Why Use Career Assessments?

Why Use Career Assessments?

It would be wonderful if career development professionals could just gaze into a crystal ball and discern the best path for each person. While most professionals bring with them a wealth of personal and professional knowledge and education, career planning is a complex thing to navigate even under the best of circumstances. Numerous career assessments abound on the Internet. If you’re a young adult, you may not realize that career development is still a fairly new field in the realm of human development. One pillar in the field, John Holland, first introduced his theory, known as the Holland Codes, in 1959. Through timely revisions, the Holland Codes are still helpful today as a piece of validating information. While career counseling was initially used in the military for vocational counseling, it was quickly embraced in education and then marketed to the general public when the rise of self-help books became widely acceptable. One of the best-known of these books, What Color Is Your Parachute?, was introduced in the 1970s by Richard Bolles and has since became a staple in the career development field. Sold as a self-help tool for career seekers, it is still being updated and published today. In the early 2000s, Do What You Are arrived on the scene. Representing a new kind of self-help book, it used personality type theory to help readers identify strengths and talents unique to the 16 types described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Since its release, the book has become a time-honored tool in assisting those seeking career planning clarification. Shortly to follow was the Do What You Are® online career assessment... read more
Becoming Your Own Best Advocate

Becoming Your Own Best Advocate

The word “advocate” in Latin means “to call to one’s aid”. Generally we don’t think of needing to provide aid to ourselves, but that’s exactly what you do when advocating for yourself while working to reach your desired life goals.  As a career counselor, my focus is always on empowering clients to recognize, understand and embrace their unique innate gifts and talents. After all, how can you advocate for yourself when you don’t clearly know and embrace what you have to offer? The ability to advocate effectively for oneself in high value situations (those that mean the most to you and which typically occur within a competitive environment, such as when applying for a job, scholarship or educational program) is powerful and gratifying. It builds self-esteem and confidence, an essential foundation for success. The first step in the process is to embrace a proactive attitude. Secondly, success in any potentially competitive situation involves preparation and confidence. Analysis of your “selling points” and how to present yourself and provide solid relatable evidence of your talents and strengths is essential. The best way to do that is by using convincing behavioral examples. Any life situation, when polished and presented for the appropriate topic, can become a convincing confirmation of your candidacy. Taking the initiative in analyzing your unique examples, and understanding the impact of your personal and professional growth in the results, whether good or bad, can be difficult on your own. Professional assistance can expedite and impact the finished product. It serves one well to become comfortable and competent at self-promotion when it is needed. Promoting oneself on the ability to succeed involves demonstrating that ability... read more
Our Community Colleges.  Still at the center of the American Dream

Our Community Colleges. Still at the center of the American Dream

In case you weren’t aware, April is National Community College Awareness Month. And never have community colleges played such an important part in helping individuals of diverse ages and backgrounds realize their American Dream. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, its member institutions serve 45% of all college students and 41% of all first-time freshmen. However, that’s only part of the story. Over half of all African American college students attend a community college. Representation among Hispanic and Native American college students is even higher. And over one-third of students are the first generation in their family to attend college. Not surprisingly, community college students represent a wide range of ages, the average student being 29 years old. Community college students are also a hardworking bunch. Well over half of all full-time community college students are employed at least part time, and nearly 75% of all part-time students hold down some form of employment. In short, America’s community colleges serve students who are committed to a better life for themselves and their families, and are willing to work hard to achieve it. Perhaps most importantly, this group of students are at the vanguard of a drive to upgrade their skills and remain competitive in a globalized workforce. We also know that these students face greater challenges to graduation than most other college students. Nearly half fail to return for their second year of education. The reasons are many. In addition to attending to their studies, these students all have jobs to hold down. Seventeen percent are single parents. So, for these students, life has a way of... read more
Helping Counselors Succeed All Year Long

