Get insight into 10 career-related areas so you can help your son or daughter plan for a career.

1. Choosing a career/choosing a major

Security vs. adventure. Accountant, Peace Corps volunteer, journalist, college professor.

Ultimately, your son or daughter should make the choice. Of course, you may want to mention factors to consider, such as job-market demand, salary ranges, long-range opportunities, skills required, and so forth. Just because an occupation is "hot" now does not mean it will be equally in demand in 10 years, or that your child has the aptitude or motivation for it.

2. Choosing to double major/choosing a major and minor

Most employers do not place a students 6premium on a double major. It usually requires an extra one or two semesters to obtain a second major and does not particularly enhance a student's marketability. Exceptions would be a second major or a major and minor chosen for a specific career, such as English and chemistry for technical writing, or a health policy major and business minor for hospital administration. Of course, some students may choose to double major primarily for academic/intellectual purposes.

3. Grade point average (GPA)

Some students who get off to a rocky start eventually pull up their grades; however, this can be difficult to do. Advanced placement credits and study-abroad courses generally do not count in the computation of a student's GPA.

Some employers use GPA cutoffs in considering applicants for job openings. Others stress the student's overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, and other key skills or attributes. Encourage your son or daughter to make academics a high priority beginning with the freshman year. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it may take him or her a while to adjust to the rigorous academic demands of college.

4. Obtaining marketable skills

Most employers today put more emphasis on graduates' skills than on their academic majors. Encourage your son or daughter to develop strengths in at least two or three of the following areas:

  • Quantitative skills (e.g., accounting, statistics, economics);
  • Communication skills (e.g., written and oral);
  • Marketing/selling skills (e.g., sales, publicity, fundraising);
  • Scientific skills (e.g., lab skills, scientific research);
  • Leadership skills (e.g., supervisory, extracurricular leadership roles, teamwork/team leader).

5. Leadership activities

Many employers rate leadership activities even more highly than GPA. Students who were very active in high school activities may be less involved in college extracurricular activities. However, employers regard high school as "ancient history" for a college senior. It is more valuable for a student to be involved in a few meaningful leadership roles on campus than to be in a "laundry list" of many campus clubs.

6. Experience

You may want your son or daughter to work in his or her hometown every summer. However, the experience gained as a lifeguard or ice cream shop counter clerk does not compare to that which comes from an internship in the career field that he or she aspires to enter. Future employers will seek graduates with relevant, real-world work experience. Some students have little to write about on a resume if their summers were spent in school, traveling, or working at low-level jobs. We strongly suggest that students seek career-related experience for their sophomore and junior summers.

7. Graduating early, graduating late

Some students graduate early through advanced placement credits, heavy course loads, and summer school courses. The advantages are lower educational expenses, and the ability to start employment or graduate school earlier. The disadvantages may include the sacrifice of academic honors, work experience, and extracurricular and volunteer activities that may contribute to a student's maturity level and qualifications.

Other students graduate late due to light course loads, academic difficulties, changing majors, poor academic advising, lack of direction, or reluctance to leave the cocoon of the college environment. Advantages to late graduation include the ability to improve grades with light class loads, extra time to change majors, the ability to take additional electives to improve marketability, and extra time to gain more career-related or leadership experience. Disadvantages to late graduation are increased college costs, and possible disapproval of employers and graduate schools.

8. Planning for graduate/professional school

Students aspiring to graduate or professional school should:

  • Be clear about the reasons they want to go on for further education;
  • Research the qualifications required for admission and be realistic about their chances of acceptance; and
  • Have a "Plan B" or back-up plan in case they are not accepted.

Students should discuss their interest in graduate or professional school well before their senior year with their academic adviser; the college's graduate or professional school adviser (e.g., the pre-law or pre-med adviser); and a college career adviser to obtain advice and guidance from three different perspectives.

9. Taking time off

Many students want to take time off after college graduation and before attending graduate school or taking a career-related job. Future employers will want to know how the student has spent the intervening time. Do activities during this period demonstrate relevance to future career goals and/or a good work ethic?

While short-term travel may be personally broadening, it does not increase a student's marketability to employers unless it is seen as career related. Therefore, the time off may result in a longer job search. For example, management trainee programs, which often begin shortly after graduation and hire large numbers of new graduates, may be filled by the time your child is ready to begin a job search.

10. Using the college career center

Students should visit the career center no later than their sophomore year. Most career centers provide individual career counseling/advising, workshops, internship assistance, and career fairs and programs—services designed specifically for underclassmen.

Your son or daughter should seek help early with choosing a career and preparing for it. Competition for good jobs, particularly in certain fields, is stiff. The career center can advise students about how to become strong candidates for their fields of interest.

By Marcia B. Harris and Sharon L. Jones. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

UAB News

  • Spain Rehab Women’s Committee hosts ‘Firefly’ fundraiser
    The Women’s Committee of the Spain Rehabilitation Center will host its signature benefit and Valentine’s Day celebration, “The Firefly,” on Saturday, Feb. 13, at The Florentine at 6 p.m.

