Category: Youth

The Power of Your Personality and Potential

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Many younger career seekers can encounter significant challenges when beginning their careers. Typically, these individuals go to people who are closest to them and that they trust for career advice. These people can include parents, teachers and friends. Even though this advice when given can be well intended, it is usually wrong. But, why? Unfortunately, when people closest to you provide advice, the perspective it is filtered through their own distinct career experiences. More than likely, most other people’s career choices will not have any similarity to yours. In addition, most people who are close are too emotionally connected, providing advice that is not objective. The advice is typically biased. But most importantly, most people do not have all the necessary information and knowledge needed to successfully navigate today’s ever changing career market. With changing global conditions and technology, the career market today in the 2020’s is not even the same as 10 years ago. So, here’s a good starting place. Start with you. Begin with your potential!  

Using the word “potential” might sound vague, but it is not as ambiguous as it sounds. The word potential as defined by a dictionary means, “having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.” When beginning your career, attempting to discern your own potential is a good place to start, because it will help you to identify and characterize your own unique and special qualities. These broad set of personal qualities will be ones that you and only you will possess. These special qualities will help you to establish your very own career path. Many people underestimate their own personal qualities, assuming that everyone is similar. However, this is very far from the truth. Your personal qualities are very distinct and individual to you. However, what exactly is meant by the word “potential” in relation to your career?

Your potential can be specifically defined by four major areas: skills, interests, values and personality. These 4 qualities are not the only aspects that you can use to help reach your greatest career potential. However, with regards to your career development, these are very tangible concrete aspects that can be used to figure out a good career fit. You can consider your skills, interests, values and personality endowments, because these are personal characteristics and qualities that you possess. Whether these endowments have been acquired through god, genetic evolution or plain old chance, it does not matter. Your endowments can be used towards your own career advantage, helping you to design, grow and develop a successful career.

When trying to figure out a career, most people tend to first think of their skills and interests. However, it’s also important to explore your values and personality. Career values are personal principles that assist you is defining your ideal professional environment. These values can help you identify your most ideal work setting and important role characteristics. In turn, these will enhance your job satisfaction, accelerate career advancement and support you in achieving success.

Another personal aspect that also supports your career is your personality. It’s your distinct and exceptional personality traits that can help you uncover your unique career journey. Ironically, you may have similar skills, interests and values to other people, but it is the distinct combination of your personality traits that makes you, uniquely you. In the career world, adapting to a specific organization and its culture can significantly impact your career satisfaction, which can be a function of personality traits. So, let’s take a deeper look at how your personality can impact your career, because your personality is a significant part of achieving greater career fulfillment.

Your Personality Predicts Career Success and Satisfaction

Research has discovered that certain patterns of personality growth predict career success. In a major 12-year longitudinal study, researchers from the University of Houston followed two groups of youth from 17 years to about 29 years of age, approximately a 12-year period. They found that personality has important effects on early career outcomes. The effects were revealed through stable trait levels and how people change over time. The researchers reported that personality trait levels predicted career success. In another study, researchers examined personality traits in relation to satisfaction. They evaluated 5,932 individuals in career transition. They found that personality traits were related to both career and job satisfaction. Specifically, they found that 3 distinct personality traits were related to career satisfaction and success: conscientiousness, extroversion, and openness. At the moment, I will not discuss the specifics of the traits, but only reinforce the idea that specific aspects of your personality will be important to you in achieving career success and satisfaction. 

Your Personality Impacts Performance

Your performance on the job is not only about your skills. It can be influenced by many other factors, including your personality. There have been many great career accomplishments that have been reached, in the absence of strong skills and knowledge. People can attain extraordinary achievements, conquering significant challenges by employing personality strengths. An individual who was able to use his personal traits to overcome skill deficits was Jamie Oliver.

Jamie Oliver is a celebrity chef who has authored over twenty cookbooks. He is one of world’s richest chefs, with a net worth of over $230 million. However, you would be surprised by the fact that even though he has authored many books he only finished reading his first book in 2013. Oliver has Dyslexia, which is a specific learning disability that affects reading. Individuals with dyslexia have trouble reading accurately and fluently. Oliver has stated, “I’ve never read a book in my life, which I know sounds incredibly ignorant but I’m dyslexic and I get bored easily.”

To say that Jamie Oliver has had some very controversial moments would be an understatement. Oliver has a shocking career history of making people extremely angry with his personal views and perspectives, and sometimes downright hypocrisy. These controversies are the result of strong personality characteristics. Being a celebrity chef isn’t just about having cooking skills and knowledge, otherwise any chef could be on TV. It’s beneficial to have a big personality in the media world, so you can light up the television and get attention. This is where Oliver’s personality comes in. Because he is constantly in the spotlight, he needs people to listen and grab their attention. His celebrity survival depends on his personality. There are countless examples of people using their unique personality characteristics to shape their career, Jamie Oliver is just one person out of many. Pursuing a career that best compliments your personality will not only help you achieve the best performance on the job, but will support you in reaching your highest career potential

Personality is the Key to Strong Organizational Culture Fit

There are many people that do not take into consideration or appreciate the fit between themselves and the culture that exists in the organization that they work for. However, on the other hand, many companies today view organizational fit as a critical company aspect, especially when it comes to hiring new employees.