Helping Counselors Succeed All Year Long

Another National School Counseling Week passed by in early February and, with it, our salute to the great work being done by counselors in schools across North America in helping students succeed. But we all know that a one-week celebration isn’t enough. We need to keep at the important work of helping students gain personal insight, set goals, and make plans to reach them, all year long. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is hard at work on these issues every single day. It is at the vanguard of this effort, working with the public sector agencies responsible for educating students and advocating for increased emphasis on counseling services to help students reach their goals. ASCA is also hard at work developing tools for its members, most notably the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student. ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors is a bottom-up approach to helping counselors and their students better understand how changing mindset and behavior leads to improved student success. The Mindsets and Behaviors model goes much deeper than standardized testing to address the real factors that affect students’ performance—in school and throughout their lives. We have mapped our tools to ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors to help counselors more accurately identify each student’s likely mindset or behavior to leverage their strengths and, more importantly, help them help the student address unrecognized barriers to their scholastic and life success. You can download a copy of our map here. This year, we celebrate our 20th year of partnering with school counselors in helping students chart their educational and career courses. Along... read more
Why Find a Mentor?

Why Find a Mentor?

I was in college before I ever heard the term “career counseling” — not unusual as a first-generation college student. I remember the announcement during orientation that free career counseling was available. I thought, why not check it out, especially since I was curious to see what it entailed and there was no cost involved. I already knew I wanted to be an elementary education teacher; I thought it would be interesting to see what the experts would say. As I suspected, the career assessment I took confirmed teaching. Although the assessment itself was enlightening, the most dramatic impact wasn’t the assessment result but the career counselor delivering it! As a new college student, I found him to be supportive, helpful and encouraging. It was a new experience for me and quite gratifying. Little did I know it on that first day, but we would establish a rapport that has grown into a lifelong friendship. That counselor became my mentor before I even knew what a mentoring relationship was! Our relationship grew as I would see him on campus and he would ask how things were going. Because I also worked at the campus after transferring to a university, I could keep him up to date on where things were. Bottom line: during career or educational transitions, whenever I was at a crossroads, our paths would converge and we would meet, informally or intentionally, to discuss the options and talk out a plan of action. Over the years we shared life events and built a professional relationship that was mutually beneficial and positive. The input and support were not only helpful but empowering,... read more
A New Year’s Musing

A New Year’s Musing

While listening to a story on public radio the other day about the plight of unemployed workforce members over 50 without more than a high school education, I was brought up short by the reality expressed by the commentator’s guest. Asked about the opportunity for these workers to upgrade their education or retrain for a different occupation, the expert replied, “As I think about members of the workforce 50 and older, whose last experience with math was probably in high school, I find it hard to imagine them going back to school now.  There is too much catching up to do.” As disappointing as it was, the expert’s response was also enlightening about the reality these workers face — and how our educational system, in hindsight, may have failed them. When they were in school, the goal for many of these workers was to get enough education to fill the manufacturing jobs available at the time, while a select group pursued higher education. We didn’t foresee the need to provide them with the additional skills necessary to adapt to a world that would change right beneath their feet. A recent feature on Bloomberg.com illustrates the dramatic shift in skills required in the new world of manufacturing, with a focus on people skills and problem solving rather than repetitive tasks — or even computer programming. The continued rise of technology will intensify pressure on existing occupations as automation replaces routine jobs, many of which we don’t think of as routine.  Working Nation recently released a video called Slope of the Curve, which brings this challenge to light. Today, thousands of dedicated... read more
Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

Can we afford to leave this glass half full?

A lot has been written about the challenges of helping first-year, postsecondary students persist to graduation.  Low persistence rates mean fewer students graduate and enter the workforce as skilled workers. In this sense, our ability to increase persistence has a direct impact on the quality of our workforce and our ability to compete in the future global economy. We’ve written a white paper on this subject, The Need for First Year Experience Programs, that summarizes research on the effectiveness of First Year Experience programs for those institutions still on the fence about offering a robust, accredited program to all entering freshmen. In short, here’s what we learned: According to the Lumina Foundation, there will be a consistent, and widening, gap between the millions of jobs in the future requiring at least a 2-year degree, and the supply of college graduates to fill those jobs. The economic opportunity glass, if you will, will be left unfilled if we do nothing. Filling this gap will require that we prepare more high school students to be “college ready” and increase their persistence on to post secondary graduation. A review of literature on robust, first year programs designed to support students and increase their persistence suggests that these programs are effective. A non-empirical review of the programs currently available to students reveals that many institutions offer a freshman orientation course, usually taking a single day of information on healthy living habits and reviewing the institution’s student conduct code.  Other institutions offer remedial courses in math or English and consider this enough. In our opinion, neither approach is completely adequate. The first year programs that have... read more
Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

