Rethinking Your Career...When Your Are Looking for a Job


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Presentation to the Professional Services Group (PSG) of Mercer County (NJ), March 16, 2012, on the value of continual career exploration even during a job search.

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  • Which career path is more like yours?
  • You can think about careers in many ways. Some are:A series of work roles over the course of a lifetime.A plan or blueprint beginning with education or training, culminating in “retirement.”A work in progress ending only with complete debilitation or death.Exploration can be done haphazardly, impulsively, or systematically. All three methods may be valuable at times, depending on the circumstances. Career service professionals can help people who have difficulty transitioning into systematic exploration mode when that would be an efficient and effective strategy to use.
  • In short: career exploration involves identifying realistic career possibilities, setting goals, making plans to reach those goals, periodically evaluating whether your plans areon track, and revisiting your goals and revising your plans as needed.
  • This is the most common reason people explore career options. Most adolescents and young adults engage in career exploration by collecting information about various careers so that they can learn what options are a good fit for their skills, interests, values, and personal style. As we continue our career development, we need to continue to learn about ourselves, our field, our organization, our jobs—and the marketplace. Failure to do so puts us at increased risk of losing our market value.
  • The first set of reasons reflects internal changes—growth, maturation, a sense that you have changed. The second set reflects external changes—in the workplace or the larger marketplace.
  • This is the mode of the prototypic entrepreneur who is motivated by the creation of an enterprise but loses interest once it underway.The previous three slides are sometimes grouped together under the label of “career indecision.” This is the most common issue in career exploration. Helping people to find appropriate information resources and to use available tools and resources effectively to help them explore and make career decisions is often all the professional career service assistance they need.
  • Some people have general anxieties or specific fears that affect their ability to make a variety of important decisions. Career professionals can help determine when short-term or persistent psychological or emotional issues may interfere with a person making effective career decisions. Some career service professionals (e.g., psychologists and counselors) may have additional training to help people get past anxieties that interfere with career choice, job acquisition, and other issues related to decision-making. Other career professionals generally limit themselves to frank discussions with the client, relying on their professional judgment to help the person see the barriers emotional issues may raise for career exploration and decision-making, perhaps making a referral to another professional trained to help them work through their anxieties and indecisiveness before continuing or currently.
  • It is said that “change is the only constant.” Less quoted, but also true in today’s world, is that “the rate of change is constantly increasing.” By creating a plan or schedule to both intensively and extensively explore your current career path—and evaluate it in comparison to the best alternatives—you risk being left behind and, possibly, even out of work.
  • Multiple-Choice: Exploring career possibilities is a good idea almost anytime, and if you build it into a routine you are always ready to weigh the pros and cons of any opportunity that comes up. Another advantage to checking out career possibilities regularly is that the process helps you to continually consider whether your career is on track with your plans and goals.
  • Stay the Course: “Clear sailing; I can see all obstacles in my way and I will navigate around them.” For many people, this is the decision-making state in which they spend most of their career. When we are in this state after periodic and effective evaluation of our plans, we have anticipated and planned well. When we are in it because we fail to evaluate the effectiveness of our plans, we get there because we have failed to read—or we misread--warning signs.Mid-Course Corrections: “Whoa, a couple of islands not on the charts seem to be impeding my route. Time to come up with one or two alternative routes to get around them.” We conclude our plan is fundamentally sound but needs some tweaking. Quality tweaks require a process similar to, but less intensive than, the one that led to our last major career plan.Find a New Route: “Whoops! That island is called North America and my route just won’t cut it. Maybe it’s time to rethink the best way to get to India.” We believe—presumably based on reliable evidence—that our career plan needs an overhaul. Perhaps it just isn’t working the way we believed it would because we didn’t have all the information we needed, or perhaps the environment changed in ways we could not reasonably anticipate. In rapidly changing business, labor, and socio-cultural environments, we should anticipate the need to significantly revise our career plans periodically.Choose a New Destination: “OK, so Atlantis sank into the ocean and unless I plan on becoming a deep-sea diver I’d better find another place to go.” This is the most radical decision state, one that many of us hope we spend the least amount of time in. Successful entrepreneurs are the people most like to thrive in this state. That is because they are more likely than others to have temperaments that thrive on risk and uncertainty, and they are more likely to use and develop the skills required to deal with these conditions as part of their career plan.Once we are in this state it is critical that we be able to find a new destination and develop an optimal plan. Sometimes we have plenty of warning that our goal is no longer viable; during uncertain economic times, the realization can come suddenly and without warning. Since this state requires not only a new route, but a new goal as well, it can be the most challenging career decision-making state to be in. Ironically, many people in this state are unable or unwilling to invest the time and money to get the information and support they need to identify short-to-medium term goals and develop reasonable plans to reach them.
