The Portland Mercury's Career Counseling Center 

A Back-to-School Guide

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STAY IN SCHOOL.

You've probably heard that one before. Whether it's been from parents or teachers or animated cartoon characters, it's been hammered into the core of your being that the most important thing in the world is SCHOOL. And it is... sometimes.

But what you'll find from reading this year's Back to School Issue is that sometimes school ain't everything it's cracked up to be. Shock! Gasp! Consternation!

Now, before you freak out and start torching your textbooks, calm down for a hot second. We said "sometimes," and it really depends on what you want to do for a living. Want to be a surgeon and cut open people's bodies for money? Stay in school. Want to be a lawyer and memorize endless facts and statistics in order to prey on others' weaknesses? Stay in school. Want to open a combination yarn store/ice cream parlor/kitten daycare facility? Well, first of all, you're probably too precious for words, and second of all, that expensive degree in 16th-century Flemish mercantile trading routes is probably not going to help you achieve your dreams.

Chances are, though, you don't have the foggiest idea of how you want to make a living once you're done with school. And that's okay: The path to a rewarding, meaningful career is different for everybody. Sometimes you get there through years of hard work. Other times you end up there by accident. Whatever the case, it is never straightforward.

That's why we've prepared the Mercury Vocational Guidance Test for those of you who are still determining what in the Sam Hill you want to do with your professional life. We've spent countless hours of research using scientific algorithms, laboratory experiments, personal anecdotes, and mini-donkey DNA (don't ask; it proved to be a dead end) to come up with a precisely calibrated questionnaire that will determine exactly how you can best spend the remainder of your days on this planet. Answer truthfully! And your dream job shall present itself.

We've also interviewed a bunch of local professionals with creative, unusual, or Portland-centric jobs to find out how they ended up at their specific occupations. Sometimes school played an important factor; a lot of the time, it didn't.

So sharpen those number-two pencils and get those erasers ready to rub stuff out (...what?)—it's the Mercury's Comprehensive Career Cwiz! (And if you learn one valuable thing in school, it's never to spell "cwiz" the way we just did.)

TAKE THE CAREER QUIZ! Your Ideal Job Awaits

YOUR FUTURE CAREER: Profiles of Local Professionals

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