In a corporate recruiters’ survey conducted by GMAC Research Services, employers were asked to identify the skills and traits they felt were most important to consider when evaluating recent business school graduates to hire. The survey drew responses from 842 employers representing more than 530 companies in 40 countries around the globe. Among the 12 traits that respondents were asked to rank in order of importance, the survey found that a candidate’s ability to fit within an organizational culture was ranked highest overall across all world regions.

Organizational culture is generally understood to include all of a company’s beliefs, values and attitudes. The combination of these factors influences an employee’s behaviour, affecting his/her interaction with others and work performance. The importance of organizational fit should never be underestimated, as it can be a critical driver of your happiness in the workplace. Multiple research studies have drawn a connection to job satisfaction and productivity. It is also intuitively obvious that if a person feels like they are an important part of the greater organization his/her commitment will deepen. This person will feel greater work engagement and be motivated to “go the extra mile.” Your personality is a key aspect to achieving strong organizational fit, being vital in identifying the work environment that is best suited to you. More importantly, this will also allow you to maximize your greatest career potential.

The Real Costs For Post-Secondary Students That Lack Career Clarity

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Many people still think that it’s okay for students to be unsure or lack career clarity when attending post-secondary education. I have heard many parents communicate this advice, and even some academic institutions support it. For instance, on a top Canadian university website there is a statement to students, “No one expects you to have your whole life mapped out when you apply to university. There are so many universities and choices. You may discover new programs after you apply or even once you get to university. It’s okay to change what you’d like to study. Many students do.”

There are also post-secondary educators that provide similar advice. In a Macleans article (December 3, 2018), Aritha van Herk,a professor from the department of English at the University of Calgary stated, “Explore. Give your curiosity free rein. Universities are programmatically structured now, but don’t let the requirements of your program confine you. If you want to take astronomy and your English degree tells you that you can’t take any more options, resist and figure out a way to do both. It is less important to complete a degree than to discover your fascinations, which will follow you through life.” Really? Is it not that important that a student does not complete his or her degree?

A lot of students have difficulties choosing academic programs, lacking direction. For this reason, changing majors is a very common occurrence for many post-secondary students, especially in university settings. Even I changed my majors when I attended University. I would argue that it is such a common occurrence that many individuals don’t realize the real consequences of making this critical decision. As the opening quotation mentions, students that change majors are part of the norm. Do not misunderstand me, I completely support the idea of exploration. Indeed, exploration is at the heart to a successful career development process. However, I believe that gaining greater clarity about post-secondary education needs to be a priority because academic uncertainty is extremely costly. In this blog, I want to look at facts surrounding academic decision making, the true costs of switching majors and some of the benefits of using career development strategies.

There are many career development strategies that can be effectively used to reduce doubt and uncertainty, helping to enhance academic decision making. My intention is to open a dialogue about the true need for career development, as way of reducing uncertainty and gaining clarity. More importantly, it is also a way of avoiding major unforeseen costs.

Percentage of Students Changing Majors

First, let’s look at some cold hard facts when students change majors. Within Canada, there are not very clear statistics on the number of students changing their majors. However, in the United States the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), conducted a longitudinal study in 2011 to 2012. The study found that 33 percent of students that were pursuing a bachelor’s degree and 28 percent of students within associate degree programs had changed their major at least once. The survey also found that about 1 in 10 had changed majors twice.

Relevance of Academic Studies to Work

Additional research involved university students from a major Canadian survey completed for 2020, the Ontario University Graduate Survey. In this study, researchers examined two key factors that were related to graduate job results. The first factor was the skills students had developed from their program. The second factor was the subject matter knowledge they acquired. With regards to the skills that university students had developed in relation to their work, 53% of students stated that they were “closely related”, 34% recorded that they were “somewhat related” and 13% noted that they were “not related at all”. In relation to the subject matter, 46% of students stated that the knowledge gained was “closely related” to their work, 30% indicated that it was “somewhat related” and 24% recorded it was “not related at all”. 

In reviewing the percentages, only about 50% of the students indicated that both their skills and subject matter were closely related to their work upon graduation. Overall, it’s clear that there are a vast number of students do not employ a significant level of skills and knowledge in the work that they do. Many students do not maximize their education, with regards to the future careers they pursue.

