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  • How Do You Use Your Talents? – Early & Circular Career Development

    How do you use your talents? Have you ever struggled to describe yourself and where you’re the best version of yourself? Have you ever struggled to find out the job that suits you best?

    I did. I believe most of us did and most of us still find it difficult to explain ourselves – it’s hard to find words that explain who we are at our core. Also, we are not very fluent at explaining to what extend we show and developing our unique talents and abilities. Rare people have a chance to do what we do best every day.  The same goes for children, teens, and young adults who happen to choose a professional direction in many cases after a superficial and, above all, too short career counseling process.

    Only “happy few” happen to escape this worst-case scenario. I believe we can do a better job by proposing early and circular career development activities because one of my “why”s is to see people using their talents more.

    I am at owe richness and complexity of people. I appreciate subtleties and interplay of strengths. I happen to see it in others. Many times, I tap intuitively into the unique set of potentials of one person (child, teens, or adult), and every time I feel so amazed and enthusiastic about the potential outcomes of this set of strengths.

    Have you ever intuitively felt the shining and aliveness of potential that one person is carrying inside himself/herself? You should try it. It feels so good to see other people’s light.

    But, I usually feel a bitter sensation too when I realize this person’s professional life is far from what it should be, that their gifts remain out of action. Most of the time, in reality, these innate talents/potentials of theirs remain hidden not only to others but also to themselves.

    Why don’t we use more our strengths?!

    The answer comes with this frustrating conclusion that present career counseling start too late in our lives. It should start more earlier and be taken more seriously if we want to see people unlock their potentials and see fewer copycat careers in the world. The jobs we happen to do more often, to use a metaphor I find the most illustrative, is us wearing oversized (or too tight) readymade suits most of the time. Some succeed just to pay the bills and have food on their table, others are earning decent money but feel not that energized by what they do. Many believe that having a job that pays for everything is a good enough life solution.

    This state-of-the-art can be seen as a result of not sufficient attention and lack of resources we give to early career exploration and career counseling. What helps children develop into self-actualized and productive members of society? What types of experiences prevent children from realizing their potential? What are the critical periods for intervention and guidance? What types of intervention give results? Why is it urgent to take care of career guidance earlier in life?

    Now, we have answers and we have some facts that support the urgent need for change. Here are some facts.

    One study at Oxford found that 45% of all jobs will disappear in the next ten years. This means that boring and repetitive jobs are ripe for takeover by machines. For example, 16 jobs will disappear in the next 20 years due to artificial intelligence  (drivers, farmers, printers, publishers, cashiers manufacturing workers, dispatchers, waiters, bartenders, bank tellers, military pilots, soldiers, telemarketer, accountants, tax preparers, even movie stars). If you think the study is exaggerated, just watch videos about Boston Dynamics robots and you will see this is going to happen. This also means that creative people will always be in demand.

    We live in a fragmented, technological society with unemployment rates and job markets in many countries, especially the middle- and low-income countries.

    The various career–life stage shifts and transitions are part of the developmental process of every person.

    Early-, mid-and even late-career changes are no longer uncommon.

    THIS means that we will need career counseling using innovative approaches that are strategically directed at current and future job markets, helping manage multiple life transitions. Present career counseling that starts late in life seems outdated.  Therefore, career counseling with children and youth is an important issue because the degree to which individuals will be able to adapt to new career opportunities is going to be critical for individual success and prosperity, as well as for national and global economic and social development.

    This also means that we should start early, already in primary schools, to introduce career-related learning and early career exploration and development.

    The world will need different creative profiles. Artistic skills will continue to be in demand. (Everything you see on television, print media, and the Internet was created in part by creatives.)

    The good news is that creativity can be facilitated. If we give students open-ended problems and projects, they will be able to exercise their creative ability. Working on their social-emotional competencies, collaborative skills, emotional self-awareness, and strengths awareness is also critical.

    Why use strengths and why is it important to connect dots between strengths and everyday work life?  

    One of the interventions that give results is to find what arises from our innate strengths, recognize them as strengths and develop actions (experiences) in line with our strengths. According to one of the Strengths-Based assessment providers, a strength is something you do regularly, you do well, and it energizes you when doing it. It seems we improve faster on areas where we are strong as opposed to areas of weakness. (Sheldon, Kasser, Smith, and Share, 2002)  However, even strengths are our greatest assets, not everyone is clear about what their strengths are or how to make most of them.

    People who use their strengths more have more self-belief, feel happier, have higher self-esteem, higher confidence, have more energy, build resilience, feel less stress, achieve goals, learn faster. Research results confirm strengths improve so many things, including productivity and engagement of people at their workplace.

    Here is some conclusion from the research:

    People who used their strengths in new and different ways reported higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression.  (Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson, 2005)

    People who used their strengths more reported higher levels of self-esteem. (Proctor, Maltby and Linley, 2011)

    People who used their strengths more reported higher levels of self-efficacy – the belief that we can achieve the things we want to achieve. (Govindji and Linley, 2011)

    The use of strengths is associated with high levels of psychological vitality, including feelings of positive energy and buzz. (Govindji and Linley, 2007)

    Exercising our strengths can help us to overcome obstacles that have previously impeded our use of strengths. (Elson and Boniwell, 2011)

    Increased use of strengths correlates with mindfulness which can help control stress and counter depression. (Jarden, Jose, Kashdan, Simpson, McLachlan and Mackenzie, 2012)

    Strengths alignment increases the setting of personally meaningful goals. (Madden, Green and,d Grant, 2011)

    Strengths use is a good predicatopredictorr of workplace engagement and people who use their strengths at work are six times more engaged. (Harter, Schmidt and Hayes, 2002, and Gallup, 2012)

    How to start with so much-needed early career exploration and action-based interventions? 

    One way is to help parents understand their child’s unique strengths. This understanding can be accomplished by detailed observations, school reports, or talent reports ( if school climate, which is a rare thing, is supportive of whole child development). They have to understand what it means to have a certain gift and grasp subtle specificities of a child’s uniqueness. It means parents should know the child’s likes and dislikes, the good and bad sides of the child’s temperament, learning preferences, and challenges. To get into a child’s s world means empathizing with the child’s feelings and emotions, and “listening” with more than just their ears.  They have to strengthen the child’s sense of belonging and significance. All of these influence child’s potential.

    This understanding can be fine-tuned and accomplished through some of the present strengths-based assessments, workshops, and strengths-based coaching sessions. ( more on GiftedLab’s website). We can “train” parents how to work with and create activities for their children in accord with their potentials. Sometimes, some children with gifts that are not so socially appreciated (for example, being people’s person vs math wizard) find themselves less appreciated by the environment.

    The other way is to provide strength-based coaching and workshops directly to children/teens/young adults and their educators. It’s their role to prepare students for the changing world of work, uncertainty, and loss of work-life identity that haunt youth is not so far away future. The ultimate goal is to prepare young people to manage the complexities of their career journeys and career-related transitions, not only in the early years but, throughout their working lives. But, little has been done to prevent alienation. Only in progressive school systems (rare phenomenon indeed), we apply a more holistic approach to child development and focus on developmental tasks that must be completed successfully in childhood to motivate learners to set and realize specific career and life goals. Especially, developing countries are characterized by this disadvantage and lack of promoting career development education and life design in the early years.

    The third way is to help create strengths-based workplaces where we empower employees by providing opportunities for them to use their strengths in strategic thinking, executing, influencing, relationship building. Career adaptability is a skill that many are going to need, and the training of workers in this respect can be crucial in enabling people to put food on the table.

    In GiftedLab we will work to see more people using their inner gifts…  Follow us and join us on this discrete revolution…