Career Key

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

Monday, February 22, 2010

5 Ways to Channel Your Inner Career Choice Optimist - Being Realistic but Optimistic

If you’re in the process of choosing a career and looking at career options, you’re surrounded by enough bad news to make you a “paralytic decision-maker.” Like discouraging findings from the new report, “The Labor Market, Then and Now” from the John J. Heldrich Center on Workforce Development:
  • U.S. Government employment projections have historically been proven wrong. 
  • Job satisfaction is at its lowest level since the data was first tracked. 
  • Baby boomers are not retiring like they were supposed to so there are fewer jobs than expected. 
  • In the last decade, the time it takes to find a job has gone from 3 to 6 months (there go your savings!).
and the list goes on....

Not to mention all the doom and gloom predictions about the U.S. “empire” going down the tubes due to “do-nothing” politics and overwhelming deficits. It’s been so bad I substituted watching Stephen Colbert’s Winter Olympics for online news this week.
So instead of putting on Leonard Cohen CDs and opening a bottle of strong medicine, what’s the forward-looking, hard-working career decision-maker to do with all this gloomy outlook? I call it channeling your inner optimist - being realistic but optimistic. Here are 5 ways to do that:
  1. Make sure you have realistic expectations of the career choice process.  No matter how much research you do, how many assessments you take, what informational interviews you conduct - your choice is a calculated risk.  That’s why important decisions are hard - you can never be 100% sure your choice will result in success. Prepare to be adaptable and surprised. 
  2. Explore all aspects of the career decision process in a methodical way - confronting your fears and negative consequences of your choice with a plan to respond to them. Use our 4 step “High Quality Decisions” article and the downloadable “decision balance sheet” to get started.  Write down your thoughts - it's called bibliotherapy and writing therapy - it works and it's free!
  3. Rely on the best resources for career information you can, knowing their weaknesses and strengths.  Although the government job outlook data can be proven incorrect (maybe God should be hired as a consultant to predict job growth), it has also been proven correct for many occupations. The government uses data from individual states and provinces, relying on labor economic experts to compile it but it often lags a few years behind.  As long as you treat it as only one piece of the puzzle, government information can be useful. 
  4. Rely on scientifically valid self-assessments - ones that are proven to measure what they say they measure. Otherwise you may make a decision you regret.  The Career Key is not the only valid test; we recommend you take other tests and assessments in addition to The Career Key. Just be careful and discriminating about tests on the Internet because very few have scientific validity. If you are a college graduate, make sure you take advantage of your school’s career center that may offer valid tests for free or a nominal fee. 
  5. Think “right” thoughts. Your thoughts help determine your behavior and actions so treat your career choice and career development with a positive outlook. If you believe you will fail, you will. Cognitive psychology research has shown this to be true.  Books from positive psychology thought leaders like Dr. Martin Seligman and cognitive psychology experts like Dr. David Burns can help. Make sure to surround yourself with positive people to support your efforts.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Study: Matching Your Holland Personality with Your Career Boosts Earnings

Matching your Holland interests or personality to your career choice or "job congruence" leads to higher earnings, according to a new research study involving alumni from 300 U.S. colleges and universities. The study appears in the journal Labour Economics and authors are from the University of Iowa, University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth, and ACT, Inc., respectively. (Citation below)

In short:
  • choosing a career that is consistent with or matches your Holland interests (RIASEC types) results in higher earnings;
  • Job congruence affects earnings almost to the same order of magnitude as additional years of schooling.
To take advantage of these findings and all the research supporting Holland's Theory of Career Choice in career and education decision-making, it is very important that you use a scientifically valid measure of Holland's personality types. You need to be confident that the test has been proven to accurately measure what it says it measures.

On the Career Key website, we have tips on how to tell whether or not a test is "scientifically valid", including a download of a recent National Career Development Association Career Developments magazine article about evaluating and choosing a career test written by Career Key author Dr. Lawrence K. Jones.

Study Citation:
Neumann, G., Olitsky, N., Robbins, S. (2009) Job congruence, academic achievement, and earnings. Labour Economics, 16, 503-509.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who Cares What a College Degree is Really Worth? It's Career Planning that Matters.

While it's helpful that this WSJ article "What's a Degree Really Worth" draws attention to some overblown numbers for the value of college degree and the risks of getting a degree, I think a main point is missed.  Instead of focusing on the average lifetime earnings of a college grad - not a terribly useful or accurate statistic for people choosing a career or educational program, focus instead on career direction and planning. Our "Getting Started" article gives the 3 steps for that process based on the best science and practices of professional career counseling.

The point is not whether a college degree is worth $450K or $800K in lifetime earnings, but how a student plans to translate their degree or program (training, 2 year, 4 year) into a career path.  Look at the article's example of a UC-Berkeley grad earning a pittance (for San Francisco) as a small paper reporter with over $60,000 in student debt.  It is not a mystery or a surprise to any writers out there that journalism is not a lucrative profession, even in the best of times.

So to imply that it was too risky or wasn't financially worth it to get a B.A. to get that reporting job doesn't make sense. Imagine applying for any decent paying reporter job without a college degree. Pretty difficult.  When you choose a career path that has a relatively low salary and uncertain job prospects, you need to be prepared for a bumpy ride. Maybe you have to work while you go to school to avoid higher debt, or go to a cheaper school. These are compromises that you may need to make.

I am sympathetic, though.  I can relate to the graduate's comment "it [her financial situation] was harder than I think I expected it to be" because that's what happened to me after graduating law school in '96 in a recession. Despite the best laid plans, you can never be certain how things will turn out.

Some form of training or college is required for any living wage job (unless you believe in the Bill Gates syndrome - good luck to you!) It's a matter of making choices and good decisions - and being prepared for economic change. 

Our high-quality decision-making article can really help you sort through those choices and prepare yourself for any negative consequences (like living on a shoestring for 10 years) in pursuing your passion.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Back from a Successful Cannexus Conference

After a fantastic CANNEXUS conference last week in Ottawa, Canada (photo left), I am finally getting back online. Because I live in Seattle, the grey weather did not scare me. I gave 2 presentations:
I love Canada. Every time I go there the people are friendly, interesting to talk to and open-minded about new resources.  Yes, Comedy Central's South Park and American pundits sometimes make fun of how "nice" Canadians are. But trust me, you'd rather spend 3 twelve hour days at a conference with Social personality types from Canada than anywhere else in the world (no offense to my home country).

I know Canadians have the usual crime, unemployment, and problems with their politicians - but seeing Ottawa workers ice skate to work on the Rideau Canal (built in the early 1800s as a part of a defense against the new USA) has a way of lending Canada a cold but fun, Zen-like quality - far away from reality.  A Zamboni on a frozen city canal - how cool is that?  Chicago, take notes....

All right, enough reminiscing.  I plan on posting this week about:
  • the impact of marriage and significant others on career choices - in honor of Valentine's Day, and 
  • ingredients for college and university success using Holland Theory of Career Choice, from my conference presentation last week.
Although I enjoyed my trip, I am glad to be back.