The Real Costs of Education

When attending college or university there are significant costs that go along with this major life decision. Let’s look at these costs. According to Statistics Canada, a typical university Canadian student enrolled full-time in an undergraduate program will pay, on average, $6,693 in tuition. This was for the 2021/2022 academic year. Of course, tuition will depend on the area of study, increasing in cost for most STEM and professional degrees. If a student is in residence, the annual cost can be even higher.

Associated with the costs of going to university is the large number of students having significant student debt. Statistics Canada reports that for the 2015 year, 64% of the graduates who graduated with student debt still had an outstanding debt after three years. Among university programs, graduates with a bachelor’s degree had a median debt of $20,000. Graduates in professional programs were three times higher with a median debt of $60,300

Costs and Consequences

Let’s quickly sum up the facts, to evaluate the real costs for a student’s lack of career clarity and uncertainty. First, a significant percentage of students will change their majors, up to a third. Second, only about 50% of the students indicate that their skills and subject matter are closely related to their work upon graduation. So, many graduating students will not be maximizing their educational field of study to their future careers. Third, with the average cost for a year’s tuition for university being approximately $6,700, having to take any additional years to complete a program is an extraneous and unnecessary cost. Fourth, if students decide to change majors the courses already completed may not be relevant to the new major. Students may not be able to transfer all their credits, having to pay for any additional credits, increasing costs. Furthermore, this will also extend the date of graduation. Fifth, if students extend their graduation date, they will have to pay for additional courses. In this situation, they will also be losing employment income, because they have not started their career. Last, when students extend the date of graduation, the time required to pay off any outstanding student debt becomes longer.  

Benefits of Using Career Development Strategies

I hope that a review of these fact and numbers, provides confirmation that switching academic majors has significant costs and consequences. Even though many students choose to switch majors, it should not be taken lightly. As I have discussed making the wrong decision is very costly. However, is there a way to reduce the chance of having to switch majors? There have been multiple research studies explicitly confirming the effectiveness of the career development process for supporting successful student decision making.

There are many advantages for students to undergo a successful career development process. First, students gain self-awareness. Being self-aware forces a person to look at themselves more objectively. Examining strengths, weaknesses, personality traits and values assists in more effectively exploring career directions and opportunities. Second, it provides a way for students to create career goals, which supports the decision-making process. When students have goals that they want to achieve, it helps them plan more effectively. Third, it establishes a long-term vision. Vision also supports the decision-making process, assisting them to prioritize what is truly important in their career. Finally, a sound career strategy allows students to better explore the labour market. Today’s labour market is expansive and endlessly changing. Students need to understand labour market trends, impacts and disruptions. With the rising costs of today’s education and the continually changing labour market, an effective career process can help a student not only avoid getting into the wrong career but provide a successful career foundation. The process can  help a student have a deeper understanding of who they are and what they truly want from their career.

Reasons Why Young People Struggle to Find a Successful Career

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In my work, I encounter many youth struggling to find a successful career direction. In this situation, I am not talking about finding and obtaining the right job. Finding and obtaining the right job involves a successful job search strategy. I am talking about choosing the right job. From my perspective, finding a job and choosing a career are entirely separate aspects. Let me explain.

I remember one very specific call. The client was a younger individual who had just finished completing her teaching qualifications. She recently started a teaching position, providing high school instruction to youth. During the call, she very definitively stated that she hated it. I asked her why and oddly enough, she mentioned that a lot of the kids were “unmotivated”. We spoke for a while longer and discovered that she could not quit the position, due to a large outstanding student debt. She was clearly upset and frustrated with her job but was forced to stay in it. This young person found a job but chose the wrong one. Since then, I have encountered many young people who have taken the wrong programs, have completely switched their majors or struggled to establish a strong and successful start to their career. Needless to say, this is detrimental to their career progress, not to mention very costly.

Generally, many early job seekers and young people fail to consider the many career options that are available to them. Many students identify careers that easily come to mind that they might enjoy and pursue them. However, there is no career development process, strategy or deeper exploration. Without deeper exploration, students can make very erroneous decisions. At the same time, all the many job possibilities can be overwhelming, as there are a seemingly infinite number of career choices. There are many reasons why people struggle to get a strong foothold when beginning their career. These need to be considered, if they are going to get a strong start in their career. If you are a younger person, you need to understand the 4 following major factors that will greatly impact your important career decisions.

Influence and Impact of others

Students are typically surrounded by a network of people who significantly impact and influence their career choices. I have spoken to many young people who have been influenced by those closest around them. These individuals can include parents, family members, teachers, counselors, mentors and friends. In general, most of these people are very supportive in a person’s life. Research supports this. Studies have found that these individuals can positively influence a students’ education and career decision making. An American study discovered that family members were the greatest source and had the highest percentage of influence on a student’s career decision. Teachers were cited as the next group, for influencing a student’s decision. The last source of influence was school counsellors.

