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Historically epic student & worker revolt: A craving for deeper purpose

Students and workers are tired of living a transactional life lacking deeper meaning

What you will learn:

1. What major historical forces are merging to create a vacuum of meaning

2. What you or someone you know can do to avoid bitter end of life career regret

3. There is a comprehensive career guidance system called Precisely Engineered Career Guidance (PECG)

I am writing this blog at one of the darkest times in the last 50 years. You know things are bad when the younger generation lacks hope.  Our younger generation not only lacks hope, but is experiencing historically high rates of mental health problems.  Whether you are a student, parent, career changer, academic advisor or counselor, or an educational consultant, it is critical you read the disruptive writing on the wall, because society is fundamentally changing.   

There are numerous factors coming together to create a “perfect storm” where there is a vaccum of meaning.  One positive result of this highly existential time is students and workers are seeking much deeper meaning. In fact, it is clear that students and workers are revolting against the “way things have been”.  We are amidst several major paradigm shifts that are not just occurring in the United States, but also globally.  You have the ability to take advantage of several trends which I will discuss below, but first you must be able to step back and gain a panoramic perspective before moving to strategic action.

As a career guidance Mentor who has developed the only comprehensive career guidance system in the world, Precisely Engineered Career Guidance (PECG), I look at our zeitgesit as a symptom of a deeper problem; modern societies still lack a deep mentorship system. People flock to personality tests as if their innermost mystique will be revealed. Meanwhile, the Trait and Typlogy approach to personality assessment leads to – at best – some superficial knowledge. I say this having had, as a published personality expert who testifies in court, 15 years of experience administering, interpreting, and intergating personality data into a much larger network of data to truly try and turn the client being evaluated “inside out”.

But the typical person falls for what I call “Typology Astrology”, and thinks they can navigate their life by their codetype or the most recent personality measure they completed.

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Historically unheard of career change statistics 

As an October 2021 CNBC article noted, approximately 50% of workers want to make a career change. This is an unheard-of statistic, but represents an expectable reality given the dire circumstances facing humanity.  To paraphrase the CNBC article, a staggering 4 million Americans are quitting their jobs each month (according to the US Labor Department) and a trend that has become known as “the great resignation”.  CNBC and Catalyst, a workplace organization, released a report conveying the results from a Harris Poll, which surveyed nearly 1000 workers and nearly half of them want to make a career change.

Over half of the people wishing to make a change are interested in changing their career by leaving their current industry.  In other words, doing something very different.  This is not surprising given the vast majority of people do not engage in any kind of in-depth career guidance.  Or, if they do engage in in-depth career guidance, they are using the traditional yet unreliable personality test focused – or casual self-reflection exercise focused – techniques.

People, at minimum, will spend $100,000.00 on a college education, but spend almost nothing on in-depth career guidance!  One college credit costs approximately $930.00 here at the University of Arizona, with a 4-credit course costing $3,720.00!! So, signing up for a boat load of college credits with no deep career guidance is like buying a hugely expensive yacht never identifying where you want to go. Did you know many companies like Google and Intel are no longer requiring college degrees? This is why in-depth career guidance is now critical because there are exponentially more pathways to fulfilling employment than ever before in human history.

You will work an estimated 90,000 hours in your lifetime, and you will spend more time at work then with your romantic partner, at least across several major stages of your life. And yet people go into careers as if they are about to engage in a”one night stand”; no preparation, no deep research, no intensive “turn myself inside out” process. After working with over 1,000 clients from all walks of life, I have developed a rigorously systematic career guidance process so you can find “Real Me” Authenticity.

Disabling and severe distress in the younger population

Depression, anxiety and a lack of meaning are plaguing students

Our younger generation is feeling dramatically more pessimistic than any younger generation in the last 50 years or so.  The result: mental health problems among younger people have become so pervasive that the teachers and guidance counselors I work with on a daily basis are dealing more with mental health issues than with academic issues.

Globally speaking, mental health problems are skyrocketing, as this pandemic has caused anxiety, depression and even suicide rates to exponentially increase. Even people who are supposedly psychologically resilient are struggling right now.  

