Written by Philip du Plessis, on behalf of Amanda van der Vyver
When it comes to finding the right job, we have it tough. These days more people dread their work than those who are head over heels in love with their daily eight-hour shift. So much so that an international polling organisation has found that 63% of employees dislike their work while 24% absolutely detest it1. This means that you might just be part of the almost 90% of employees in 142 countries who are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces. Eish!
Never before has the millennial found herself in such a professional pickle. Because how dare you be ungrateful if you still have a job, especially when so many people were sacked in the aftermath of the economic crisis?
But a growing number of modern-day career advisers seem to have found the Holy Grail to our professional dissatisfaction. And they’ve been building a whole industry on this. Think about the millions of self-help books covered with photos of ecstatic achievers that have followed ‘five simple steps towards a fulfilling career’.
One group passionately motivates us to ‘just follow our dreams’, while the other wants us to engage in a formalistic process of computable psychometrics to reach the tip of our occupational Everests. But before I cynically lump all career advisors into two kraals, we have to ask ourselves: who are the patrons behind these seemingly opposing approaches, and what can we take from their advice if we want to follow the career we’ve always dreamed of?
The one with the exit strategy
If you’re counting the minutes to the end of your working day, chances are you’re secretly killing time on Instagram while you could have cleaned up you inbox.
But you prefer being bombarded with square shaped photos with motivational messages written in Cyrillic fonts pasted on landscapes with endless horizons: ‘Your adventure starts now’ it often reads, followed by the ever popular ‘Go live your dream’. Both of which makes you daydream about bringing peace to the Middle East or designing light bulbs powered by cow dung for homes in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sounds familiar? Well, this flood of motivational messages reflects the approach of a growing number of self-help gurus. Mentors that try to nudge you towards a too-easily-determined career field. Without getting to know you and without providing sufficient information.
In other words, you just choose a job you like – usually entrepreneurial – and the career adviser draws up a vague plan for you to get there. The bottom line to this approach is: ditch your blood-sucking office job and ‘go live your dream’.
But there’s a fundamental problem with this approach. It’s perfect for a person who already has an idea about where he’s heading to, but for someone who’s unsure about what he wants, this is a mere exit strategy. It does not allow for self-reflection. Important questions like, what makes me feel alive?, what am I good at? and more practical questions like do I prefer a flexible schedule or do I like everything planned out in advance? or what is my financial situation? need to be asked. In doing so, you embark on the exciting journey of constantly figuring out who you are in relation to your environment.
The one with the checklist
While self-help gurus might motivate you to trust your gut and bravely jump off the cliff of professional monotony, some psychologists seem to have a more calculated approach towards career advice. And in some cases ruthlessly so. Introducing the scientifically inspired psychometric test. You see, these psychologists will eagerly point out that these tests have undergone so many years of methodological examination that it is pretty much an absolute career indicator. So intimidating they make it out to be, that when you have to complete it, you’re petrified of the multiple choice questions presented – as if answering ‘incorrectly’ may sway your test results into some unfamiliar career recommendation like a ‘Fung Shui Consultant’ or something of the like.
But the problem with exclusively relying on psychometrics is similar to that that of the exit-strategy. It restricts reflection and hinders you to ask important questions: What makes my skin tingle with excitement? What do I value as important? What do people usually praise me for? Who are my role models? What influence does my parents have on my career decision?
To these questions there really is no incorrect answer. In fact, it will only allow you to explore your likes, dislikes, preferences and environment in an exiting and challenging way. An examination that will lead you towards a more fulfilling career.
You are Nomfundo
Inspirational career advice is necessary. The use of psychometrics is helpful. The problem arises when career advisers give ready-made answers instead of you taking the lead. Whether that is by naively focusing on a predetermined job or merely using a checklist to figure out your interests.
In 2010 a girl named Nomfundo2 approached me to talk about her studies at Stellenbosch University. Nomfundo was studying for a Bachelors degree in Commerce but she struggled to perform. After building a trusting relationship within our sessions, Nomfundo was brave enough to indentify the obstacles that prevented her to reach her potential – both personal and academic. I suspected that Commerce might not have been her thing, but Nomfundo gave quite convincing answers as to why this was the course for her. One day, I dared to ask her: What do love doing? She responded by saying – and I can still recall the way her eyes lit up – I love helping my sister with catering. Our sessions took an exhilarating turn.
Within the following weeks we considered options. She was adamant to study in in the town of Stellenbosch since this was where her family was living. Geographically speaking, this focussed our options. With the right information at hand, she enrolled into a diploma programme in Hospitality, after which Nomfundo did a bridging programme for a Bachelors degree elsewhere. She excelled and finished her Bachelors with flying colours. The following year she did her internship at Disney World and today she’s completing her practical training in the United States.
Your story can be just as inspiring as Nomfundo’s. Nothing restricts you from forming part of the 10% of people who love their jobs. At CareerPrep we assist you in getting there. Whether you need to choose your subjects for grade ten to twelve, whether you are preparing for further education or if you’re making an exciting career change. Together we explore who you are but also provide you with the necessary information to follow your dream. Information about career fields, subject requirements, higher educational institutions, all South African courses and many more.
So make sure you turn a deaf ear towards cheap career advice and be prepared to engage in the sometimes wondrous, sometimes confronting process of figuring out which career you need to grow into. CareerPrep – vocational guidance every step of your way.