Career guidance isn’t always about jobs, it is always about people

Chris can help you through challenges and changes in your career, whether career guidance, search or coaching, I will "meet you" wherever you are to take you where you're meant to be..

Executive Summary (for Twitter users):

  1. Career guidance is growing. Many seek work. Many want different work.
  2. O*NET is a database of 1,000 jobs. It’s free, even for commercial use. Free.
  3. 1 and 2 have created a surge of job search applications using O*NET. But,
  4. O*NET is easy to “click around in,” but quite intricate “under the hood.”
  5. Job search applications use “proprietary algorithms.” Most suck.
    1. O*NET data aren’t perfect; no algorithm can fix that.
    2. O*NET data are VERY sensitive; razor-thin margins differentiate jobs.
    3. Algorithm-based applications are non-consultative (“make money at night?”), once they launch, where they land is determined. They’re done but leave the job seeker to pour over 100 job matches(?). {“Blind pig” strategy?}
    4. Following 5.3, job search isn’t like playing a slot machine, it’s interactive.
    5. Algorithms have assumptions built in, it’s impossible to know how your report was created. Given 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, errors of omission and commission are numerous and confusing.
  6. Career guidance isn’t about jobs, or even good search. It’s about people. People with different stories, different wants, and different needs.
    1. A good career coach is an expert in work psychology and psychometrics.
    2. The best career coach is a true coach, centered on the individual throughout the process. They can help an individual through a difficult task, in difficult times.

Job loss can be traumatic. It has serious effects on people’s well-being, and not just the person who lost their job. In my experience coaching people who’ve lost their job, particularly at middle stages of their career, the effects resemble depression. Not to a clinical level, but darn near it. This goes beyond typical career guidance. They need more than a quick career search and a list of jobs to consider.

But having a job isn’t the complete answer. I’ve also worked with many who question, deeply, whether the job they have (and deplore) is their true calling. Sometimes a new job is the answer, but sometimes a deeper review reveals a different story. Oftentimes it’s not the job that’s causing problems, it’s what’s around the job. This can be generalized to “the organization,” or “the culture,” but it usually has to do with the boss. This, too, is beyond the typical call of career guidance.

Add in a global pandemic and things get worse – more unemployed, more general stress and strain for everyone, working or not. As organizations have begun to add employees from the initial lows caused by this pandemic, the competition for jobs, fewer jobs, is driving greater demand for career-related services. And experts agree that not everyone who lost their job due to the pandemic will return once its impact is better under control. A lot of businesses have closed their doors and they won’t reopen. Of greater consequence, the nature and number of jobs in the workforce have been permanently changed by the new normal for work. All of this adds to uncertainty – especially for the unemployed.

Whether out of work or dissatisfied to the point of quitting, what most share is a feeling of being “stuck.” That’s the literal word used.  In this context, being “stuck” includes a variety of emotions, but none, positive. Mostly being “stuck” amounts to uncertainty, anxiety, and the lack of energy to pursue a job when they don’t know what job to pursue. Emotions are high with many experiencing feelings of grief, lowered self-confidence, and optimism – sometimes, feelings that border on hopelessness. Our society places so much importance on what people do that to lose your job is, in a very real sense, to lose your status, your identity. Your dignity.

This isn’t the case for everyone. But I’m not alone in experiencing individuals in a desperate state due to loss of employment. And even if it doesn’t come up that frequently, it’s critically important when it does. The typical career guidance counselor isn’t trained to handle situations like this. This is the job of a psychologist trained in emotional and behavioral counseling. While these aren’t clinical cases, they’re deeply affecting.

At minimum, a good coach needs to be able help individuals through a rebuilding process to regain the confidence and skill to carry out a strategy to gain employment. Job-related skills can atrophy over time. Many of these are the same skills necessary to carry out a back to work strategy that would be exhausting to anyone. But this is just about getting to the interview – not the interview itself. That’s another aspect of career counseling that I won’t go into here.

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Workforce predictions for 2021

Worforce predictions for 2021 should keep the dream of MLK alive

It’s no coincidence that I release my workforce predictions for 2021 on Martin Luther King, Jr Day, a day of hope. Despite all of the uncertainty and chaos lapsing into this new year from last, there are signs of hope – some still faint, but others more apparent. Much of 2021 will be about fixing what went wrong in a most tumultuous 2020. But we’ve a lot more awareness of those problems and that’s where rehabilitation starts. Plus, the fact that you’re reading this means you weathered the most chaos one year has dumped for decades. As my grad school professor and mentor used to say, “Hope springs eternal.”

But I’m not in denial. There are still many, complex and critical issues that don’t (and didn’t) magically “go away” with a new calendar. In statistical terminology, we still have a number of “main effects” exerting considerable and all-encompassing influence on human behavior – including work and the way it’s conducted. Among the most impactful are,

    1. a relentless, growing, global pandemic that’s been around for over a year,
    2. a hyper-polarized, angry, and increasingly aggressive, US population divided on, and driven by, political ideology,
    3. a dramatic increase in technology-enabled communication (substantially driven by #1)
    4. an increase in technology “hacks,” breaching data and disrupting infrastructure,
    5. massive unemployment (substantially driven by #1)

These aren’t independent of each other, as noted for a couple, but true of all. Nevertheless, each of these (i.e., 2-5) has evolved as formidable and life changing forces that now exist beyond the pandemic (i.e., they would continue even if the pandemic magically “went away”). Moreover, these main effects have predictable, if not already commenced, domino effects.

So, yes, some predictions for 2021 are almost “no-brainers” because we’ve already seen some of the effects they have had, and will have, for some time.

On the other hand, the impacts of these “main effects,” may not have fully revealed their potential for even further disruption, or mitigation, thus making predictions also tenuous. {I’ve started this list three times since the new year for just this reason.}

Nevertheless, regardless of this era in which we've witnessed the emergence of nearly instantaneous, global chaos, one has to put a stake in the ground.

So, these are my workforce predictions for 2021:

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The subtle but vital skill Covid19 has made difficult to learn

This subtle but vital skill is even more difficult to learn thanks to the pandemic

“Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.” -- Ron Burgundy, Anchor man

How true these words ring today from Will Ferrell’s laughable character in Anchor Man, a satirical comedy of buffoonery and over-the-top gender stereotyping resulting from the introduction of a woman to a news team. But in a very real and sobering way, here we have yet another case where reality is more incredible than fiction. Challenges resulting from the Covid19 global pandemic “really got out of hand fast.” Buried in the avalanche of effects, there's a subtle, but vital skill that Covid19 had made difficult to learn.

But here we are.

Since it’s explosion and unforgiving grip on the world stage, Covid19 has reaped havoc in all social systems in countless ways. In particular, there's a subtle, yet crucial skill Covid19 has made difficult to learn. And “no,” as is the case with any change for the ages, and this is one, we won’t go back to the way we were.

But let’s take a reality check.

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