    The Women’s Committee of the Spain Rehabilitation Center will host its signature benefit and Valentine’s Day celebration, “The Firefly,” on Saturday, Feb. 13, at The Florentine at 6 p.m.

    This year, the committee will honor former patients Kelly Garner and Ryan Robinett.

    Garner is an author, inspirational speaker and community leader. Following a near-death experience and extraordinary recovery, he wrote the book “The Night That Changed Our Lives.” Garner’s book was inspired primarily by his experience during the massive January 2014 snowstorm in Birmingham.

    Garner became familiar to many in the Birmingham area as the Good Samaritan during the storm when he offered assistance to stranded motorists and was injured after falling 40 feet off a cliff into a ravine. He spent over 12 hours in single-digit temperatures before a neighborhood rescue party located him early the next morning. He survived the fall but suffered shattered vertebrae and fell into a severe diabetic hypoglycemic state. Some doubted  he would ever walk again; but after numerous surgeries and rigorous rehabilitation at the Spain Rehabilitation Center, he has beaten the odds. Just a year after this incident, he completed the Mercedes half marathon. His surgical team was so inspired by his story that they ran the race with him.

    A native of Birmingham, Robinett serves as the managing director of Computer Technology Solutions’ Birmingham Operations. Ryan received his MBA from the UAB.

    Robinett was introduced to Spain’s Research and Rehabilitation programs in 2014 after experiencing a sudden onset of neurologic issues. Over the course of 16 months, his ability to walk deteriorated significantly. He has since made a full recovery following intense physical rehabilitation at Spain, is medicine-free and has been granted full medical release.

    Throughout his medical trials, Robinett has been an advocate and partner of UAB research, especially focusing on demyelinating diseases. He is an advocate of innovative ways to improve current rehabilitation methods, particularly involving neuro-physical rehabilitation. 

    To make a donation, please contact Catherine Newhouse.

  • New study finds relationship between lifetime marijuana use and loss of verbal memory in middle-aged adults
    A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looks at the relationship between lifetime marijuana use and cognitive function in middle-aged adults.
    Stefan Kertesz, MD, and his team have found that there is an association between long-term marijuana use and impaired verbal memory in middle aged adults.

    Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug in the United States, according to a recent survey from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and new data suggest that marijuana use now could pose a serious cognitive function risk later in life.

    Stefan Kertesz, M.D., an associate professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, is part of a recently published nationwide study reporting potential long-term consequences with implications for public health.

    Impaired cognitive functioning is an acute effect of marijuana use, and there is increasing evidence that such effects may persist later in life after marijuana use has ceased. Heavy, long-term use of marijuana has been associated with cognitive impairment, particularly in learning and remembering new information.

    Kertesz and other researchers foundpast exposure to marijuana use to be significantly associated with worse verbal memory in middle age.

    Their paper used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study which started in 1985, where more than 5,000 healthy adults were regularly asked about marijuana use. In contrast to studies that focus on people known to have an addiction, this study focused on community-based adults, where casual use tends to be more common than addiction.

    In the final year of the study, CARDIA participants underwent simple cognitive tests, including a word memory test. Individuals were presented with 15 words and then asked to try to remember them. After 25 minutes, they were later asked to recall the words. The tests showed that there was a significant decline in verbal memory among persons whose cumulative marijuana use exceeded the equivalent of one joint a day for five years.

    “For every five years of marijuana exposure, one out of two participants would remember one word less,” Kertesz said.

    Kertesz also said that it is important to realize that marijuana is more potent today than it was in the 1980s, raising the possibility that users of today’s marijuana may face cognitive consequences of greater magnitude than those reported.

    “It’s crucial to recognize that young brains are truly different and not fully developed until age 22 and are at more risk from marijuana,” he said. “Parents and teachers need to be vigilant that this poses a larger risk to adolescents.”

    Data from 2012 indicates that, among students in the 12th grade (ages 17-18 years), 37 percent had used marijuana within the last year, 23 percent within the last 30 days and 6.5 percent daily.

  • One nurse and 2,000 patients, a story of medical transport
    UAB nurse John Doriety reaches a major milestone: 2,000 patients transported by UAB’s Critical Care Transport service.

    The plane rolled to a stop on the tarmac in the middle of the night, the warm, salt smell of the Caribbean wafting from the nearby beach. John Doriety opened the hatch of the Cessna Citation Bravo to see that the plane was surrounded by men in camouflage, carrying automatic weapons. They were — fortunately — United States Marines, part of the garrison at Gitmo, the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Doriety and the rest of the team from the Critical Care Transport Service at the University of Alabama at Birmingham were at Gitmo following the devastating earthquake that hit the nearby island of Haiti in January 2010. A U.S. military officer had been badly injured in the quake. First responders had brought him to the Gitmo base hospital by helicopter, and CCT had been summoned to get him stateside, to more advanced medical care.

