School Counselor Association; A Survival Guide for the Elementary/Middle School Counselor by John Schmidt
School psychologist. Typical assignment: Melissa is doing poorly in school. What should teachers and parents do? In comes the school psychologist, who will observe the child, test and talk with her; powwow with parents and teachers, and write a report. School psychologists may also conduct parenting workshops and screen children for gifted-students programs. Among the pluses: You work one on one in a peaceful setting, you get summers off, and pay and prestige are high.
More info: National Association of School Psychologists; School Psychology for the 21st Century by Kenneth Merrell
Personal coach. Struggling people, from unfulfilled executives to shy singles to disorganized housewives, are increasingly forgoing therapists in favor of a personal coach. These mentors focus on developing practical solutions, not probing psychological depths. Personal coaches are usually self-employed, so to succeed, you must be a willing and able marketer. Anyone can hang a coaching shingle, so consult some training resources to help set yourself apart.
More info: International Coaches Federation; Coach U; Choice magazine; Coaching Manual by Julie Starr
Mediator. Instead of hiring a lawyer to settle disputes, more people are turning to mediators who can reach resolution with less fighting and expense. Typical client pairs include warring spouses, landlord and tenant, or employer and employee. A good mediator needs the listening skills of a suicide counselor, the patience of Job, and the wisdom of Solomon. The marketing skills of P. T. Barnum help, too.
More info: www.mediate.com; Nolo Press's Mediation Resource Center
College student affairs administrator. It's a little like going to college all over again. Student affairs administrators coordinate the nonacademic part of student life, from student orientation to graduation. For example, they supervise fraternities, coordinate residence hall activities and intramural sports, and sponsor antidrug programs.
More info: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators
Employee trainer. New employees, from fresh college grads to aging baby boomers, often need guidance to succeed in today's globally competitive workplace. Enter the trainer, who may teach anything from basic reading to advanced Oracle. The ability to develop and teach online courses will be particularly helpful in coming years.
More info: American Society for Training and Development; Telling Ain't Training by Howard Stolovitch
Teacher. Demand will be strong at all levels, from preschool through college. Although colleges increasingly hire instructors course by course, with no benefits, teaching generally offers good job security, with lifetime tenure possible after just a few years. Teachers usually get summers off, and there's the satisfaction that comes from helping the next generation to flower. A growing downside: Political mandates are requiring more public schools to have mixed-ability classes, which can water down the curriculum and challenge even the most talented and hardworking professionals.
More info: About.com's education portal; The First Year of Teaching by Pearl Rock Kane
Registered nurse. Jobs are plentiful, in settings ranging from hospitals to homes and specialties in every medical field. Just be detail-oriented: Every year, many patients die from medical errors. If you're capable of carefully deciphering a physician's scrawled orders, calculating doses perfectly, assiduously administering a wide range of treatments, and reassuring anxious patients—often under stress, in the middle of the night—please sign up.
More info: Department of Labor profile: Registered Nurse; About.com's nursing portal
Physical therapist. Today, the job involves less one-on-one time with patients, working muscles or joints, and more effort designing each patient's overall rehab program and training. The physical therapist often trains lower-level assistants to implement the program. Another change in this field: Training requirements have been ratcheted up. A three-year doctorate in physical therapy is increasingly needed, in addition to a college degree.
More info: American Physical Therapy Association
Social worker. This career affords unmitigated do-gooding, often including the pleasure of giving away cash and other resources, compliments of taxpayers. And the pay is improving, averaging about $50,000 per year. Plus, social work offers great job security: It's hard to foresee conditions under which the need for social workers in the United States will decline. This is another career in which the training requirements have been ratcheted up: Now, a master's degree is usually needed.
More info: National Association of Social Workers; The New Social Worker Online; Days in the Lives of Social Workers by Linda May Grobman
Occupational therapist. This job calls for big-time patience. The tools are a combination of computers, psychology, and limb braces, plus a healthy dose of common sense. Using those, you help people with physical setbacks, like stroke survivors and accident victims, regain the ability to do life's basic tasks, from buttoning a shirt to driving a car.
More info: American Occupational Therapy Association
Employment interviewer. Human resource departments and employment agencies use these interviewers to match applicants with openings. This career demands an excellent BS detector to suss out how legitimate that glowing reference is and distinguish between strong candidates and those who have merely been coached on how to interview well. A college degree is usually required, but the training mostly comes on the job.
More info: 45 Effective Ways for Hiring Smart by Pierre Mornell