  • The effectiveness of our career decision-making is affected to a lesser or greater extent by how we typically approach decision making. The four styles in this model can all be successful—or fail—depending to a great extent on two factors: 1) the state that we are in, and 2) our ability to adapt our style when conditions favor one style. Recognizing whether we tend to stick with one style across situations—particularly stressful ones—or whether we adapt our style fairly easily to match needs—is an important piece of information to have when making career decisions because it gives us the potential to have greater control over our goals and actions.
  • “…see no evil.” More than denial; you actively avoid looking to see if there is handwriting on the wall. Minimizes anxiety in the short run, but is very risky when used frequently. This leaves you completely at the mercy of chance and circumstances because you are simply not aware of the changes happening around your that you need to respond to. But this is a method we all use sometimes. Works best when there are no predators around and when changes in the environment are minimal or slow.
  • A spin of the wheel, a toss of the dice. The luck of the draw. Pretty exciting—as long as you win enough of the time. Needed most in many entrepreneurial or in occupations where income largely depends on commission . Afavorite style of high risk takers and the bane of the fiscally conservative. Knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em requires experience, and comfort making high-stakes decisions with less-than-ideal information.
  • Career not working? Go back to square one and start again. Works best for early career changers and others with limited responsibilities and expenses, those with broad interests and transferable skills, really effective networkers, and the independently wealthy. Very difficult—and high risk—for the rest of us, but sometimes it is the best strategy. May be a necessary style to adopt when entire fields and industries are contracting rapidly or becoming obsolete.
  • The most complex style but the one that has the most bang for the buck when used effectively because you are an active participant in your career development and least reactive to conditions around you. The good Planner gathers a wide variety of relevant information efficiently, integrates and evaluates it, comes up with Plans A & B (at a minimum), and reviews/tweaks all plans at appropriate intervals. On the down side, overreliance on this style can cause some of us to hyperfocus on the planning process or fail to adapt quickly to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Most theories of career development include several steps, processes, or stages. The model of the career planning cycle shown in this diagram has an initial starting point: collecting information. But once the cycle begins, it moves along persistently, if not always smoothly. Any time we set, change, or evaluate goals—which can be at any point in the cycle—we may need to move out of sequence temporarily (small arrows to and from “Goals”). For example, if we evaluate our goal and decide we need to tweak the plan, we may need to acquire additional information and re-evaluate the goal before we are ready to move back to updating the plan and implementing the changes. But for the most part career planning follows the sequence in the diagram, mediated mainly by goal-related activities.
