As a behavioral scientist who also serves as a career counselor, I know youth – and those unhappily engaged in their current career – are struggling to find meaningful careers in an efficient manner. And it is costing them (and their parents, spouses, etc) major money, time, pain. But it doesn’t have to, as we will discuss below. But first, some worrisome observations:
-Most youth and their parents do not enforce the idea that college should be used as a place to systematically explore career options in a disciplined manner. How many friends do you have who used personality/career measures at the beginning of college to help them key into their profile of aptitudes, passions, skills, interests, and life goals? That may be why by the end of college many students do not ramp themselves up to their first job through strategic accumulation of knowledge, skills, and contacts in a defined occupational field.
-The first 3-5 years after college or high school are often the most stressful students have ever experienced up to that time. Many young people wander around in a fog because they still have no firm sense of themselves or occupations that would truly fit their personality.
This fogginess did not drop out of the sky, it has roots in many factors, including how parents (unlike what has been done by earlier generations) do not enforce the idea that their children should begin exploring what they might do at the beginning of high school.
But with the advent of more advanced behavioral science tools, helping even younger people find or begin exploring careers that truly match with their unique combination of motivations, needs, natural aptitudes, interests, passions, personality tendencies, and life goals is becoming easier. For example, one excellent measure I use as part of my vocational guidance process is called the Campbell Interest and Skills Inventory (CISS). This measure distinguishes between the interest and skills one has across a far ranging spectrum of fields, and job sectors. It helps narrow down the list of “potentials”.
But beyond using measures, truly great vocational guidance is a thoughtful integration of an in-depth interview, job history review, and a vocational profile mapping interests and skills. And one more critical component: the “Professional Obituary”. I ask people to write how they want to be remembered, and this often helps us truly bring to light what are their deepest values, passions, and goals.
Exceptional career counselors must help someone find what I call the vocational “sweet spot”; the area where three circles intersect. Each circle is defined by a question, and are discussed in more detail in the book Good to Great. The three questions: What are you most passionate about? What are you (or can you be) the most skilled with? What positions can support you financially given the current economic trends? The idea with this three circle thought exercise is to help them “follow their heart” by using their head to gain insight into what really drives them and what they can truly excel with.
By asking great questions, and using more precise tools, what we are really doing is using cutting edge personality science to conduct what I call “Personality Career Fit” or “PCF”. You would be surprised at how mature young people get when they begin to see themselves turned inside out by personality measures that go deeper than simplistic career inventories that read like medical lab reports.
With the PCF method, college classes, jobs, internships, etc. can be strategically used to either confirm an interest or eliminate certain career options. College becomes a ramp-up to a career, and this is the way it is meant to be.
Think of the money saved and the agony avoided if by the end of college a student has chosen a field, or at least has narrowed down their list in a mature and sound manner using the science of personality and aptitude assessment.
Many young or mid-career professionals benefit from this process as well. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work as a counseling professional. There is nothing more gratifying than knowing I helped someone find a meaningful career. We gain so much self esteem and meaning from the work we do. Finding out what work may fit our personalities best is worth investment because if we find the right career, it is not just a job, but a lifelong vocation. That is priceless!
Facts for you to chew on:
-Today, the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 11 job changes) during his or her career, which means a good amount of time is spent changing employment.
-Job searching, in conjunction with career development, has become more of a lifelong endeavor than a one-time event. The days when people held one job for all, or most, of their working life are gone. However, I would argue that if a person chooses a career with a high degree of “personality-career fit”, then that person can contimue growing professionally within the breadth and depth contained in that field.
-The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that people born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11 jobs from ages 18 to 44. On average, men held 11.4 jobs and women held 10.7 jobs. 25% percent held 15 jobs or more, while 12% held four jobs or less.