Friday, February 01, 2008

Matching People to Careers

Seth Roberts has a correspondent who makes a very good point:
I believe a large fraction of people around ages 16-22 are ignorant of what kinds of work environments and activities will make them happy and productive later in life. Current classroom-based training structures do not provide exposure to work environments. The cultural and social pressures from media, family and friends can be overwhelming and can often lead to people being very confused, and hence, making poor choices. I’ve seen that people tend to get very limited and highly biased information that leads to making training choices and work choices early in their life that are often not well matched for the person’s individual genius. By mid 20’s and 30’s, getting out of these poor choices is extremely difficult, as financial requirements as one ages grow and available time to retrain diminishes. Expectations of experience grow as one gets older, and the neural ability to quickly learn and master new skills diminishes, especially much later, after 40 or 50 years.

* * *

I think there are enormous unmet needs in many cultures, the US in particular, to provide more assistance to people in their late teens and college years to deeply explore what career options best fit their personality, and provide assessment and testing with definitive recommendations for majors, mentors, internships, and work choices.
It certainly seems true that most people go through life in complete unawareness of the staggering variety of jobs/careers that are out there and that might be a better fit for their personalities and gifts. Think of a more modest example: There are lots of different musical instruments (flute, violin, piano, cello, guitar, drums, oboe, tuba, dulcimer). Maybe you tried out the piano and disliked it, but you might have been good at one of the many other instruments. The discrepancy is much larger as to careers -- there are literally thousands of different jobs out there, many of which you might have enjoyed more than the job that you actually have (which you probably got just by falling into it, or because you thought it was prestigious, or because you were familiar with it from family or friends).

I'm skeptical about the notion that one can provide real "assistance" in overcoming this mismatch, however. You could give someone a list of a thousand different jobs and their descriptions, but no one (and certainly not an 18-year old) would be able to make sense of such a list -- you just wouldn't know whether you'd like many particular jobs until you had tried them out. But, of course, even if you tried a different job every year, you'd die before you had gotten through even a minute fraction of the many kinds of jobs that are out there.


Blogger who, me? said...

You can make a darn good start with instruments including the Myers Briggs and the Kolbe Conative, then a conference with someone who knows the person well (and is not grinding some kind of axe) and well-chosen personal coach or career counsellor. Especially in identifying directions -- to avoid -- that will shrivel this person's soul.

Big misdirect in the thinking has come from misunderstanding Follow Your Bliss. In addition, many kids have not developed much in the way of bedrock interests or talents, have only media-generated stereotypes, yet want to "contribute" or "follow etc." Often desirable just to dive in for a few years, test mettle and collect first-hand information about oneself in menial settings, without pretentious claims of "career." Nervous striving parents are seldom receptive to such a plan for their children, though.

2:36 PM  

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