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Brighter Career Guidance for Darker Days Ahead

Far more people quit their jobs in 2021 than any other year on record, even going back over 50 years. 

In 2021 the disruptive onset of COVID-19 caused 47 million Americans to quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor (BOL) statistics. Why would so many people, amidst an economically destabilizing pandemic, quit their jobs? During difficult times don’t people cling to their current paycheck? Economists scratched their heads.

But if you step back and look at the big picture, the reason for this workplace tsunami becomes clear. Let’s start with the fact that statistics indicate anywhere from 50% to 75% of people report feeling unfulfilled with their current work. These aren’t flash-in-the-pan statistics. The fact that half to three-quarters of people do not enjoy their work has been known since the 1970s. 

So, before the pandemic ever happened, one-half to three-quarters of people were already not deeply enjoying their work. Along comes the pandemic, which caused massive instability in the population. Mental health statistics indicated rates of suicide, anxiety, loneliness and substance abuse skyrocketed in students and adults alike. Many of the college students I work with decided to take a gap semester or gap year because the pandemic caused them to deeply question the meaningfulness of their course of studies. The same thing happened with adult workers. As a psychologist colleague of mine said, once the pandemic happened, people decided they were no longer willing to do work they didn’t enjoy. Meaning became more important than money. 

Post COVID, workers now prize meaning over money

As a recent Time magazine article pointed out, the pandemic simply accelerated an already established trend toward people beginning to focus more on fulfillment than on economic stability. The pandemic made people realize that life is short, as the future began to feel less optimistic than it had before the pandemic. And things were already not going well before the pandemic. Regardless of your political orientation, it would be hard to argue against the fact that when toxins are continually dumped into the environment there will eventually be environmental effects. Resources are limited on planet Earth, and shortages of water were already apparent before the pandemic. As we all realize another pandemic could be around the corner, and resource shortages will continue, the future looks grim. For even the most optimistic people, it seems like darker days are ahead.  

Statistics show that the current population of high school and college students is the least optimistic of any American generation. Is it really hard to believe this? I have personally witnessed this as a psychologist working with young people on a daily basis. What I see among the younger population is a drastic change in their attitude toward work, versus the generation I am part of as a 52-year-old who grew up in the 70s and 80s. In previous times, people thought of work as something you go to because that is part of being an adult. Work was valued as an end in itself, and the Protestant Ethic was alive and well. People accepted that work may not be meaningful, but it was necessary. However, the attitude of the younger generation has now shifted dramatically. They are much less willing to do any kind of work, and are more focused on work that is meaningfully connected to who they really are.

The problem is this younger generation of future workers is experiencing even less mentorship than I experienced as I grew up. High schools have become mental health centers where school counselors are inundated by the psychological problems students are bringing to school. Because of decreasing enrollments due to the increasing competition of junior colleges and credential-based education, colleges and universities are trimming back extras. One of those extras is career guidance. 

At the college level, advisors have caseloads of 2 to 300 students. My college students regularly report to me that their very brief meetings with the college advisor are focused on the major they have chosen, and the administrative requirements needed to complete the major.

Meanwhile the college major system is clearly broken. Statistics show that students tend to change their majors anywhere from 3 to 6 times. And the financial fallout from changing a major is devastating; changing a major can cost a student anywhere from $10-$20,000 because all of the extra classes involved. Changing a major is comparable to falling off a ladder you have been climbing and must start all over from the bottom.

There is no built-in, readily available, psychologically piercing mentorship system for students in American society. People choose majors—and even careers—based on relatively superficial information about themselves. The root of the problem with workplace dissatisfaction lies with the lack of any rigorous and systematic career guidance methodology.

Career choice should not be a blind choice

As a clinical and talent development psychologist, over the last 20 years I personally witnessed that a large group of my clients have psychological problems because they are overly stressed from doing work they do not enjoy. I decided to develop a career guidance method composed of the most effective and piercing psychological techniques available. I will soon be discussing a completely fresh and much more reliable career guidance approach called Precisely Engineered Career Guidance (PECG).™

In my upcoming book, I will be revealing a method of career guidance that will create a paradigm shift in the field of career guidance. Isn’t that what we need? What we need to do is to cultivate the younger generation, and our current generation of adults, to address the darker days ahead. But no matter how smart younger people are, if they go into the wrong career then a financial and emotional train wreck will be down the road. Unfortunately, statistics also indicate that end-of-life career regret is very common and affects the near majority of people.

In order to address the problems of the future, we need a much more psychologically sophisticated approach to career guidance. But to do this we need to use more than personality tests and self-reflection worksheet exercises. Personality typology has had its heyday and is now decreasing in popularity, now that people are becoming more and more aware of the shortcomings. For example, check out HBO’s recent 2021 special “The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests.“

Beware of the myth that personality tests reveal your workplace destiny

People are beginning to realize that personality tests are not what they were once cracked up to be. Personality typology does not lead to accurate career selection. No one job requires a certain personality type. In fact, the era of what I call “typology astrology” is coming to an end.

Even your own self-reflection about who you think you are is of minimal value. A significant body of study shows that how people think of themselves is often drastically different from how other people perceive them. The best career guidance integrates your private thoughts about yourself with data from collaterals who know you best. To discover your real me, you need to work from the inside out, and from the outside in. By using only self-reflection, you are locking yourself inside of your own echo chamber. But too many people choose to only use self- reflection, which I call the “lone wolf approach” to career selection. The lone wolf approach is not reliable when you are deciding how you will spend the next 100,000 hours of your life.

To figure out who you really are, a variety of powerful methods needs to be used that weave together a diverse amount of information in which no one source is trusted too much. PECG combines a variety of powerful methods, including interviewing people who know you best.

Life involves a huge amount of unforeseeable volatility. In a lifetime you and everyone you know will experience stress, loss, financial instability, psychological problems, toxic workplaces, and societal conflict. Students and adults deserve to find work that will allow them to draw from a sustainable purpose that allows them to safely navigate the rough waters of life. PECG is designed to ensure you craft a handmade, customized rudder based on the deepest intelligence about who you truly are. That way, when volatility comes your way, you don’t feel like quitting your job like 47 million people did in 2021. Instead, your work helps to sustain your psychological health. Developed to get behind the different masks people need to wear as they go through their life, PECG recognizes that the greatest paycheck anyone can earn is the paycheck that gives you a feeling of authenticity.

If you or someone you know wants to learn about a fresh approach to career guidance that also addresses the challenges of navigating a workplace dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI),  sign up to be notified when my upcoming book, Freedom To Be: Career Guidance Finding the Real Me, will be published.

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Meet Doctor Brunner

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Brunner is a Tucson based psychologist and published expert who has a 20 year track record of clinical excellence, scientific research, teaching, publications, awards and podcast interviews.  He is the senior author of a psychological measure adapted into 14 languages worldwide, and has written over 250 blogs, many of them have gone viral.  He is revolutionizing the field of career guidance with his fresh and trademarked approach that is spreading like wildfire. Sign up here to be notified of soon to be published book, Find Your Real Me: Career Guidance Making You Truly Free.