Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Self-Employment & Entrepreneurship: Hope Springs Eternal

Self-employment and entrepreneurship are hot right now, in the movement for work/life balance and control over one's destiny (and cash flow). In the sinking ship that is our economy at the moment, entrepreneurs are our diversification trump card. The ones that grow our economy when big mortgage lenders, the Enrons, and big box stores bring it down. And they are alive and well.

When I go to the local Barnes and Noble or to the park with my son for him to play with train sets and sandcastles, I see at least a third of the adults are fathers. And when I talk to the other parents, many work part-time and for themselves. They're not K-Fed, or hangers on, but part of the flextime world.

Again and again, I see the advantages of self-sufficiency and flexibility - having the skills to work wherever you want, when you want. Self-employment and entrepreneurship can be your ticket to flextime success - it was for me at one time in my career. I'm just pleased to see daily reminders of hope in our economy. And my son enjoys his trips to the park!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Choosing a College Major Using Holland's Theory

How do you choose a college major? What is Holland's Theory of Career Choice and how can it help me?

With hundreds of options to choose from, depending on the college, it can be overwhelming to make such an important decision. Fortunately, there is a simple, well-established method to making a good decision that research shows really works.
  1. Do a thorough search - Look at ALL your choices.
  2. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each alternative.
  3. Search hard for new information.
  4. Plan ahead.
Try these activities as part of your 4 step decision-making journey.

Holland's Theory of Career Choice can help you narrow down your choices to those majors that interest you. As part of self-assessment suggested below, knowing your top three of the six personality types (RIASEC) can help you do that in a scientific, effective way. To see some examples of majors grouped by Holland type, click on this page.

Here's your checklist for success:
  • Combine self-assessment with exploring possible majors. See our article Learning More About Yourself for suggested activities.
  • Expand and explore your options. See our article Learn More about the Jobs That Interest Me. And talk with people knowledgeable about your field of interest (teachers, people who work in that field, counselor)
  • Choose a major that interests and motivates you. You'll get better grades and more out of the major. Just make sure that you meet any course requirements for a future job or graduate school you are interested in. (i.e. nursing, medical school)
If you follow this process of good decision-making, then you're likely not to make a mistake. And mistakes are costly, additional tuition and debt for more school or training you decide you need later. Good luck!

Career Clusters and The Career Key™

How are The Career Key™ and the U.S. Department of Education's Career Clusters/Pathways related to the career development of students in our schools? Dr. Jones, author of The Career Key, answers:

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education adopted 16 "career clusters" in 1999 for use in organizing career and technical education programs or "pathways". A career cluster is a grouping of occupations and broad industries based on commonalities. For example, here is a cluster with its pathways:

Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
Corrections Services
Emergency and Fire Management Services
Security & Protective Services
Law Enforcement Services
Legal Services

OVAE considered developing the career clusters based on career interests, but did not. Instead, they developed them based on an industrial approach: organizing them around broad industry areas or economic sectors. This was an unfortunate decision for the career guidance of students.

Research shows, and common sense tell us, that we will do best in those activities in which we have an interest -- including training programs and college majors. According to research done with John Holland's theory of career choice, people are more satisfied and successful in careers that match their personality and career interests.

All of the 16 career clusters include occupations representing different personality types. For example, in the one shown above, occupations representing the Social, Enterprising, Realistic, Conventional and Enterprising types are found. With this being the case, students cannot easily choose a cluster based on their career interests. Nor, can career tests be used to direct students to a particular cluster.

There is also a real danger that students, out of ignorance, might choose (or be advised by a well meaning parent, school counselor, or teacher), or be tracked into a cluster or pathway that does not fit their career interests well.

A far better approach is to focus on careers that fit students' career interests and personality. And, if a school requires students to choose a cluster to explore, base their choice on which cluster contains the most promising occupations they have identified.

The Career Key™ career guidance system is especially well suited to fit this role. Students,

• Measure their resemblance to Holland's six personality types using a valid career test,
• Identify occupations that match their personality/interests,
• Learn detailed and accurate information about these careers; and
• Are shown how to learn more about themselves, job skills, the world of work, making
good decisions, and education and training opportunities.

