Master Career Counselor

Carla Hunter, President of Career Span, Inc. is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) by the National Career Development Association and a Certified Career Coach by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She is an expert in writing resumes, effective job search strategies and interviewing success. Most recently, with over 20 years of navigating the complexity of today's world of work, she published "Finding Your Place in the World of Work", a career interest inventory (2014) and CareerView, an iPad app. As a private practice career counselor and a workforce development consultant, this blog is Carla's trove of ideas, trends, forecasts, and career tips for finding meaningful work.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Very Important Question to Ask College Students

The highly important question I pose to the unemployed college graduates seeking my services as a private career counselor is a pivotal catalyst for rethinking work. A major reason for their initial visit can be linked to a parent who discovered Career Span when they typed  “desperately seeking career help” in a search engine.
For me, questions are the platform to engage young adults in meaningful dialogue as they prepare to enter the workforce. From each individual response, strategies can be developed and action plans implemented to equip them with sustainable skills for the future.
Questions by their very nature provoke conversation. If asked in a non-defensive, non-judgmental way with an open posture of acceptance and rapport, questions help students investigate, explore and better understand the importance of being intentional and thorough in their planning and preparation for professional success.
Before I pose the question I ask most often, let me first share recent labor statistics:
  • At least 500,000 job openings remain unfilled due to current skill gaps primarily in the manufacturing sector
  • Over 8,549,000 workers are unemployed as of April 2015
  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects 1,855,000 students at the bachelor's degree level will graduate as the Class of 2015.
A 2013 report released by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity found that the number of college grads will grow by 19 million between 2010 and 2020, while the number of jobs requiring that education is expected to grow by less than 7 million.
Suffice it to say, graduating seniors are entering a job maze of great challenges. They face significantly lower wages than they anticipate and the average worker's salary hasn't significantly increased at the same rate as our cost of living expenses. To strengthen this reality, a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute, indicated entry-level wages for graduates are expected to be no better than they were 15 years ago. What will make the difference for students to successfully land a job offer rather than remain unnoticed as a perpetual jobseeker?
How can we educate students on how to negotiate and achieve a job offer representing the fair market value of their skill set? 
Students pursuing co-op opportunities or internship experience during their collegiate years, position themselves above and ahead of their peers. In addition, when those students engage in meaningful dialogue, this highly important question can help brace them for a fast changing, agile and turbulent job market.
My question has two parts:
What does the word career mean to you?
Do you know the word career is now transforming from a noun to an action verb?
A career is defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress.” Today “a significant period of time” now means an average of three years or less in a particular work role. The average worker changes jobs at least 10 to 12 times.
Most of us are doing work today that wasn’t written in the job description of our original offer. Such is the 21st century workplace of shifting paradigms related to emerging business strategies, new products and services for a consumer base whose demographics constantly change and trend. Add that to our surging global market with innovative technology creating a complex revolution of the workplace and those who work in it.
Using the word career as an action verb indicates we are willing, open and adaptable to the force of change and the impact it will have on our work life including the processes, systems and organizational structure we put into place. The noun career is derived from the French word that means “racetrack”. You know when a career becomes just a job. It happens when we believe the racetrack just goes round and round with no finish line in sight. When we see the word “career” as an action verb we run the race with endurance, strength, fortitude, cooperation and the wisdom of professionals who go before us.
Especially, when change happens. Change is the most consistent thing in work and life. How are we preparing our future workforce for the inevitable turbulence they will experience? Keep in mind; we cannot prepare our students for change we’re not prepared for ourselves. Therefore, we must also ask, how are we preparing for the same turbulence that may occur in our work?
Career as an action verb describes us as determined runners at full speed. We too face challenges to adapt and change our strategies and services to meet the needs of students and the employers who will hire them. A student who understands career as an action verb will do the following action steps:
1. Be intentional about gaining experience and proving its value.
2. Have a mentor to guide them through career exploration and the job search process.
3. Connect to a vast array of employers and industry experts while learning best practices for their chosen profession.
Today, career as a noun is no longer a one-time decision determined in college, but an intentional process of making wise choices when it comes to work opportunities.
Students need to be empowered to see work not as a ladder to climb but as a trellis to support their professional and personal goals of achievement, growth and contribution.
If we don’t ask them this highly important question of how they see career as an action verb or challenge their views if they only see it as a noun, students are likely to stray off the narrow course and continue to run in circles.
What is another highly important question you would ask?

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