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Challenges in career exploration

Finding a career is a typical goal for a young adult. Although choosing a career can be simple for a handful of people, figuring out a career path is complicated for many. Moreover, for young adults with diverse learning and developmental abilities, career exploration can present further challenges.

Young adults who have a history of not reaching their full potential in academics because of learning, developmental, or other behavioral complexities may find it especially challenging to decide upon a career path. Some may feel less confident about their capabilities and, consequently, undervalue their reach by aiming for random jobs in which they will not likely maximize their gifts. On the other hand, others may become overly confident and over-reach such as by targeting careers that are well beyond their aptitudes or social abilities. And, there are those young adults who fall in the middle of these two extremes. They, too, may end-up in a job or career that is ill fitting. Thus, young adult career explorers may benefit from first investigating their potential before deciding upon a career path.

Beginning the career exploration

Some of the information needed for initial career exploration can be drawn from a good conversation. You can say some of the following to young adult career explorers to help them brainstorm:

  • What did you dream about doing as an adult when you were growing-up?
  • What kinds of work did/do people in your family do? Ever show an interest in any of those careers?
  • Did you ever have a career in mind, but later decide that it was not for you? If so, what careers and why did you cross them off of your list?
  • Tell me five careers that you would like to know more about.
  • Give me a list of five personal values that would be most important to have in your career.
  • What do you think that you are good at?
  • If you were to talk with people who know you best, what careers do they think you would find satisfying?

Additionally, people might want to know more information before they set out in a career direction. The necessary data, however, cannot be gained easily from a conversation. Instead, the information is collected during formal assessment.

Career assessment

It can be helpful to collect information about three main domains within a person when conducting a formal assessment for career exploration. The three areas are: career interest, ability, and personality. These three play important roles in a person’s choice of a satisfying and successful career. Career interest pertains to what people like to do, what they think they would like doing, what they are curious about, and so on. Ability refers to overall cognitive intelligence (e.g., “IQ”) as well as specific aptitudes such as involving mechanical reasoning and organizing information. Personality refers to typical characteristics such as being extraverted versus introverted. To help take the guesswork out of understanding career interests, abilities, and personality, paper-and-pencil and computer/tablet-based instruments such as questionnaires and tests are employed. An advantage of formal assessment is that the questions can be considered empirically supported ways of gathering data. The information can also be used to see how the young adult compares to others. The assessment concludes with recommendations for career exploration based upon the data.

In sum, young adults with diverse learning and developmental abilities may wish to explore their career potential before diving into a career. You can help them find good fitting career options by talking with them or take it a step further by exploring via a formal assessment.

Than you for reading! I hope that my ideas are helpful. Please feel free to reach me using the contact information provided below.

Matthew Siegel, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in New York. He has a private practice located in Brooklyn Heights. Dr. Siegel provides career assessments for individuals who want to explore career options. He can be reached at 929-432-1711 and at matthew@drmatthewsiegel.com. His website is www.drmatthewsiegel.com.