With this in mind, after identifying students' career interests and highest scoring personality types, exploring a career cluster will be more accurate and effective.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Match Best Careers & Best Jobs to Your Personality

In choosing a career, what's the smartest way to use popular lists of “Best Careers” or “Best Jobs”?
Match jobs and careers that interest you to your Holland personality types as part of your action plan to make an informed career choice.

Following the three steps of good decision-making will help you make the best career choice: Know Yourself, Know Your Options, and Make a Good Decision. When getting to the second step, “Know Your Options" and learning about the jobs that interest you, lists of “best careers” and “best jobs” can be valuable tools.

Each year CNN's Money Magazine publishes a Best Jobs List and U.S. News and World Report publishes a Best Careers list. These lists rank careers and jobs based on criteria such as the career/job seeker's status (young, parent returning to work, military to civilian transition, etc.) and/or the career's characteristics (future demand and outlook, salary, type of required training, and overall satisfaction).

On our website, you can find almost all the careers on these lists, organized by Holland personality type, some with slightly different job titles. So once you take the Career Key test and have your Holland scores, you can match yourself with careers that interest you from the “Best” lists and know which ones are most likely to result in job satisfaction.

Several caveats to keep in mind:
Here's a step by step way to match your personality with a career from these “Best Career” or “Best Job” lists:
  1. Read the descriptions of the Holland personality types you are most like,
  2. Select jobs or careers that interest you from a “Best” list,
  3. Assign each job or career to a Holland type you think matches,
  4. Look at our online list of jobs, organized by Holland type, to find that job, and
  5. If you don't find the exact same job title, look for similar ones (see my method below)
So for the top five of Money Magazine's best jobs for parents returning to work, I show the top corresponding Holland personality type letter (RIASEC). Remember that you are very likely compatible with more than one type of working environment. As you can see, although there are some differences in job title, you can still find what you're looking for. To find alternative job titles, search the Occupational Outlook Handbook, whose terminology we use.

Executive Recruiter (E), shown as “Human Resources, Training, and Labor Specialists”
Non-Profit Manager (E), shown as “Administrative Services Manager”
Sales Representative (E)
Marketing Analyst (E), shown as “Market Research Analyst”
Accountant (E)

And for the U.S. News and World Report's best careers list, you can use the same method above. Here are a few examples from their “Best” list I've picked out, and linked to our website's list of jobs grouped by personality type:

Realistic Careers:
Landscape Architect, Locksmith/Security system technician (see similar jobs in our Crafts-Electrical-Electronic group)
Investigative Careers:
Audiologist, Biomedical equipment technician, Dentist, Optometrist, Pharmacist, Systems Analyst (or Computer Scientist)
Artistic Careers:
Editor, Ghostwriter (see Writer on our list)
Social Careers:
Genetic Counselor, Librarian, Occupational therapist, Physician Assistant, Registered Nurse, School Psychologist
Enterprising Careers:
Cosmetologist, Management consultant

If you have trouble matching an occupation on a “Best” list to its Holland type and our matching job lists, email me or leave a comment. Also, I'd like to know how useful this post has been to you.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are students evaluating the quality of Internet sources of information?

They should be. (And so should the rest of us).

Critical thinking is one of ten "Essential 'Habits of Mind'" college faculty identify as essential learning behaviors for coursework success. According to a recently released study of American Freshman by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California - Los Angeles, less than 50% of students frequently evaluate the quality or reliability of information received from the Internet.

Only 33.8% of students who frequently use the internet for research/homework or to read blogs and 44.3% of those who frequently use the web to read the news say that they frequently evaluate the reliability of information they receive.

These statistics make me wonder what the percentages are for adults. Probably not too different.

This study reminds us of how important it is for career guidance professionals to evaluate the validity of career tests on the internet before recommending them to others. If you would like to see a checklist for doing such an evaluation, see Dr. Jones's recent article "Testing the Test," published in the American School Counselor's Association (ASCA) School Counselor magazine. It is available for download in our Press Room.