  • Motivators (what “drives” you) include interests, values, preferences (style), and other personal characteristics.Interests answer questions like: “What do you enjoy doing?” “Where do you enjoy doing it?” “What do you hate doing?”Values are addressed by questions like: What is important in your work or work environment? What is unimportant? What is important to avoid or minimize? How consistent are the relative importance of your values in your work vs. your personal life?Preferences are also sometimes referred to as styles when they are consistent across situations. How do you prefer to approach a problem? Do you prefer gathering information, processing it, or taking actions based on it? Do you prefer to make decisions with minimal information or ensuring you have all the information you need before you decide? Would you rather spend more time working independently or with others? The answers to questions like these help us understand our preferences, which may suggest work contexts in which we are likely to thrive—or fail—unless we make allowances for them.Discussion of personality is beyond the scope of this presentation. However, many career development scholars consider interests, values, preferences, and other motivators to be major facets of personality. Our interests, work values, and preferences will often influence the talents we choose to develop. Conversely, our talents—knowledge, skills, and abilities--can influence our interests, values, and preferences. However, experts generally agree that we are more likely to develop our talents when they support our interests, values, and preferences rather than the other way around because the latter motivate us to do so.This does not mean, however, that our talents necessarily are limited by our internal motivators, or that we can be successful on motivation alone if we do not have the requisite abilities to develop our talents. It does mean that--ceteris paribus (“all things being equal”)—we are more likely to develop talents consistent with our motivators than talents that are not.
  • How difficult is it to stay competitive in your occupation—or to transition to a new one? Additional/continuing education, training, obtaining/retaining credentials (license/certification)? Changing occupations is more difficult than fine-tuning or inventing new roles in your current occupation (ceteris paribus). Creating your personal inventory is the best first step in evaluating your best course of action. Creating, organizing and maintaining a portfolio of accomplishments is another good step in career exploration because it provides you with a database of evidence of KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities) to draw upon when making career development plans. The latter also is valuable when applying for jobs or promotions to show your accomplishments.It makes sense that core occupational characteristics in an occupation or job that reinforce many of our motivators (e.g., jobs that require a lot of client contact tend to reinforce people who are motivated by helping or communicating orally with others) are likely to be more rewarding than jobs that reinforce fewer of our motivators.
  • Multiple certifications are available to career professionals with different areas of expertise. The titles “career coach,” “career consultant,” and “executive coach” are not regulated, although there are a number of coaching certification bodies. Psychologists are licensed in all states and counselors are licensed in most. While most psychologists and counselors are not specialists in career development and workforce issues, most will be cautious about practicing out of their areas of specialization and risk losing their licenses. At this time, a majority of workforce specialists tend to be employed in governmental and social service agencies.When considering using the services of a career services professional, consider relevant graduate degrees,career services experience, certifications, and licenses of candidates. Also, seek out recommendations of trusted individuals familiar with their work or reputations, particularly for the specific service you are seeking help with. Most professionals will offer a 15-30 minute free phone consultation to help you decide whether engage their services.
  • A note on career assistance. The career services field has burgeoned in the past two decades, not just in terms of the number of people entering the field, but also the kinds of services being offered. As a result, it is increasingly difficult for one professional to be able to help individuals address a wide variety of career needs. This means the consumer of career services should be appropriately skeptical (but not cynical) of professionals that offer a wide range of high-quality career services; some have the necessary training, skills, and experience to do so. In my experience, however, most of these exceptional professionals prefer to specialize and don’t go out of their way to provide a broad range of career services to the public.
  • The two books in this slide are excellent starting points for beginning or jump-starting your career exploration/planning activities. The referral sources are also excellent places to start if you need help or support in the any aspect of the process. [Note: Some college/university career centers have reciprocity arrangements with similar institutions around the country to provide limited career services to alumni residing far from their alma mater. Contact yours to see if it has such an arrangement with a college in your community if you don’t live near your school.]
