From Parent Council

The career planning process can be confusing and overwhelming. I liken it to trying to solve a complicated jigsaw puzzle with lots of little pieces. I know when I first open the box of a puzzle I am excited to see the complete picture unfold as I diligently figure out how to put the pieces together. It does not take long, however, for me to feel overwhelmed as I stare at so many different pieces laying all over the table. They all begin to look the same and I feel stymied. So I begin with what I know I can do. I know that I can find the four corner pieces, and so that is where I start. Those pieces will be the foundation on which I will build my picture; they are the anchors of the complete picture.

The corners can be seen as representing the four key aspects of your son or daughter’s characteristics, and are necessary as the starting point to their self understanding. To use another analogy, I call the discernment of these characteristics the “journey inward.” This process of self-discovery is critically important not only as a means of discerning the unique shape of each person’s gifting, but as the necessary acquisition of very specific language to describe these qualities to an employer and others.

The journey begins by exploring the first corner, which involves learning about themselves. Who are they and how are they different from other people? Why are they drawn to some people and annoyed by others? Why are they energized by one working environment and exhausted by another? Why is their decision-making style so different from their friends? That is the personality piece.

The second corner involves their interests. Can your son or daughter articulate what they are interested in? Do they have language to describe what motivates them, and do they have the ability to speak to their interest areas? Can they, for example, go deeper than just telling you that they want to work with people? What kind of people? And in what kind of business or organization? Do they have occupational language to articulate their interests?

The third corner involves skills. What are their top five skills and can they give you a story to describe how they have used those skills? Can they tell you how those skills can transfer from one industry to another? Their resume is essentially a skills document. In order to interview well, they will need to be able talk about their skills in the ways mentioned above. They need to be able to measure their skill set with different occupations to find the right fit.

The last corner has to do with work-related values, which in many ways is the most important piece of all. The values piece will trump every other piece because those are the things that are the most important to them. Can they put their values into words? What kind of working conditions will be rewarding for them? How important is where they live? Are they motivated by financial achievement? Do they look for excitement and variety or predictability and security? How clear are they about what is really important to them as they consider different jobs? Clarity here will help them make informed decisions and will make the decision-making process easier.

So now the four corners are in place. Now your son or daughter has looked carefully at the things he or she can know and put language to. From here, they know that they can find all of the pieces with a straight edge in order to create the frame. Once they begin that quest or mission, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. Every puzzle is different. Some have large pieces, some have small. Some have 100 pieces, some have 1,000. Sometimes they might think they have the right piece in the right spot, only to find out that it really did not fit just right. There are valuable tools available to our students through Career Services to help them discern their personality, interests, skills and values.

Let’s encourage our students to start with what they know they can do! The puzzle will not be complete this side of heaven. We are not meant to be able to fit it all together. God is in control. We are called to be good stewards of the gifts that God has blessed us with. He is the author and perfecter of our puzzles.

Encourage your student to interact with Career Services early as well as often in their college career. It is only when they have gone though the “journey inward” that they can make better informed decisions about the “journey outward.”

Celia Howen, member
George Fox University Parent Council