Magazine article Techniques

Help Wanted

Magazine article Techniques

Help Wanted

Article excerpt

Even the most talented guidance counselor cannot choose a career path for a student. At best, a counselor can only help facilitate a person's career exploration. Luckily, there are many resources available to help send a searching student in the best direction.

When it comes to career awareness, the amount of information available can be overwhelming. Simply by going online or visiting the local library, an individual can find an abundance of sites and books to help in the exploration process. There are skills to assess, personality tests to take and ideal jobs to dream about.

Much of this can aid in the information-gathering stage. But it is also very helpful for students to connect with a guidance counselor, teacher or mentor to process what they discover about themselves and about various career opportunities.

Few students can sort it all out all alone. Furthermore, not all sites or tests are alike. In many cases, students will be beginning an exploration of themselves--closely examining their values, interests, personality traits and job skills. But some will be sidetracked into looking only at which careers are "hot" or have generous salaries. Unfortunately, these two factors alone do little to help an individual find a good job match.

However, when many different angles are considered through a variety of research methods, the diligent career seeker can wind up with a clear path to pursue.

Career Search 101

Certainly the most crucial time for career planning is in middle school and high school. This is when students are making decisions about academic or career and technical classes, as well as considering choices about pursuing apprenticeships, going on to college or community college, or getting other training after graduation.

The more a student--along with his or her family--directs the planning, the better and more authentic it will be. Unfortunately, many people don't know where to start or what to do exactly. As a result, students may begin schools or other programs without clear plans, only to change their minds and majors later on. In some instances, more formal planning and evaluation might have helped the student who is "forever undecided."

A career search generally includes four stages, the first being a period of self-assessment. There are many tools available to uncover an individual's personality traits, such as the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) based on the psychology of Carl Jung. Self-assessment is also the process of discovering not only who a person is, but also what he or she really likes.

Therefore, evaluating values and interests--such as through the Strong Interest Inventory, the Campbell Interest and Skills Survey or other such assessments--can be an important step in the process. (See end of article for Web resources.)

Following self-assessment comes the occupational research. This is where, after deciding what he or she likes, a person may discover jobs matched to those preferences.

Of course, many people will also wish to research which industries are most in demand or are particularly well paying. This is economically practical, yet should not be the sole determining factor in a career decision. A student who chooses an ill-fitting job simply for the money will likely change careers down the road, or else can wind up unhappy and unfulfilled.

To the famous quote of Joseph Campbell: "Follow your bliss," many career advisers have added, "and the money will follow."

Job shadowing, internships, mentoring relationships and other school-to-work activities are all fantastic ways to conduct occupational research. The National School-to-Work office offers support and ideas on this topic (www.stw.ed.gov).

The last two stages of the career search are making decisions, and then making employment or school contacts. Decision-making can be frightening, but the best a person can do is to go forward with the information available up to that point. …

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