  • There are many free assessments available on websites. For most of them, it certainly does not hurt to take them if you don’t take the results at face value, but instead reflect on your thinking as you responded to the items and read the results. This can be valuable information, but it is limited.There are some fee-based assessments available directly to the consumer. However, the results often come with detailed or complex reports that are better suited for interpretation with a career assessment professional. Most fee-based career assessments, particularly those that assess personality characteristics, are generally only available through qualified practitioners certified in the use of those assessments or who have specialized training in psychological testing and assessment.In addition to the SII (interests and personal style), some popular fee-based assessments include the Campbell Interest & Skills Survey (note: this inventory has not been scheduled for revision or update since the early 1990s, which becomes more problematic as time moves forward); CPI260, 16PF, and NEO (personality traits); Myers Briggs Type Indicator (psychological type); MAPP (motivations); Career Leader (motivations, skills, and interests related to executive leadership); and SkillScan Career Driver or SkillScan Advanced Pack (transferable skills). This is just a smattering of available fee-based assessments. Keep in mind that some free assessments may be perfectly adequate for your specific needs, while some fee-based assessments may be overkill or inappropriate for your needs.There are many other good (and some not so good) standardized, fee-based career assessments in use today. Which ones might be of value for you should be based on an initial assessment of your career service needs after a discussion with a career services professional familiar with the pros and cons of available assessments and, in many cases, has received training in their proper use and interpretation. Depending on the nature and depth of the reported results, wholesale cost of high-quality fee-based assessments can range from under $10 to over $100. In some cases, you can take some of these assessments and receive a report directly without discussing the interpretation of the scores with a professional. While a minority of people can use the printed reports effectively with no additional help, many such reports were not intended to be given to career explorers without the assistance of a career specialist. I strongly discourage you from attempting to use professional level assessment reports without the assistance of a career professional qualified to help people understand their reports.RIASEC is an acronym for 6 types of work environments and corresponding vocational personality types developed by psychologist John Holland in the middle of the 20th century. This model has now been incorporated into most major career interest assessments. For example, the roots of the SII—which go back to the late 1930s—incorporated the RIASEC model in the early 1970s. [Note: the SII reports are being revised and are expected to include hyperlinks to O*NET as early as April 2012.]
  • Rethinking Your Career...When Your Are Looking for a Job

    1. 1. Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF PSG of Mercer County March 16, 2012 …When You Are Looking for a Job Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF Rethinking Your Career
    2. 2. Today’s Discussion Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 2  We will:  Define “career exploration.”  Identify reasons to explore career options.  Consider why continuous career exploration is increasingly important.  Describe a simple model of career decision- making, focusing on career exploration.  List some resources available if you need help.
    3. 3. Career Paths Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF Rethinking Your Career 3
    4. 4. Exploring Careers: Some Definitions Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 4  Career  “The general progression of your work or professional life.”  Explore  “To examine or investigate something systematically.” So career exploration is….
    5. 5. Career Exploration is… Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 5 Systematically examining options to guide the progression of your work or professional life.
    6. 6. Why Explore Career Options? Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 6 Why would you think about exploring careers?  Lack of Information  Looking for a Better Fit  Seeking New Opportunities  Doubt  Anything Else? Christopher Columbus
    7. 7. Lack of Information Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 7  “I don’t know what careers exist.”  “I don’t know myself well enough to choose a career.”  “How do I choose a career?”  “What are my talents and motivators?”  “What industries/employers hire people like me?”  “What are the fields and jobs of the future?”
    8. 8. Looking for a Better Fit Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 8  “I want a more fulfilling career.”  “I love to do many things—I can’t choose just one.”  “I’m getting bored with what I do.”  “No job I ever had excited me for long.”  “I feel my talents are no longer valued.”  “My career is becoming obsolete.”  “My field is changing.”  I used to love my work, but now it’s a drag.”
    9. 9. Seeking Opportunities Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 9  “I love new challenges.”  “I want to earn more than I can now.”  “I want to start something new.”  “Growth in [new field] is doubling every year!”
    10. 10. Indecisiveness Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 10  “How will I know which career is right for me?”  “I just can’t figure out this career maze no matter how hard I try!”  “I just don’t know what to do—and I’m afraid I never will!”  “I want you to tell me what career to choose.”
    11. 11. Why should you look at career options? Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 11 Over time… the nature of work changes! the physical world in which we live changes! the culture of the workplace changes! …and YOU change!
    12. 12. When should you look at career options? Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 12
    13. 13. Career Decision-Making States Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 13 Four States “Stay the Course” (default) “Make Mid-Course Corrections” “Find a New Route” “Choose a New Destination” You always are in one of these states.
    14. 14. Career Decision-Making Styles Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 14  Four Styles  “The Ostrich”  “The Gambler”  “The Tosser”  “The Planner”  We use all these styles sometimes.  We tend to have a preferred style.