Not surprisingly, a health report released early in 2021 revealed that mental health insurance claims for US teens roughly doubled early in the COVID-19 pandemic over the same period in 2019.  The authors of the report reveal the reality on the street. They were quoted as saying the following: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on mental health,” and “Infection-related fears, bereavement, economic instability and social isolation have triggered and exacerbated mental health issues.”  

A particularly concerning statistic: Among the 13-to-18 age-group, claims for self-harm (eg, cutting, crashing a vehicle, attempted suicide) ballooned 333.93% in August 2020 over August 2019 in the Northeast—the highest rate of self-harm seen in the analysis.  Other concerning statistics are available here.

While older people have also reported that COVID-19–related fears and stress have impaired their mental health, young people have been particularly susceptible because of school closures and distance learning, the inability to interact closely with friends, stress, and loneliness.  Mary Van Beusekom, the author of the online article, posted on the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy online website, highlighted that this report has serious implications for all those responsible for the care of young people, “including providers, parents, educators, policy makers and (insurance) payors,” the report said.

It is clear that people of all ages are suffering greatly during this pandemic, as we all feel like we like primates in glass cages, often only able to meet up with people while looking through a computer screen. The irony is while the younger generation has supposedly connected with their peers more than ever on social media, they are finding that actually being WITH people offers a unique psychological experience that looking through a screen at other people does not give them.

For any person who does not feel as if they have a deeply rooted life mission, this pandemic has affected them in severely impairing ways. Life has become intensely Existential.  And even before the pandemic, a vast majority of people – as a mountain of statistics reveal – were unhappy with their career choice. 

The revolt:  unheard of behavioral changes young people and adults are making

Students and employees are no longer willing to do less than deeply meaningful work

It is among this grouping of powerfully negative factors that workers are now refusing to go into their offices, and or simply quitting their jobs. As a therapist in my community told me, “People are no longer willing to do work that they do not enjoy”. 

When people are faced with circumstances that remind them of their own mortality, one positive effect is a clearer and sharper focus on What Really Matters. And what really matters for humans is to find Deep Meaning.  When things are going okay, we are satisfied to be distracted by Netflix, surfing on the Internet or shopping on Amazon.com.  But when it feels as if the best times are behind us, and a pandemic combines with massive environmental deterioration, we as meaning making creatures seek out deep meaning to anchor us.  

So, the upshot of this Perfect Storm is people are demanding deeper meaning.  The way students are doing this is to take a gap semester or gap year, as students are less willing than ever to take classes they do not find meaningful, especially when they have to suffer through them through remote learning or other vastly diluted interfaces with teachers.  The way workers are doing this is they are not returning to work, demanding much better treatment at work than they ever did before, and leaving their jobs even though this pandemic has created a sense of economic uncertainty.  The fact that adults are willing to leave their jobs in these precarious times only makes more crystal clear the fact that the human race is undergoing a fundamental change whereby meaning is taking a much more central role in each individual’s life.

COVID-19 accelerating the transformation of higher education

This pandemic has also only accelerated a process whereby higher education is becoming a more and more alienating process.  As tuition rates have increased disproportionately to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and disproportionately as compared to the increase in wages year-over-year,  the typical American – and even the upper-middle-class American –  cannot afford to send their adolescent to college.  

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has put online learning on steroids; hundreds if not thousands of more online classes are available than ever before.  Students have become much more acculturated to online learning given they been required to go through it even though they are still paying similar tuition rates.  The fact that the curriculum has been vastly diluted, and yet they been asked to pay the same tuition rates has led to a massive migration of students away from the idea that they need to stay in school, and into the idea that it’s better to take a gap year two reassess exactly where they are going.  Again, meaning is becoming a core issue for students, especially because higher education career guidance has almost been extinguished.  Career guidance on the typical college campus was never necessarily in-depth, but due to budget cuts driven by lower enrollment even less money is being driven toward “extras” like counseling departments.  

