Start Building A Successful Career

“You will open doors to many opportunities if you take responsibility for yourself early in your life and set high goals.” – George Lee, YPNG Mentor



I.  How Education Elevates Your Life and Gives You Many Career Choices

II. Deciding on a Career that is Right for You

III. Building A Long-Term Career Plan

IV.  The Waste of Time and Money From Not Preparing Yourself in HS

V. Building a Successful Career Requires Persistence and Commitment

I. How Education Elevates Your Life and Gives You Many Career Choices.   

The economy in Oklahoma is rapidly changing. In 2019, 47% of the jobs in the state only required a high school education and graduating from high school gave you a lot of opportunities for entry level jobs where you could gain experience and advance your career. But by 2028, the percentage of jobs open to high school graduates is projected to drop to 23% according to the Oklahoma State System for Higher Education. This means that you will have to get some kind of additional education or training after high school to be able to qualify for 77% of the jobs in the state. This change in educational requirements will happen because many jobs that are repetitive or involve manual labor will be automated. Here are just a few of the changes artificial intelligence will bring to way work is done:

The Number of People Working in Repetitive Task Jobs Will Continue to Decline.

A common thing you hear from politicians is that they will bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. But automation will continue to reduce the number of manufacturing jobs in the US and around the world. Even China, the country where the majority of the world’s manufacturing jobs exist in large part because of low labor costs, is seeing its human manufacturing workforce shrink as workers are replaced by robots with artificial intelligence. As an example, Foxconn, the manufacturer who makes everything from iPhones to Xboxes, recently replaced 60,000 workers with robots.


Chefs in Restaurants will be Replaced by Robots.

Chefs in most restaurants will be replaced by robots. Here is an asian food restaurant in Boston the four MIT engineers created  that lower costs and improve quality:

Link to video

The first automated hamburger restaurant is now open in San Francisco.  While the restaurant has fewer employees, the people who remain working are being paid $16 per hour.   Link to the Video


Automated Smoothy Bar in a Walmart

Link to Video

Many Manual Construction Workers Will be Replaced by Robots.

Labor jobs in construction are also under threat by automation. Robotic bricklayers will soon be introduced to construction sites that enable the machines to replace two to three human workers each. SAM (Semi-Automated Mason) can lay up to 1,200 bricks a day, compared to the 300 to 500 a human can do. While a human is still required to work with SAM to complete the more nuanced tasks, the use of SAM reduces the need for the three other bricklayers it would take to do the same job. Other on-site construction jobs such as crane operators and bulldozer drivers can also expect to see their positions filled by AI-controlled machines in the next decade. Here is a page with the SAM video at the bottom and nine other videos of jobs that artificial intelligence is expected to displace: Link to this Video




AI and Automation will Create More and Better Jobs Than Those They Displace.  

A 2017 study by the international business consulting firm,  McKinsey, found that the problem with AI and the resulting automation wouldn’t be massive job loss but instead would be the creation of new jobs with AI-driven components that can’t be filled without more people getting an advanced education beyond high school, adding to the tech talent gap in the U.S. as demand for tech-based skill sets continues to outpace available talent and there will be more of these higher paying jobs created than jobs lost.

Because the workplace will continue to evolve far into the future, any career you choose will require you to get more education or technical training not just beyond high school. It will also require you to continue to sharpen yours skill throughout your life. In this new, rapidly ehanging economic environment, think of working hard to get good grades in high school as just like putting money the bank.  The better your HS grades, the greater the opportunities you have to get scholarships and financial aid to pay for the education you will need after high school. The better your HS grades the better the college or training program you can attend. The better your post HS education and training, the more money you will earn for the rest of your life.  For these reasons, paying attention to your high school grades is the most important thing you can do to elevate your entire life.


George Lee: “Here is what I want to say to other young people about how education can lead to success in life based on my own experience now that I have gotten my degrees”:

Education is elevation. Education elevates you and how you understand yourself and the world and empowers you.

Education is multifaceted. There are multiple ways you can be educated and empowered. You need to figure out what kind of educational opportunities are available to you that will make you better than what you are.

You have to figure out where you are in life and how education fits at each point in your life. For example, when I was in high school sitting in a chemistry class trying to learn the periodic table or in a physics class, I was thinking how does learning this help me to be able to get a job and eat. If all I wanted to do was be a laborer, I know these classes wouldn’t apply. But if I set high goals for myself and wanted to be an engineer or scientist, I could see that it was something I had to learn first at this point in my life to be able to get into college and reach my goal. By me being able to understand how these subjects applied later in my life and how I could use them to my advantage, I became more interested in these classes. So if you are a student sitting in a class and you are getting frustrated and getting discouraged, think about what is being told to you and how you can apply it or not apply it later in your life and how it will help you reach your goals. You can also think about units in a particular subject. For example, you might find that if you are in biology class knowing about photosynthesis will be more helpful to you if you want to be a chemist as opposed to dissecting an animal, something someone who wants to be a doctor would consider important.  When it comes to education, you have to figure out how you can get the most out of your education to be able to reach your personal goals.