Social emotional learning is at the center of improving student achievement

We’ve all heard about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. Usually they are considered augmentations to curriculum intended to improve standardized test scores.   However, there is growing empirical evidence that SEL programs can significantly impact student academic performance. In a recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development, the authors from Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago provide a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning programs involving 270,034 K-12 students. According to the analysis, “Compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social emotional skills, attitudes, behavior and academic performance that reflected an 11 percentile-point gain in achievements.” Given the positive impact SEL has on student achievement, we believe more schools should be adopting robust, measurable SEL programs aimed at addressing the student’s social and emotional learning as a core to curriculum. TransformingEd, a nonprofit that supports districts and states in implementing programs to equip students with the mindsets, skills and habits they need to succeed,  identifies four factors in building strong emotional and social skills with students: Developing a Growth Mindset – students with a growth mindset believe that ability can change as a result of effort, perseverance and practice Self Management – the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations Self Efficacy – the belief in one’s ability to succeed in achieving an outcome or reaching a goal Social Awareness – the ability to take the perspective of, and empathize with, others from diverse backgrounds and cultures The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has developed its own SEL standards in its ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success, aimed at building student... read more
Student success isn’t just about college attainment

Student success isn’t just about college attainment

Much has been written about the need for us to increase attendance and graduation rates at today’s two- and four-year institutions in the national quest to have 60% of Americans holding a degree, certificate or other high quality credential by 2025. According to Lumina Foundation, an independent foundation focused on expanding student success and access to postsecondary education, we’re making progress. The proportion of the U.S. population between the ages of 25 and 64 who hold a two- or four-year college degree reached 40.4% in 2014, a 2.1% increase since this measure was first reported in 2008. Degree attainment has increased even faster among adults aged 25 to 34 during the same period, equal to 42.3% in 2014, a 4.5% increase over the same measure in 2008. As encouraging as these trends are, most experts agree they are not enough to reach our 2025 goal. Lumina projects 35.7 million Americans will earn postsecondary credentials that will count toward Goal 2025. However, they also project an additional 10.9 million Americans between the ages of 15 and 54 would need to be added to reach the 60% goal by 2025. It’s no wonder college attainment is on every educator’s mind these days. But there are those who see the educational challenge as going beyond college attainment to include encouraging development of specific skills that will be necessary for students to thrive and persist in college and in the coming century. Organizations like the Partnership for 21st Century Learning are hard at work partnering with states to make sure K-12 students develop the deeper, critical skills they will need to be productive and... read more
It’s time to look outside our classrooms to improve student outcomes

It’s time to look outside our classrooms to improve student outcomes

We’ve all heard Albert Einstein’s definition of madness: doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.  It seems to me that we are stuck in this kind of endless loop when it comes to improving the educational outcomes of our students. The stakes are high.  One read through a local newspaper or educational journal gives a bleak picture of student performance, achievement gaps and graduation rates. The current round of debate is entrenched around standardized tests, disagreements over what they measure, and how test results reflect on the quality of the education we’re providing students.  It’s a system based on applying more discipline, more testing, more competition, stress and more accountability. This same debate has raged in educational circles for over 25 years, yet student outcomes have not measurably improved during that time.  And in some cases they have diminished. One might be tempted to conclude we’re focused on the wrong thing when it comes to student outcomes.  By extension, you might ask yourself what is working? A recent article in The Hechinger Report points to Finland, and a very different educational system that was built by “breaking all the rules” as we know them in the U.S.  Some interesting differences include: Teachers are encouraged to experiment in their classrooms and aren’t bound by a rigid bureaucracy. They are expected to be the creative engine behind curriculum, not implementers of top-down policy decisions or standardized tests. Teachers are highly trained. No teacher is allowed to teach in a classroom without a master’s degree in education, with specialization in research and classroom practice. Teachers are respected professionals.... read more