21st Century life is so fast! Have you noticed!?! In the United States, we are such a goal-oriented, performance-evaluated society! Even our children have been affected by this. Or maybe I should say, our children have been especially impacted by this.
The school year lasts longer and the average high school student’s life is scheduled from dusk to dawn with goal-oriented activities without much time for play or leisure. I feel that this is a trend that will possibly carry forward for this generation into their work lives—strong focus on goal-orientation and productivity in a global marketplace. Early career exploration is definitely in order for this age group!
COMPONENTS OF A GOOD CAREER EXPLORATION PROGRAM
In working with students (and adults) who are exploring careers, I focus on the following areas, frequently using assessment instruments to give my clients an objective picture of themselves. In this way, we are identifying career paths that are more of a reflection of who we are instead of making choices based solely on how much money a position pays, distance of the commute, etc.
Personality. An obvious choice! I frequently use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to help my clients gain clarity as to the source of their energy (internal or external), how they take in information, their decision-making process and the way they organize their lives. Why is this information important?
If you are very extroverted, for example, a career or job requiring you to work alone for long periods of time would not be a good fit. An extrovert in this situation will begin to feel down or depressed because extroverts are energized by the world of people and things outside of themselves. Without these, they LOSE energy.
For students, the MBTI also provides an understanding of learning styles. For example, an intuitive learner wants an understanding of the concept or theory—they need a big picture overview. A sensing-type learner needs the details and facts in a step-by-step manner. There is a big difference in how they take in information. Although we all use both our sensing and intuitive functions, we tend to have a natural preference in one direction or the other.
There are also jobs that are more natural for sensing types who are great with details—accounting, clerical work, and project management. Intuitive types are typically more suited for the strategy, big-picture type of assignments—analyzing data for over-arching trends, etc. Other personality components are a factor here, also, but how we naturally take in information plays a big role in identifying careers that are a good fit for us.
Our personality types also impact our relationships and the MBTI is also frequently used in teambuilding events in corporations, religious organizations and non-profits.
Values can be defined as principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable (www.dictionary.com). Our values are like a ballast in our lives providing stability, direction and guidance. Even though some of our values will shift at different points in our lives, it is a very worthwhile exercise to put to pen and paper what is important to you! These can be reviewed when determining what college or vocational school to attend, evaluating a job offer, or selecting a career path. For example, in my recruiting work, I recently interviewed a candidate who said that it is very important to him to make a difference in a company. When asked to identify his career accomplishments, his examples reflected different incidences when his contribution made a difference to the company or the employees. This value defined his success in his career. His work in human resources gave him an opportunity to make a difference in a tangible way in the lives of the company’s employees and also guided him in choosing companies where he wanted to work.
According to the theory behind the Strong Interest Inventory, people are a reflection of their interests. We tend to develop our skills most readily where our interests lie, frequently so naturally that we may not recognize skills that we have developed as a result of our interests.
What a great joy it is to do work that holds our interest! What great contributions we make to this world when we perform work that we love! It makes such a difference to us and mankind!
When I first began my work as a Career Counselor/Coach, I was fascinated when I learned that you can divide the world of work into some categories or clusters. For example, some people are interested in work or activities in which you can see a tangible result—activities in which you use your physical body to solve a problem. Painting, carpentry, plumbing, landscaping—all have these qualities. These jobs have more in common than just working with your hands!
I use a variety of interest assessments to help my clients see different job clusters that are a good fit for them and will allow them to use skills that they value.
Informational Interviewing is a practical component of a career exploration program. One of the challenges for students is that they have limited exposure to work and don’t have a framework for comparison. Informational interviewing is a practical approach where we interview people who are in jobs/careers that we feel we might want to pursue. We discover how they started out in the field, what trends they see, what educational background they feel is needed, etc. Shadowing, volunteering and internships also give us exposure on a practical level to various career opportunities and work settings.
Decision-making style is another factor in a good career development or career exploration program. The MBTI personality assessment results can be a valuable tool in helping us understand some of our individual decision making processes. For example, certain personality types loved to keep their options open. They are happiest when they have an abundance of options. Making a choice for them means the abandonment of all of their other options so they may appear indecisive. Other people want to bring closer quickly to unanswered questions and sometimes make snap decisions just so they can move forward. Understanding how you make decisions is another step in this process.
One advantage of life in the 21st century is that we have many career options and are not expected to hold fast to one path for our entire career. Even though job-hoping is still considered a strike against a candidate, the “one job for life” paradigm is fading fast. Young adults entering the workforce do have time to explore, experiment and learn what is the best fit for them. However, my adult clients frequently express how they wish they had participated in this process when they were younger! Making conscious choices based on a comprehensive career assessment program can make a big difference.