I work with young adults between the ages of 22 and 35 that second-guess their career decisions. Typically, people in this demographic spend 4.5 to 6 years in college and amass significant debt to fund their education. When they graduate (and according to studies, nearly 40% of students never graduate), they hope to find a job that matches their career choice and provides a personally satisfying and financially rewarding career path.
However, what I hear from many of you is just the opposite. A common refrain is, “This is not what I thought it would be.” Frustration sets in, discontent mounts, and time seems to crawl. So, you either slog it out and hope the job will improve or quit in search of another chance at career nirvana.
Why waste another minute in a career that is not maximizing your earning power or giving you purpose and fulfillment? It’s time for a career “reboot”!
All you need to do is follow these three steps. Keep in mind that you will only get out of the process what you put into it. There is no magic wand or button that will suddenly transport you into the perfect career, but if you invest the time into these steps, you’ll have newfound clarity and direction.
Step 1: Base Your Career Foundation on Your Natural Abilities Rather Than Just Your Interests
If you are like many young adults, you base your lifelong career decision on an interest you have during your high school years. While interests are an important component for career decisions, interests change over your lifetime, thus requiring a change in your career path. Imagine having a solid foundation based on your unique attributes to guide your career choices.
Let’s say you want to take a long hike in the mountains. The first thing you would do is assess your ability to navigate the terrain and endure the challenges. Assessing your abilities gives you a foundation for a successful hike, knowing that you are relying on your abilities to experience a successful and satisfying trip.
The same can be said regarding your career path. Your natural abilities are your foundation to successfully navigate the ever-changing landscape of industries, employers, decision-makers, and career opportunities. Your natural abilities are what you were born to do and remain highly stable over time, making it an ideal foundation from which to develop a career plan.
Your Baseline Assessment – The Highlands Ability Battery
The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) is a best-in-class assessment tool that will objectively measure your natural abilities by asking you to perform specific tasks or exercises within a prescribed measure of time. Objective measurement tools like the HAB measure your true performance of abilities that do not change much over time. This gives you a solid foundation from which to base career and life decisions. While subjective assessment tools aid in the overall discovery process, they measure your perception, which can and will change over time.
The HAB measures 19 aptitudes (or natural abilities) such as inductive and analytical reasoning, idea flow, verbal aptitude, structural visualization, ability to work with designs and numbers, and even musical ability, along with several applications of memory. The individual and collective results lead to better understanding these three key factors about yourself:
- What work environment you thrive in and how you best relate to others (Your Personal Style);
- What specific abilities drive everything that you do and must be expressed in your life and career (Your Driving Abilities);
- How you best learn and communicate (Your Specialized Abilities).
These findings about your natural abilities can be matched with potential career fields that best fit your life journey, giving you a firm and appropriate foundation to base your career decisions.
Step 2: Consider Your “Whole Person”
Once you better understand what you are naturally good at and see potential career opportunities that are a better fit, you will want to gain insight into other critical attributes that will impact your career and life decisions. There are seven other dimensions that make up the Highlands Whole Person Model, which considers your “whole self” and allows you to make critical career and life decisions not only here and now, but as you transition over time. Thus, your unique Whole Person Profile becomes your “GPS” to help you successfully navigate the ever-changing employment landscape and life events.
The principal output of the discovery and creation process involved in the Whole Person Model are your written Personal Life and Career Vision Statements. By writing the statements down and declaring them to others, you are staking your claim to your future. While they may evolve over time based upon changes to your Whole Person Model, it becomes your guide with which to successfully navigate those changes.
Your Personal Vision Statement is an articulated, detailed description of how you want to live your life—your whole life, not just your work life. It states who you really are, what you like to do and do well, what you believe is worth doing, and how you want to live your life. Your Career Vision Statement is an extension of your Personal Vision Statement as it is specific to your career and entails what you want to become, what you want to accomplish, and what impact you desire to have on the world in terms of your career.
Step 3: Make It Happen
Bernadette (aka Bernie) is a 35-year-old female who was unfulfilled and frustrated with her career choices. Since graduating at age 23 with a degree in Marketing, she worked in many capacities, trying her hand at managing a restaurant, acting and performing, real estate leasing, and even retail sales. Bernie spent significant time and money pursuing her dreams in California and then New York, eventually returning to her home in the Midwest. Despite Bernie’s solid efforts, she was not able to sustain her personal satisfaction or career momentum. Although every new job offered a chance to learn something new and explore new interests, each opportunity, over time, led to an unfulfilled dream. Family members believed in her but felt somewhat helpless as she jumped from one job to another, never understanding her rationale or her choices.
Bernie knew she needed help in assessing her career choices and decided to take the Highlands Ability Battery. For the first time, Bernie understood why she was confused and frustrated. She had three (of five) strong driving abilities competing for expression. Driving abilities are what “power” you and must be acknowledged or otherwise risk frustration. Bernie discovered that she had a natural ability to create new ideas, to see relationships between seemingly unrelated information and to solve problems through logic, assets that needed an outlet.
A New Beginning
This self-awareness provided great relief in knowing that she was not crazy, indecisive, or just chasing the perfect situation. Going forward, she can refine her selections to incorporate her strong driving abilities and to give each one expression in her life.
Bernie has since worked on exploring other dimensions of her Whole Person Model and has created a Life and Career Vision Statement. Equipped with her newfound “Career GPS” she has enrolled in a graduate program to earn a master’s degree in organizational leadership with a concentration on Professional & Executive Coaching. She re-crafted her resume and LinkedIn profile and secured a new career as a Leasing Agent for a national residential and commercial leasing company where she will have an opportunity to work to her strengths and expertise within the organization to help the company grow.
As proof of her profound change, her family says that she is a different person. She is more confident and self-assured with a commitment and passion to complete her degree and grow in her new career. Knowing that she has a well thought out career development plan, they trust that she has made the right decisions for finding long lasting satisfaction and fulfillment in her career and life. More importantly, Bernie has the keen personal insight to successfully navigate whatever opportunities or challenges come her way.
Ryan Giese is a Highlands Certified Consultant in the Chicago area who specializes in career coaching for adults and students as well as personal financial coaching. He is also certified in the facilitation of the Don’t Waste Your Talent Coaching Program.