Career decision making is like a 1000 piece puzzle with a number of pieces missing and only a vague picture on the box to work from. Each person thinks they have a complete puzzle to put together, but our job as a career counselor / coach / advisor is to help our clients find as many of the outside pieces as possible to give them the framework and some direction.
Too many people think career decision making is a linear process, but each person takes the puzzle pieces he / she can find and fits them together to begin to make a picture of themselves. As career practitioners we may use assessments to help fit pieces together, we may use open ended questions, we may use work or family history, but ultimately what we are doing is helping the clients / students find pieces that fit together.
What we do is help people find patterns in what often appears to be a pile of unrelated puzzle pieces. So many people feel like they are “undecided” or “all over the place”, but often we can see themes or patterns like all their jobs have been in the REALISTIC Holland type, or that they always talk about one industry such as the medical field, or that they gravitate towards jobs that allow them to work alone and think. Whatever the pattern or theme is, it is often difficult to people to see their own theme.
1000 pieces all over the table. This is going to require persistence. My father-in-law loved puzzles, and he would sit for hours and days picking up one piece and trying it in a number of places, sometimes connecting it to another, sometimes setting it down and picking up another piece. Our clients need to remember that discovering their next job may require trying different things over a long period of time. They may need to volunteer, or find part-time work, do informational interviews, try a job out for awhile, network, and even explore online for information. (I purposely put the online last here because so many of my clients start with that one and really should not. Applying to jobs online is easy, it’s quick, and it gives the impression that you are really working hard….you and 10,000 other people. The hard work comes when you make the effort to be personal, like a face-to-face information interview or volunteering.”
Occasionally when I work on a puzzle, I just pick up a piece and go with my intuition on where it may fit best. Career development often requires trusting intuition and encouraging our clients to “go with their gut”. “Does it feel right?” “What if you flipped a coin and it came up heads you take the “A” job? Does it feel right?” Often the answers are not clear (like our puzzle) and they are not lined up in a sequential ladder-like process. Sometimes you have to trust and let serendipity take you to a new place. Maybe the final picture of your puzzle doesn’t look like what you thought it would.
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a monthly newsletter 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.
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