You also need to understand that it is important that everyone go on and get some kind of education and training after high school. There are going to be less and less opportunities for people with just a high school degree and your grades are what open up future opportunities for you after high school. Remember that “nobody can do everything but everyone can do something”. For some people, going on to trade school might be a better option than going on to college. You have to understand that the world we live in is really shrinking and that competition is getting fierce. You have to presume that getting a good job is going to continue to get more difficult and that you will have to get yourself an education beyond high school. With a good education, you will be ready and able to compete in the job market and you can live comfortably.

Besides working on your grades, here is a list of some of the other things you can do in high school that will help prepare you for that next step in your education after high school and for a successful, life long career:

  • People who are successful are people who can communicate effectively. Take as many classes in reading, writing and speaking as you can fit into your schedule.
  • Mathematics teaches you how to solve problems. You should take at least two years of Algebra and one year of Geometry. If you are looking at careers in engineering or computer science, then you need to take even more advanced math classes in high school like trigonometry and calculus. If you have a talent for math, develop proficiency in the subject. Remember, the highest paid college majors right now are all in engineering and science. These high paying careers require that you are proficient in math. The same is true of many of the highest paid skilled trades. Tool and Die Makers need to know trigonometry. Electricians, Plumbers and Heating and Air Technicians use algebra. Taking the appropriate math courses you need in high school will prepare you for the courses you will be required to take when you move from high school into a college, technical school, an apprenticeship program or other types of advanced training that require some type of math.
  • Taking some of the base Science classes like biology, chemistry, or physics are important no matter what career you choose to pursue. These classes will teach you how things work in the world around you and help you make good decisions when you face common situations in your life. An example,  biology will show you how the human body works will help you maintain your health and communicate well with your doctors if you are sick.
  • It is important that you know what is going on around you both locally and globally. Take some subjects like Geography, Civics, History, and Economics that will help you gain a better understanding of how and why people are motivated to behave like they do. This understanding will help you make better decisions when you are dealing with people throughout your life.
  • Languages also give you the opportunity to learn about another culture and can help you work with people from all over the world.
  • Today everyone needs some basic computer skills no matter what career they choose. Take the courses offered in your high school.
  • Use high school as an opportunity to earn credits for college and technical training. It is possible in most high schools in Oklahoma to take some college courses while you are in high school during your junior and senior years. Many high schools also work with technical schools like Tulsa Tech where you can learn about a trade and earn technical school credits that will also save you time and money if you decide to pursue a technical career.
  • Start learning in 8th grade about what it costs to go to college or a technical school and begin discussing these expenses with your parents or guardian.  Ask them what general income level your family has so that you can determine if you will be eligible for scholarships based on financial need.  Most all of the students from families in the lower half of Oklahoma’s average income levels get some financial assistance.  One of the best programs is Oklahoma’s Promise. It will  pay all of your tuition to a state college if you have at least at 2.5 GPA and meet the other requirements like taking the college prep courses on their list. But you need to start early. You can only apply in 8th, 9th and 10th grades. We discuss the Oklahoma’s Promise and programs for students from families at all income levels where you can get scholarships and financial aid  in YPNG’s HS College Prep pulldown on our home page.

Here is a series of videos that will show you How to Make High School Count.

II. Deciding on a Career that is Right for You 

First, do a thorough self- evaluation of your personal strengths and weaknesses before you take any general career tests. You intuitively know the subjects in school that you like and where you excel. But go further and  do a thorough self- evaluation of your personal strengths and weaknesses and also look at your other abilities. For example, the YPNG Blog page has an article on a book titled Mechanical Aptitude and Spatial Relationship Test. This is a common test given to people in a variety of professions including some engineers and many skilled trades. You also need good hand and eye coordination to be a surgeon or dentist or work in many other professions. Know that passing this test in addition to your academic classes can be a requirement to be hired for some jobs.  Here is a link to a webpage where you can take a Free Mechanical and Spacial Aptitude Test  if you are considering careers that require mechanical aptitude. Getting yourself familiar with these kinds of tests is important in your self-evaluation process as you determine your personal strengths and weaknesses  before you research a particular career .

Once you have done a self evaluation, take the FREE MAPP Career Test . It will give you an idea of careers that match your interests and that your are  naturally drawn to and how you can develop your personal interests into a satisfying career. There are 900 jobs that are sorted in order of the your own unique test results after you take the online career test. You can also go to OK College Start  where there is a page for career planning where you can also do a self evaluation and then take tests that like the MAPP will also help you identify career categories that match your interests.

