The utilization of a comprehensive approach to career development is essential to the exploration and validation of who you are and can be as a person. The direction and form your career takes is important. Half of an adult’s working life involves work activity. Additionally, it is estimated that 50% of a person’s happiness and sense of fulfillment can be attributed to satisfaction gained through work experiences.
Unfortunately, recent surveys have found that fewer than half of Americans are satisfied with their employment. This is particularly true for the younger and/or less educated portion of the workforce.
Why such dissatisfaction? There are literally thousands of different occupations to choose from and some 140 million work positions in this country. Furthermore, career training opportunities abound in the U.S. Educationally there are over 7,000 colleges and universities in America as well as more than a million high school, federal, state and county wide vocational training programs.
So again, the question begs, with so much at stake regarding one’s career satisfaction and given the multitude of job opportunities and training resources, why are so many dissatisfied with their career choices?
The answer lies in part with the paucity of comprehensive career counseling services available to younger and middle aged adults. The career counseling offered to high school students is typically superficial and oriented toward college bound placement. Vocational counseling in post-secondary programs vary in quality but rarely include the individualized attention necessary for longer term planning and decision making. Sadly, for most, career decisions become more of a “crap shoot” than a series of informed, considered judgments.
What makes for effective career counseling? Fundamentally there need to be an effective going between comprehensive career assessment and self-insight. The assessment aspect should focus on the identification of an individual and their most significant life influences, work values, present and potential skills, work personality and life situation. A skilled clinician can interpret test results a manner that is clear, precise and readily understandable. More specifically the clinician needs to avoid using the “test and tell” system rather they need to provide meaning and insight for asset findings.
The ultimate goal is to help the individual develop and validate a personalized “vocational self-image” which they may use as an on-going compass in navigating their future career planning. Emphasis also needs to be placed on increasing understanding of the world of work as associated with careers of interest. Career clusters will be identified as well as specific occupations in which they might flourish. Individuals can then be guided into researching their best career options via computerized programs, reading materials, vocational interviews, shadowing, trial classroom experiences and work experiences. A written report summarizing findings and detailed short and long term action plans will serve as a compass. It is important that the career counselor remain available to help with emotional and practical aspects during the sojourn.
As you may sense, comprehensive career counseling is both an art as well as a science. With so much riding on your career why settle for less?