    15. 15. The Ostrich Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 15 Rethinking Your Career
    16. 16. The Gambler Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 16 Rethinking Your Career
    17. 17. The Tosser Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 17 Rethinking Your Career
    18. 18. The Planner Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 18 Rethinking Your Career
    19. 19. Basic Career Planning Model Rethinking Your CareerBruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 19  Step 1: Collect Information  Step 2: Identify or eliminate options  Step 3: Make a plan  Step 4: Implement the plan
    20. 20. Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 20 Career Planning Cycle Collect information Implement and update plan Develop/Tweak Plan Identify options Set/Evaluate Goals Rethinking Your Career
    21. 21. Collect & Inventory Information Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 21 – Jobs  Requirements  Education  Training  Experience  Reinforcers  Organizations – Careers  Occupations  Fields & Industries – Labor Market  Supply  Demand – Yourself  Skills  Knowledge  Abilities  Motivators Interests, values, preferences, personality Rethinking Your Career
    22. 22. How Well Do You Know: Yourself? Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 22  Skills  Transferable  Occupation-specific  Knowledge  Your occupation  Your industry  Abilities  General  Specialized  Motivators  Interests  Values  Needs  Personality traits  Preferences/style Rethinking Your Career
    23. 23. How Well Do You Know: The Work World? Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 23  What are typical work environments like?  What are typical tasks and activities in your occupations of interest?  Required KSAs  What motivations are associated with success and satisfaction in occupations of interest?  Work values, work environment, compensation, etc.  How easy is it to change from my career to __?  Re-Educating/Retraining/Re-Careering Rethinking Your Career
    24. 24. Career Exploration--Summary Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 24 1. Create an inventory of strengths, motivators, challenges 2. Learn about occupational/career options 3. Learn alternative job titles for similar jobs 4. Learn about the labor market 5. Create a career portfolio You can use this information to:  Identify and evaluate career options  Identify development needs  Set goals and create plans  Decision: Stay the course, mid-course adjustment, new path, or new destination  Revisit the plan periodically Rethinking Your Career
    25. 25. Seeking Career Services: Some Career Professionals* Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 25  Career Coach  Career Consultant  Career Counselor  Career Development Facilitator  Counseling Psychologist  Executive Coach  Résumé Writer  Workforce Specialist *in alphabetical order Rethinking Your Career
    26. 26. Getting Career Assistance Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 26  Identify your needs first to find the right kind of professional  Contact your alma maters’ career centers  Independent Professionals  Do your due diligence  Check professional’s websites  Check LinkedIn  Get testimonials from trusted sources  Focus on those who had needs like yours  Check out credentials  Education, experience, certifications Rethinking Your Career
    27. 27. Career Exploration Resources Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 27 Sample Resources  Books  Richard Nelson Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute? 2012: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (40th Anniversary ed.). Ten Speed Press.  Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger (2007). Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type (4th ed.). Little,Brown.  Career Professional Referrals  Career services office of your college/university  Check website for career or counseling services; check alumni association web site, too  Professional associations Rethinking Your Career
    28. 28. Career Exploration Resources Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 28  Websites  O*NET (  Authoritative occupational information database  Alternative interface:  Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) (  Detailed descriptions of over 800 occupations  10-year employment outlook by occupation  National wage/salary information; links to state information  Career One-Stop (  Portal to various federal, state, and other websites for occupational education, training, and other information. Links to O*NET and OOH.  Professional & Trade Associations Rethinking Your Career
    29. 29. Sample Online Assessments Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 29  Free Interest Assessment  Interest Profiler – Short Form (  Uses the RIASEC model, links to O*NET  Fee Assessment  Strong Interest Inventory  Taken through qualified or certified professional  Uses RIASEC; scheduled to link directly to O*NET in Spring 2012  Four sets of scores; compares your interests with those in both general and occupational reference groups Rethinking Your Career
    30. 30. Thank You! Bruce Biskin, PhD, GCDF 30 Questions & Comments Rethinking Your Career