    It was another day at the office for Doriety, a registered nurse for CCT. He, along with medical director Kevin Barlotta, M.D., respiratory therapist Regena Bragwell, RT, and two pilots, had brought UAB’s Cessna air ambulance — its flying intensive care unit — to pick up the injured officer. It was one of the more than 2,000 medical transports Doriety has made during his 15 years with CCT. 643 transports by air, 1,357 by ground ambulance, the most of any CCT employee in the program’s history. The milestone 2,000th was a trip on January 28.

    Doriety, an army brat, graduated high school in Birmingham and studied at UAB to be an emergency medical technician. A part time job driving ambulances gave him a taste of medical transport. He earned his nursing degree from the UAB School of Nursing in 1998 and worked several years in emergency and trauma nursing. But the idea of medical transport was always in the back of his mind.

    “You never know where you are going to go, how long it will take or when you’ll be back,” Doriety said. “A lot of times, we’re the last glimmer of hope for patients, to safely get them to a hospital that can provide the kind of care they require, where ever they might be.”

    In the early 1980s, UAB realized that patients with significant medical issues requiring transfer between hospitals needed a better transport system than an ordinary ambulance. They needed air and ground vehicles with the same kind of equipment found in a hospital intensive care unit, staffed by the same kind of medical professionals who work in those units.

    That led to the creation of CCT, which has carried out more than 47,000 medical transports, covering 42 million miles, 46 states and 38 countries. Beside the aircraft, CCT has three specially equipped ground ambulances, capable of transporting the sickest patients requiring the most complex care.

    Several trips stand out in Doriety’s memory. Last February, he was on UAB’s first flight to collect a patient on ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. ECMO patients are very sick, and very fragile. UAB is one of the few transport operations in the nation that will even attempt to move an ECMO patient by air. It is a daunting undertaking, because at 36,000 feet, there is no help if something goes wrong.

    UAB CCT's historic first overflight of Cuba. Pilot Justin Koenig, Dr. Kevin Barlotta, a US Marine, Regena Bragwell, and John Doriety in front of their flying intensive care unit.

    “The ECMO transport team included a physician and UAB perfusionists, along with the usual crew,” Doriety recalled. “There was a lot of preparation and planning, and a lot of communication and coordination with the team on the ground at the other hospital. Ultimately, it was a pretty smooth flight.”

    CCT has now flown six ECMO patients to UAB, and Doriety has been on three of the flights. He estimates he has done about 50 flights with cardiac patients coming to UAB for open heart surgery or transplant who required a continuous balloon pump, another procedure that many medical transport companies will not touch. He took part in one high profile case when CCT transported a member of the family who had become ill in the U.S. Virgin Islands in March 2015 from suspected pesticide poisoning.

    “The medevac company operating in the Virgin Islands was overwhelmed and needed additional resources,” said Laura Lee Demmons, director of UAB CCT. “Their medical director had been a member of the U.S. Air Force special operations medical team embedded at UAB, and knew of CCT’s capabilities. We were able to send John and our crew to provide assistance, testimony to UAB’s continually growing national and international reputation.”

    Demmons, one of the few CCT employees who has been with the program longer than Doriety, says he is the right guy for this kind of job.

    “John is exactly the kind of nurse that UAB and CCT need to represent us around the country and around the world,” she said. “He is an outstanding clinician, great ambassador, inspiring educator and a master diplomat. We have a lot of great employees in Critical Care Transport, and John’s leadership and example are a large part of what makes our team so successful.”

    Back to that Gitmo trip. The airport is on the other side of the bay from the hospital, so they had to take a small boat across, which meant leaving their stretcher behind. The Navy loaded the base ambulance, with the patient and team inside, into a large landing craft, the kind they use for amphibious operations, for the return voyage to the airport. That is when the trip got really interesting.

    Gitmo is on the southeast coast of Cuba, about as far from the United States as any point on the island. Incoming flights have to stay outside of Cuban airspace, and make a long detour around the island. But with an injured man aboard for the return flight, a direct, shorter and quicker route home was essential.

    Approval to take the shorter route would mean UAB’s jet would become the first U.S. aircraft in five decades to make an official flight through Cuban airspace.

    “We got permission to overfly Cuba, the first U.S. aircraft to do so since a new, fledging agreement regarding medevac flights was negotiated between Cuba and our government,” Doriety said. “We were a little nervous to be the test case for the new rules, hoping that nothing went wrong. It was comforting to finally land on U.S. soil. Those kinds of flights are routine over Cuba now, but we were the first since the revolution.”

    Doriety has no plans to curtail his medical transports. He is planning on getting his master’s degree in nursing at some point, but he and his wife, also a critical care nurse, have four children to get through school first. The oldest is about to start medical school this year, no doubt inspired by dinner-table tales of saving lives on the ground and in the air.

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