In this educational atmosphere of exorbitantly high tuition costs and the exponential increase in online learning options, students are increasingly taking classes based on economic concerns versus being worried about the prestige of a course taken at an Ivy League school versus a junior college.  Partly because companies are less impressed by a Ivy League degree, and more by the critical relevance of what the studfent can offer. CEOs now find a student with several specialty credentials more desirable than a college degree, partly because credentials are based on cutting edge trends in the employments marketplace, not on university – and sometimes out of touch – course curriculums.

The High school and College Advising and Major Systems are Broken

After working closely with parents, high school and college advisors, and high school and college students themselves – for the past 15 years – I am here to tell you a fact you may already be aware of: the American educational system’s mentorship process is severely broken.   In fact, there really is no process. 

In reality, as students move through high school and into college, unless they are lucky enough to be one of the few who are taken under the wing of a teacher or coach, they will enter college having never received in-depth college or career guidance.  And at best, teachers and coaches can offer casual, not reliable, career guidance. Between 20-50% of students enter college as “undecided”, and will change their major anywhere from 2 to 6 times before they graduate.  Additionally, 75% of students change their major at least once before graduation (The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, June 2013).

Published in the Chronicle of Higher Education in August 2020, writer Scott Carlson in his article, A Crusade Against Terrible Advising, discusses how advising and career services provided in higher education are failing college students and their level of preparedness, success, and matching for future careers.

He mentions that colleges should be able to help students find their strengths, such as by guiding them toward the education and experience they need, so they can launch into the world. However, Carlson points out that key components of academic advising that should be used to improve graduation and job-placement rates are not being included in services for students. Carlson discusses the sad reality that while most students and families like to believe their student will receive quality mentorship in college for the return of the costs of tuition, this is simply not true.  He argues that the higher education career guidance is highly outdated, and traditionally has been designed more to serve the needs of the institution than the needs of the student.

Carlson notes there are significant yet critical types of mentorships that are simply not going on currently. For example, he argues that students need to be mentored to understand that they should consider options such as (micro-) credentialing or certification programs, especially because traditional college courses are costly.  I vehemently agree with Carlson, especially since credentials and certifications, are increasingly becoming as or more valuable than the typical college course or college major.

Given the average caseload for full-time academic advisors, averaged across all US higher education institutions is approximately 296 students (Robbins, 2013), academic advisors do not have the time to customize their guidance. College advising is like a transaction at a bus station to some degree.  This is not the fault of the college counselors, they are doing their best with limited resources and huge caseloads. And, they are not even necessarily trained to provide in-depth career guidance, their job is to ensure students enroll in the right kinds of courses given the interest the student reports to them.

The problem of a massive shortage in counselors for students is even more stark at the lower levels of education. For the 2015-16 academic year, the average number of students per counselor varied substantially by state, with the highest caseloads in Arizona (902), Michigan (744) and California (708).  While the numbers are lower in some other states, the general reality is clear: students are not getting adequate access to counseling services.  Nationwide, there are about 111,000 school counselors serving 50.59 million students, or an average of one counselor for every 455 K-12 students, according to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). 

As I discussed in a blog I published entitled , “The new way to send your kid to college: Armed and ready to rock!” this is the labyrinth a student may get caught up in as they are trying to seek guidance: 

General academic Counselor: “As you are declared a journalism major…you need to meet with the journalism counselor.”

The students calls the Journalism department and here is how the conversation proceeds….

Journalism counselor: “So, you are interested in journalism?”

Student: “I am not sure the journalism program is for me.”

Journalism counselor: “Well, then you need to speak with the counselor in the area you’re interested in.”

Student: “I suppose I have some interest in psychology.”

Journalism counselor: “You must speak directly with the psychology counselor.”
Student must then call the Psychology counselor, of whom responds with: “so what you need to know is that there are X number of upper division psychology courses you need to take, an X number of lower division psychology courses you need to complete to earn a Psychology degree. Here is a list of classes that qualify. Have a nice day.”

