I have determined that we in the industry of education and career development have been having “Career Talks” all wrong. After spending 15 plus years skillfully developing my career plan and the last 8 plus years coaching others on how to develop and design theirs. An entire industry has positioned itself to tell you how to become a Doctor first. We ask questions like: What are you interested in doing, what kind of work do you like? We also direct you to databases, job descriptions and personality tests to collect additional information to assist you in the discovery process. Some clients are highly convicted. That was me. I “knew” what I wanted to do, until I didn’t. I even did the research, and when I sat down for help with the adviser, it was to make sure my course plan was filled out correctly. Others are less clear and need a higher degree of direction.
This process leads clients down a set path to become a “insert a job title here”. Then realities hit. Life gets in the way, plans change and their career choice isn’t what they thought it was gonna be. They then mourn the loss of their career and struggle to see beyond what’s next. Frustrated about the fact that all the work they put in to become the job they idolized and fought doggedly to be, feels less than, in-accessible, or had suddenly disintegrated right before their eyes. This isn’t everyone of course but it is a common story I have heard time and time gain as an enrollment adviser, professional development training coordinator, and career coach. I can’t help but think if they only had the right conversation first, career change wouldn’t have had to be such a painful process.
Job Titles, Personalities and Interests, Oh My!
Reflecting on your own career: how did you end up where you are in your career? Was it intentional or serendipitous? Did you take some tests? Pick a career track out of a book based on the work you thought was interesting? Most likely it was some combination of the listed. Coached by friends, family and school counselors encouraging you to look at a number of job titles like a nurse, a teacher, or an artist. This is what I call job-first thinking and in essence is putting the cart before the horse. Starting with a job title can be a useful in the career exploration process. However, it shouldn’t be the goal to which you build your plan around. It should be more like an objective among many. I see job-first thinking also reinforced by the tools we use to help you diagnose career fit. Commonly known interest inventories organize survey takers responses based on career types, personality traits and interests in relation to job titles or fields by industry. Again, all useful and stuff…..
These tools help us learn about ourselves and potentially identify where our interests insect with career types or industries. However, after recently going through a perspective overhaul on this very topic I have determined that there is something terribly missing. A failure to launch. A complete oversight when it comes to Career Talks and how we use the tools we use to help you figure it out. Here are 3 reasons why……
1. Career Talks make career planning all about the job title.
This is common. Many times clients have come to me with an ideal job title: A nurse, teacher, artist. The title is tangible. It also makes sense in relation to how we are raised to think of a career, in the context of a job title. People like you and me have been asked our entire lives “what do you want to be/do when you grow up? A firefighter, doctor.” etc..etc..etc. What we are not asked is “what kind of life do we want to live? What kind of people do we want to be?. We are conditioned to organize our career search around a job title. What we value and find important is treated like a contingency. Thus, we enter the working world unclear of what is most important to us, searching for a job that we perceive will make us feel secure and happy, that is until we get there and scream silently in our heads, day in and day out “I HATE MY JOB…BUT I NEED IT!”.
2. Career Talks force you down a career path that requires you to hit a wall before you consider an alternative.
In my experience workforce experts take you down this path because to some level they believe in the ideal personality and environmental fit also known as P & E fit. However, whether intentional or not, this is a perspective that is oriented more so to the company than it is to the person in order to help solve productivity issues and shed light on how to resolve interpersonal challenges among employees and so on. The truth of it is you could find the ideal job, and on paper its a perfect P& E fit. But life happens and complicates it and yet again you are faced with having to make a decision that may include change. It could even have been the dream job and you start it to discover that it is in fact the opposite. Forcing you to rethink your entire career plan. This can be painful because you may have forged ahead with your career plan thinking you were going to be in “INSERT NAME OF YOUR CAREER FIELD/JOB TITLE HERE” FOREVER! and now you need to back it up, regroup and try again.
3. Career Talks play on your most primal and basic needs
It’s common to hear that decisions about career are being made from a place of survival. We leave the nest, fight or flight kicks in and think s***! I need to make money, I need to survive!!! Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs thinking has taken over and we are sucked into the endless cycle of chasing a title because of it. To which you end up repeating one of the two the previous examples. Here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be this way. I would argue that you can actually conquer career dissatisfaction by doing the work to gain clarity about what is most important to you. You can develop and craft a career plan that is inclusive to your wants, interests and needs instead of career plan that just takes them into “consideration”.
So what should Career Talks be?
Career Talks should lead to developed career plans that are agile and that intersect with what is best for you and the life you want to live. To make my point, in higher education a common stat quoted regarding career change is 5-7 times in one’s lifetime. I just Googled it and I seen claims as high as 12 careers in one lifetime!!!! I am not saying you shouldn’t fully commit to one career path. That’s just silly. What I am saying is that you should think about what kind of options does a career path create in addition to the most obvious one you are targeting. So instead I offer this, W.I.N. Career Planning. W.I.N. Career Planning is about creating awareness around what your wants, interests and needs are and organizing your options for job/career tracks within them. When you orient yourself to have a W.I.N. Career Talk you are broadening your perspective and strengthening your plan. That way when things shift as they always do, it is less likely you will experience a massive identity fall out related to a change in career plans. You develop a list of options that are interconnected. This establishes a strong foundation for your career plan by improving its flexibility, agility and endurance. Properly orienting your career plans to assist you in achieving the ultimate goal which is to live a HAPPY (insert positive adjective that fits for you HERE) life! That’s how you WIN the career planning game.