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How Credible Are "Best Careers" Lists?

How Credible Are "Best Careers" Lists?

Nancy Collamer | MyLifestyleCareer/com

Clients sometimes ask me if there is a “best careers” list, akin to the best college lists, that they can turn to in order to evaluate potential careers and companies. There are a few (see below) and they can be interesting to look at, but I caution people not to place too much emphasis on these lists.

Why? Because the criteria the magazines use to evaluate “best” careers may not line up with your criteria of a “best” career.

I got to thinking about this recently while watching a segment on the TODAY show about college rankings. As anyone who has a college-age student knows, there are four major college ranking polls (US News + World Report, Princeton Review, Forbes and Kaplan/Newsweek) and each one uses a different blend of weighted criteria to evaluate and rank the colleges. Unfortunately, this competing mix of criteria makes it challenging to definitively identify which schools are really the “best of the best.”

In an effort to make sense of the conflicting data, The TODAY show interviewed a college admissions counselor for her insights on how to best interpret the conflicting rankings. Her advice was deceptively simple and straight-forwarded:

1. Think about which ranking criteria are most important to you (high marks for professors, school spirit, dorms like palaces, etc.)
2. Compile a list of your top criteria.
3. Identify the schools that score the highest on your unique set of criteria
4. Ignore the rest.

For example, Harvard might be the top ranked school on most polls, but if you are an aspiring journalism major who wants to stay close to your home in North Carolina, than UNC might be a far better fit for you (disclosure – I am a proud UNC alum). MIT might be outstanding in engineering, but if you are a student who is fascinated by communications, than Syracuse could be a better fit for you.

This same theory holds true when you think about reinventing your career. Every career offers you a different set of benefits, challenges and work environments. Some careers rank high on the feel-good scale, but low on the pay scale. Other fields provide prestige and glamour, but you’ll have less time for family. Just because a career is perceived as having a “higher ranking” according to the traditional definition of success (translation – money, power, fancy perks and influence) doesn’t mean that it is the best choice for you.

Be honest with yourself abut your guiding values, listen to your inner voice and and then go consult the rankings for information about those careers that match your unique criteria for success. Remember, the “best” career for you can’t be defined by a survey or a magazine — only you can make that determination.

P.S. Okay, since I know people still love looking at the lists, here are three of interest. Just remember to interpret this data with care:

US News: Best Careers of 2010

Fortune: 100 Best Companies

Wall Street Journal: Best and Worst Jobs 2010



This article was originally published on MyLifestyleCareer.com.

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