Indeed, there are many students that follow their parents’ recommendations, generally finding work in the career fields that their parents wanted for them. For students making a critical career decision, it can be difficult to separate what people in their close network want for them and the career they would like to choose for themselves. This difficulty in separation comes from a process termed internalization. Internalization happens when values, patterns or beliefs within oneself are acquired through learning or socialization, as conscious or subconscious guiding principles. Both children and youth have a strong tendency to internalize career values from others around them, especially their parents. As such, the influence of others can hinder a student’s ability to envision their own distinct career path or independently choose their career direction. As a young person, you will need to take the required time to adequately reflect, meditate and plan your own career choices, separate from those around you.

No Direct “Real-World” Experience

There’s a saying I typically mention to clients that I serve, and it’s, “Passion cannot be discovered through thought.” I will use my own personal experience to explain. When I left high school, I wanted to go into aerospace engineering, as I enjoyed the sciences, especially physics. I imagined myself designing and building really cool jet fighters. I knew very little about the engineering field before I got into my program, and I failed to account for one major factor. Everything in engineering revolved around design, drafting and mathematics. There was a lot of math equations! It was only when I faced the non-stop daily grind of performing seemingly endless chemical, math and physics equations and problems that I thought, “Woah, enough!” In high school, I studied many other subjects, and had not experienced the intensity of mathematics and sciences every day, until I got into my program.

Real passions do not evolve out of thoughts, they are a product of experiences. Most people have tendencies to “think” about their passions, instead of taking direct action and trying something new. We habituate our minds to analyze, rationalize and figure things out. However, this is the main reason why many people buy exercise machines that eventually end up sitting in a corner of their homes. The thought of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger is exciting and great, until a person has to put in the consistent and hard work to develop a body like Arnold. Finding a successful career is about directly immersing yourself into many experiences, actually trying them. Without tangible and concrete knowledge, you will not know what you are truly passionate about and love.

If you are early in your career, it’s well worth to try as many activities as possible, gaining direct experiences. Participate in volunteer work, additional training, hobbies and leisure activities, along with joining internships and extracurricular activities.

No Priorities; Not Knowing What’s Important.

Ask yourself this question, “Have I identified, planned and taken real action on a really important goal that will move my career in a positive direction, significantly moving it forward within the next year?” Unfortunately, when I ask this question to clients, it’s a very difficult one to answer. Most people have a tendency to choose jobs and centre their career around immediate and personal circumstances and situations. People’s careers can be very reactionary. In the case of younger people, the main reactionary situation in their lives is leaving high school. When school ends, they are forced to make very quick and pressured decisions about what career they want. This time crunch can be very challenging, because how does one choose quickly? It can take time to get to an understanding of what’s going to be important in the next 5, 10 or even 20 years into the future, as priorities constantly evolve. As a young person, it is critical to take the time, energy and effort to define what you want and what you consider a successful career. Create, develop and work on a career vision for yourself. Otherwise, like many people, you could end up stuck in job that you seriously dislike and even hate, while become so immersed, it will be difficult to pivot or change career direction.

Your Own Psychology

Career decision making is one of most important aspects of career development, even perhaps the most critical. Unfortunately, despite people’s best efforts, they make wrong choices. These errors in decision making are less about intelligence and being “smart”, as opposed to knowing how your mind specifically operates and the types of operational processes that are integrated into the decision-making process.  

Heuristics are processes by which humans use mental short cuts to arrive at decisions. They are strategies that are part of the operational processes of the mind, being incorporated when making judgments, evaluating decisions and finding solutions. These processes are used to find answers that are most likely to be correct. However, they are not always right or even the most accurate.

There are many different types of heuristics. However, I will provide an example of one specific type, termed the Representativeness Heuristic. This heuristic was first researched by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the 1970s. Like other types of heuristics, making judgments based on representativeness is intended to operate as a mental shortcut.  However, it can lead to significant errors. In a classic experiment, Tversky and Kahneman gave research participants a description of a person named Tom W. They described him as orderly, detail-oriented, competent, self-centered, with a strong moral sense. Participants were then asked to determine Tom’s college major. The researchers found that the description led them to use the representativeness heuristic, resulting in the belief that Tom was an engineering major. This of course were only the perceived conclusions drawn by the participants, and occurred, despite the fact that there was a relatively small number of engineering students at the school where the study was conducted.

Heuristics can lead many people to false conclusions about certain occupations, influencing critical career decisions. We all have opinions, perspectives and judgements about specific types of jobs. However, your own psychology and thought processes will greatly impact your decisions. These decisions will eventually lead to significant career consequences. An effective educational planning and career development process can help you to make more accurate career judgements and conclusions. It supports by enhancing your awareness when using heuristics, incorporating deeper reflective processes and applying greater logic and rationality. Overall, it will be beneficial for you to gain a deeper understanding of your career decision-making process and own psychology.