Part of good career planing  means thoroughly researching the careers you may be considering to be certain they will allow you to reach your personal goals for both job satisfaction and income. Here are some points to consider when you are doing this kind of research. All these points and more are covered in individual YPNG Mentor Articles.

  • Learn what the career involves in terms of what you will actually be doing most days so that you are certain it fits your personality and abilities.
  • Get a good idea about the number and type of people you will be collaborating with each day.
  • Understand the personal time commitment needed to be successful. For example, some careers require a lot of travel. That often means you must be away from your wife and family more than other careers you could choose. 
  • Get good information on starting salaries and how salaries for each career you are considering normally progress as you gain work experience. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has salary surveys for most job categories. Just put the category in their search engine on this page. 
  • Make sure you know the regional differences in earnings for many careers and if you would have to relocate to reach your personal goals.
  • Know what the growth prospects are for a particular career by researching the future demand for the skills you will acquire with your advanced education.
  • There is normally going to be some ongoing education required to remain competitive in many types of careers. Know what the requirements are for the careers you are researching and whether you or your employer pay for it.

When you have some ideas about careers you think you would like to pursue, make sure you take the courses offered in high school that are necessary for you to be admitted  to the colleges and training programs for that career. The YPNG Blog page has several articles relating to preparation in high school including Use All Four Years of High School to Prepare for College and A High School Action Plan.

III. Build A Long-Term Career Plan and Regularly Update It.

Keep in mind that time is your most valuable asset and time, like money, is limited. In order to maximize your success, you must allocate your time in a way that will help you most effectively reach your goals. This requires you to make smart choices about how you pursue your education and training and regularly evaluate your progress. Here are some suggestions on how you can do this:

  • You need to make certain the college or technical training program you want to attend is well thought of by your potential employers. Attending a poorly accredited institution makes it much more difficult to get a job and is not a good use of your time or money. Many do not have records on the placement rates of their graduates. Even if they do, it is still important to ask people currently working in the career you are planning to pursue where to go to get the best education that will open the most doors for you after graduation.  
  • Do an honest evaluation of your personal academic abilities. It is normally not the best choice for you to go to a school where you are ranked low in the incoming class based on your grades and test scores compared to other students because you will likely graduate with a good class ranking. When you graduate, recruiters for many kinds of jobs are only interested in those who rank in the top half of a graduating class. Know where you can reasonably be expected to rank at a particular school when you enter and be honest with yourself about how high you think you will be able to rank at graduation. If you are set on graduating from a particular school where you would be ranked low when you begin classes, consider taking your first year or two at another school where all or most of your credits will later transfer to your preferred college.  If you do better than your high school academic records and test scores would indicate, you will gain the confidence that you can successfully compete and can then transfer to your preferred school. Remember, the school that issues you your degree does not have to be the school where you earned all your graduation credits.
  • Develop a realistic budget about what it will cost for your education and training. Remember that the advertised price for college tuition and some types of technical training is generally not the real price paid by most students. Scholarships and grants can usually be found to lower this cost especially for young people from families with average to below average incomes rarely pay the full sticker price of a college education. Make sure you know what scholarships and grants are available if you fall into this category before you write off attending the institution you prefer.
  • Develop strategies to help minimize any student debt. For example, consider the benefits of attending a two-year community college before you enter a larger school where you want to get your degree. The tuition is lower and in the case of Tulsa area high school graduates, tuition at Tulsa Community College is free if you qualify for the Tulsa Achieves scholarship program.  Plus you can save money by living at home for a couple of years. Just make sure that the four-year college you plan to transfer to will accept the credits from the community college you attend. Most community colleges in Oklahoma work with our state’s four year colleges to design their classes needed to get an Associates degree so as many credits as possible will transfer. But it is up to you ask about what credits the four year colleges you want to attend will accept from a particular community college before you sign up for classes. 
  • Make sure that whatever training you get is a good investment compared to what you expect to earn in your career. This is an especially critical decision if you must take on student loans to complete your education and training even after you have applied for all the scholarships available to you and one of the reasons why we want to help you get as many scholarships and grants as possible. The average student loan debt was just over $35,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success report “Student Debt and the Class of 2015”. To be able to comfortably pay off student loans, the career you choose would need to pay about double that amount after being in the job a few years.  If you take out a loan and earn less than this, then the student loan will likely be real burden. Federally guaranteed student loans began about the time the first baby boomers entered college. Those who incurred student loan debt back then are now discovering that if they were unable to pay off their student loans during their working careers their retirement is being affected. The government is taking money from the Social Security checks of people delinquent on student loans.  All of the YPNG Mentor Articles have salary statistics for each career to help you make sure your salary expectations are realistic. They show a salary range and talk about regional salary differences.  These regional differences are important to know if you want to maximize your lifetime earnings potential.
  • If after doing all your research you find yourself in a major or in some type of training program where you cannot compete or you do not like the required coursework, reassess your personal strengths and weaknesses. Many people do change majors. But it is expensive because it will take you longer to get a degree. That is why it is important to do as much research about particular careers in high school before you have to start paying for college. 
  • If you are in college, try and get internships or summer jobs that relate to your field of study. There are examples in some of the Mentor Articles where people were able to get internships and other part-time jobs while they were working on their degrees that helped them open doors to jobs after they graduated. Also many profession like accounting and engineering have professional groups on college campuses that are good places to network. 
  • Take Advanced Placement Exams in High School which provide an opportunity to earn college credit and are usually offered each year in May.