In short, rather than being “Armed and ready to rock!”, High school students entering college are being cognitively disabled by a severe lack of in-depth mentorship in high school.   As I have worked with hundreds of high school and college students, it is clear to me that one of the gravest realities of American society, our young people are severely under-mentored.  They enter college directionless and in fact clueless about who they really are at their core.  Aside from a few teachers and or others who have worked with them making comments about what the student appears to be good at or skilled with, students have no deep intelligence on themselves.  And yet, their parents are about to spend a minimum of a hundred thousand dollars, even at the most economical state funded educational University.  While junior colleges often have lower tuition rates, the level of disorientation students have when they enter junior college is no less than if they were going to a university.

What do we need to do?

The pandemic has accelerated pre-existing and problematic trends in higher education and with adult workers.  Essentially, the bottom line is COVID-19 has made it even clearer than ever before that students and workers never receive deep mentorship.  Not in high school, and not in college.  By the way, casual advice from a friend or adult who knows us about how we should “think about going into law school” does not count as in-depth career guidance!  And yet, that’s pretty much the extent of the guidance I received before being dropped off to college by my well-meaning parents. 

The irony of the situation is there is been an explosion of online learning options, and thus students are technically “freer” than ever to take advantage of a much more diverse menu of educational options.  But because students are never deeply mentored, rather than feeling freer, they feel more lost in the now Amazon warehouse-sized higher education system than they ever have before. 

Thus, students go to college – or choose other pathways – relatively unmentored.  Workers are simply farther down the stream from this trend; people enter jobs never having gone through extensive career guidance in the first place. 

None of us should be surprised by the statistics indicating the vast majority of people are unhappy at work, and not a top end-of-life regret is feeling as if you should have chosen a different career. 

The problem is when people you think of career guidance they think of taking a personality test and then seeing a list of hundreds of jobs they should go and research.  That was my experience when I went to Tulane University in the 1990s. 

There is no comprehensive career guidance process until now

The best know career guidance book is called “What Color is your Parachute”. It is a classic book that has been around for 50 years and has a great amount of information about interviewing and writing a resume.  Time Magazine called it one of the top 100 books.  The irony is, while it is considered by many to be THE career guidance book, it does not offer anything even close to an in-depth career guidance system.  Author Richard Boles offers people what he calls the “Flower Method”.  It is overly simplistic and dangerously naïve in its approach, by today’s standards.  This book is a symptom of a serious virus running rampant in the United States as well as around the world.  This global pandemic sized virus causes anxiety fevers and depressive existentialism in students and workers.  This is a virus that will not go away until we as a society make a matte massive effort toward fundamentally changing how we mentor young people.  We must stamp out this pandemic of existentialism caused by a nearly complete absence of Expert Mentorship.

For the past 15 years I have watched a multitude of adolescence and adults I work with have mental health issues which were rooted in a lack of meaning at work.  That’s why I decided to develop a comprehensive career guidance system: Precisely Engineered Career Guidance (PECG)™.  A system that is rigorous enough that it reaches into whole person is at their center; every person deserves to have an opportunity to have their Mystique captured so they can choose work they feel they would do even if they were not paid.

Social media has only made the need for deep mentorship more pressing.  As the younger generation are spending much more time looking at superfluous information online, constantly updating their social profiles, and investing more time than ever on the development of their Persona, they are spending less time turning inward, where they work on cultivating their Personality Gold. I don’t blame them, as there is really no system out there to ensure that within their educational experience they’re going to receive in-depth mentorship.

As we face continuing environmental deterioration, a massive change to the workforce given rapidly increasing robot invasion of jobs, even service jobs, and as college tuition continues to be cost prohibitive, we need in-depth career guidance systems.  Welcome to PECG. 

Relevant Blogs to feed your desire for greater meaning:

The increasingly hollow college degree and the college guidance scam

Combating our Student Great Depression with Precisely Engineered Career Guidance (PECG)

Finding your Needle in the haystack of careers

Renewing our respect for the Dirty Jobs that build civilizations and are realistic careers

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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.