Creativity is one of the reasons I enjoy using a variety of “card-sorts” in career coaching with Boomers & with Colby College students. There are no answers printed out from a software program, no one way of using the cards, only the conversation it generates. I LOVE it!
If you have not used card sorts in your practice, I suggest you explore using them. If you use them now, keep up the good work!
I recently met with a first year college student who was all confused about choosing an occupation. She was so “hung up” on choosing a specific job that she practically stumbled all over herself, “I thought about being a lawyer because my mom is one, then going into medicine, then being an architect…I even went to a month long architect camp, and I’ve thought about sociology.” I have a magnetic dart board in my office with various occupations on it and I asked, “Do you want to choose a career by throwing the dart?” She actually said yes and was literally ready to choose by throwing a dart! She hit Land Use Planning and immediately wanted to know about that job.
The Motivated Skills Card Sorts by Knowdell saved me that afternoon. I had to to explain that she did not need to choose a specific job title right now. Just think about what skills you want to use, what skills burn you out, and then focus on the wide variety of jobs that require the skills you want to use. “No more job titles today!” (I had to tell her that multiple times in our 45 minutes). Let’s just focus on skills right now.
It took her awhile, but she first sorted out what skills she really enjoys using at the top of the desk down to the bottom representing what skills she hates using. Then she sorted those piles into skills she is “proficient” across the table to skills she needs “more training”.
We discussed this and then I asked her to “sort them into piles that make sense to you”. Her final result were four piles.
Column 1: These cards are all about dealing with people (feelings, mentor, team work, motivate, customer service, interviewing for information).
Column 2: These are all about dealing with information / organizing (classify, observe, analyze, works w/numbers, computer literate, test).
Column 3rd: This is all about being creative & problem solving (visualize, generate ideas, innovate, design, intuitive, conceptualize, synthesize, strategize)
Her 4th column: Her skills that didn’t fit anywhere else, more concrete, maybe leadership (adapt to change, make arrangements, organize, improvise, make decisions, portray images, implement)
Photo below is a close up of column 1 (how she sees working with people)
These are all HER words which is VERY important when you use card sorts….. let the person explain the cards and capture what she says. LISTEN to her story…. it will come out. What was interesting was that she talked about sociology and doing research on what made people do the things they do, but she discounted that because “my mother doesn’t think there are any jobs.” Yes, we had that conversation as well.
My point here is that the cards are wonderful ways to pull out information by removing job titles and focusing on skills which took the pressure off this young lady who was hell bent on picking an occupation in our 45 minutes. There is something very subliminal going on here when the person holds each card…thinks about what it means to them…. places it somewhere on the table… then sorts it again… and a third time… with some deep level of, what does this mean to me, going on all the time.
What we ended up with was an assignment for her to work on her “30 second pitch” which might look something like this….
“I want to work with people in some capacity in a job that allows me to use my ability to observe and analyze for the greater good of our society. I have a skills in solving human problems in creative ways and am very organized“... or something like that. Once she has this done she can tell EVERYONE she knows what she wants to do and then let “intentional serendipity” take over and allow her to discover the wide variety of jobs in a number of different settings.
This first year student was so happy with me after we were done with this activity! She felt a huge sense of relief that she had something tangible to get her words around… something she could tell others about a direction she was heading… a start towards discovering a job and hope that she’d find it out there.
And I hope that she takes the pressure off herself a bit and trusts her instincts on this. I believe she does know what she wants to do at some deep level and now she needs to explore occupations with a skill base in mind, not a fanatic search for a “job title”.
Have you used card sorts in your practice?
How do you use them?
Note: My February 2014 newsletter theme was “card sorts”. I talk about a variety of them including interests, work values, college majors, and set of 3 card sorts I use working with Boomers as they leave full time employment. Read the newsletter.
Are you interested in learning more about
how to use card sorts?
I provide a very interactive workshop that introduces each participant to 3 different card sorts. It is a great 4 hour workshop. Learn more about my workshops.
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a weekly email for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
He is the author of A Field Guide for Career Practitioners: Helping Your Clients Create Their Next Move and The Adventure of Finding Me in New Zealand. He is also the recipient of the 2020 Kenneth C. Hoyt Award from the National Career Development Association and the Mid-Atlantic Career Counseling Association’s Professional Contribution’s Award in 2020.
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