IV. The Waste of Time and Money from Not Preparing Yourself in HS  

 One of the reasons we started YPNG was because we had talked to many young people who began technical training or college after high school not fully prepared.  They did not take the right classes or did not put in the effort to get good grades and learn the material. Not preparing themselves in high school had consequences. Only about 42% of people over 25 receive either an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree even though 65% of high school graduates enter programs for this kind of advanced training after high school. Also Oklahoma’s Promise and many other scholarships will not pay for remedial class in college to get you up to the level you need to be able to compete in college if you have not done the work in high school. You have to pay for these classes yourself and you will be a semester or two behind your classmates, which makes it more difficult to finish. The high college drop out rate of 35%, shown by the difference between the  category “Some College”  and “Associate’s and/or Bachelor’s degree” means most of the time and money one third of the people spend in college or in technical training programs is wasted because they were not able to graduate and reach their career goals.

Educational attainment in the United States, Age 25 and Over (2015)  US Department of Labor Statistics



High school graduate


Some college


Associate’s and/or Bachelor’s degree


Bachelor’s degree


Master’s and/or Doctorate and/or professional degree


Doctorate and/or professional degree




It is also important you research any career you are considering so you have the information you need to determine the value of the different kinds of post-high school education you are considering whether it is college or technical school.  YPNG wants to encourage you to begin researching careers that interest you starting in  8th grade before you go to high school. Beginning to develop your personal career path this early is important so you take the high school classes required for the classes you will need after high school to reach your career goals. The Oklahoma Sate Department of Education recognizes the importance of  early career planning and is developing an  Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP) program where student will prepare an initial career plan in the 8th grade. YPNG has resources on our site what will help students doing ICAP research including mentor interviews with successful people in a wide variety of careers. You can also request video classroom presentations with YPNG mentors through you teachers or career counselors.

V. Building a Successful Career Requires Persistence and Commitment 

Persistence is a personality trait you have to develop to be successful if you are going to deal with the inevitable obstacles and difficulties everyone faces when pursuing any worthwhile goal. Persistence means that you look at problems as chances to show your personal ability to solve those problems. They are an opportunity to separate you from those people who do not have the character to persevere and get discouraged when things are not going well.

You can only persevere when you are fully committed to being successful. A lot of people are highly intelligent or have other unique abilities but are not successful. It is persistence fueled by your own personal commitment to succeed in all aspects of your life, not just academics, that will make you a success.

Here is a quote from LeBron James, a gifted athlete who has provided many scholarships and helped developed new programs to help young people get the kind of educational opportunities that will help them succeed in life. He is successful not just because of his natural abilities but because he is committed to being both a professional success and also successful in his personal life. Just like LeBron, you need to think each day about being committed to your career goal and ways you can strengthen your personal character.

Commitment is a big part of what I am and what I believe. How committed are you to winning? How committed are you to being a good friend? To being trustworthy? To being successful? How committed are you to being a good father, a good teammate, a good role model? There’s that moment every morning when you look in the mirror: Are you committed, or are you not?

LeBron James

Here is YPNG’s Commitment to you. We intend to work to build a site to help you make a good career choice that will allow you to reach your personal and financial goals. We will do this by building a Mentors library with written articles and podcasts that will allow you to learn from the personal experiences of successful people from all walks of life who will share with you how they accomplished their own goals.  We will offer virtual classrooms for you to ask questions and get answers from Mentors and other Members and provide you with references to books and articles that can help you research careers, prepare a strategy for your education, find a job and know what you need to do once you are there.

Let’s get started by reviewing the list of Mentors who have careers that interest you and reading their articles or listening to their podcasts. Let us know if there is someone you know with a career that interests you that is not in our library and would like to do a podcast where you can be part of the interview.