"Real" Power for Women in Career Choices

What is real power for women? Usually a deep analysis of such a question does not come to me during my gym workouts. But that changed last week when I came across an essay by Maria Schriver in an October 2007 Newsweek magazine. It was part of the Women and Leadership issue, entitled "Authentic Life: Real power comes from confronting the challenges each woman faces and passing on hard-won wisdom."

Her point was to say, "[i]t's about being true to yourself and finding your own voice and path in the world. The way you come to your power is through your life's experiences and knowing who you are." She then puts this statement into context by describing many of the roles women take on: the corner office, supermom, etc.

What struck me about her essay was her true observation that you create your own power by setting a path on your terms, whether it's a high-powered career in business and/or motherhood. She sees "women working to craft jobs that fit into their overall lives as opposed to blindly accepting the model in which power is achieved solely by climbing the corporate ladder."

And if I had a lesson to pass on to my younger self, it would have been to know and be comfortable with Maria's observation early on. Abstractly I knew that life in the working world would be a compromise of my goals of professional and family success. But when you face tough choices about whether to change a career or job because it is not flexible enough to accommodate you, the abstract becomes real. My generation was the one where "you can have it all," but the concept of compromise got lost or forgotten.

So then you start to question whether you are "successful" and "powerful" when making nontraditional choices, like part-time work and having a family. I have not questioned that in awhile, but I appreciated seeing Maria put her point into writing so that others can learn from it. Do you agree with Maria's characterization of women's power as it relates to career choice?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Career Choice Puzzle: From Astrophysicist to Labor Organizer . . .

It is interesting to analyze the career choices people make. It’s an interesting puzzle. And, you can often learn something about yourself and other people.

Take Bernie Fanaroff. In 1974 he was a brilliant young South African astrophysicist. He along with Julia Riley developed a way to categorize galaxies known as the Fanaroff-Riley classification system that is still used today. Two years later he gave up his science career to organize black workers. He became the leading light in the union movement during the apartheid years. Why did he make this career change?

According to the leading theory of career change, John Holland's, it doesn't make sense. You would not expect someone with an "Investigative" personality to change to its opposite -- an Enterprising type of work, a labor organizer. More on this theory . . .

Twenty-five years later he returned to radio astronomy. When South Africa announced in 2003 that it would compete to build the world's largest radio telescope, the multibillion-dollar Square Kilometer Array, he was the team leader.

Why did he make that first career change in the 1970s?

When you Google his name on the Internet you get some tantalizing hints:
In an interview he mentions feeling guilty in Britain while the people in his country were suffering under the apartheid regime . . . that in the 1920s his parents were active in the trade union movement.

At a university website, he writes, "Not only did I thoroughly enjoy learning physics and doing research in radio astronomy, but it has stood me in good stead all my life. As the result of this training . . . I was . . . able to approach the difficult and intractable problems of organising workers in the face of strong state repression and intimidation with objectivity, systematically and logically (most of the time)."
It would seem that while he values science, his commitment to human rights and the people of his country is even greater.

It is also apparent that his science abilities and training prepared him for a career that, on the face of it, seems like a poor choice.

What do you take from this story?

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Political Career Path

In trying to make up my own mind about who would make a better president, Clinton or Obama, I've been reading the news and visiting websites. (I can't bear to watch TV news except MacNeil/Lehrer, which "outs" me for the long-haired liberal I am) In the course of learning more about the personal lives and histories of the candidates, I reflected on their career choices based on my own experience working in a government political appointment. Knowing the art of compromise is an important aspect of the political career path.

Until you work in a political job, it is all theoretical about how you would handle tough choices. In order to get something accomplished, do you sometimes have to give up something or part of a principle important to you? It's easy to say, never, I'll never "sell out." But if you've had any political job, you know that "selling out" - i.e. giving up a principle you believe in, aka "compromise," can happen in many forms, and is not always a bad thing if you limit the damage to your beliefs and you accomplish something that's important to you. And you return to fight another day. Compromise ALWAYS happens in politics, which is one reason why we disdain it.

So in this Democratic war of idealism versus coolheaded (some say calculating) approach to handling some very tough future problems, I think the most realistic approach is to include both. We need hope, but also tempered by realism. It's an oxymoron, but there you go. That's what the political path is all about. If you're not prepared for moral ambiguity, don't go into politics.