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Ask Dr. Tom

Self-Assessment: October 2011 Archives

My clients sometimes say, "I just don't know what I want." Most of them are just confused. They actually do know what they want; they are just having a crisis of choice given all the many options available today. There are 2 ways to pick your career.

The first way is Inductive Career Decision-Making where you start with a list of specific jobs and then look for the patterns that emerge into a general field you are considering. I use a resource called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles which has over 1,600 jobs listed. I ask my clients to review the entire list and then pick their top 25 jobs. We then discuss it and break it down to a top ten list. Next, we prioritize the list into three to five jobs to pursue for their job search and then develop a plan of action.

The second ways is just the opposite. Deductive Career Decision-Making is where you begin with general career fields, then subcategories that further lead to specific jobs. Dr. John Holland devised a way of organizing personality differences into a classification system called the Self-Directed Search (SDS). He argued that jobs can be grouped into six themes:

1. Realistic (R)
Practical Doers who take an active hand-on approach involving construction or outdoor activities. They tend to have mechanical abilities or exceptional manual dexterity and prefer to work with objects, machines, tools, plants or animals or to be outdoors. Rewards come from having a straightforward and relatively simple life. Sample jobs include: athletic trainer, craftsperson, chef, EMT, engineer, farmer, firefighter, forester, machinist, mason, mechanic, military, or police officer.

2. Investigative (I)
Scientific Problem Solvers who take an intellectual approach involving research, experimentation or diagnosis. They typically like to find out all they can to satisfy their curiosity - to learn, investigate, analyze, evaluate or solve problems. Sample jobs include: chemist, criminologist, physician, professor, systems analyst, dentist, dietician, economist, geologist, horticulturalist, meteorologist, nurse, podiatrist, botanist, science teacher, veterinarian or zoologist.

3. Artistic (A)
Creative Communicators who take a self-expressive approach involving art/design, music or writing. They typically have artistic, innovative or institutional abilities and like to work in unstructured situations using their imagination and creativity. Sample jobs include: advertising executive, architect, archivist, broadcaster, curator, editor, floral designer, graphic designer, historian, lawyer, photographer, poet, reporter, teacher, translator, visual/performing artist or writer.

4. Social (S)
Empathic Helpers who take a helping or altruistic approach involving teaching, developing or caring for others. They typically like to work with people - to inform, speak, enlighten, help, serve, train, understand, develop, heal, lead or counsel. Sample jobs include: barber, bartender, career counselor, clergy, education administrator, funeral director, hotel manager, human resource specialist, mediator, psychologist, sales manager, social worker, sociologist, or teacher.

5. Enterprising (E)
Active Persuaders who prefer to influence or lead others through selling the merits of ideas or products. They typically like to work with people - influencing, selling, speaking, persuading, performing, leading or managing for organizational goals or for economic gain. Sample jobs include: business executive, consultant, entrepreneur, event planner, fund raiser, investments manager, lobbyist, public official, real estate agent, store manager, teacher or treasurer.

6. Conventional (C)
Careful Organizers who take an orderly approach to organizing and managing finances, procedures or data. They typically like to work with data, have clerical or numerical abilities, and carry things out in detail or follow on other's instructions. Sample jobs include: accountant, actuary, assessor, bank examiner, budget analyst, CFO, court reporter, data analyst, inspector, IRS agent, medical records technician, postal worker, stenographer, statistician or teacher.

Very few people are "pure" types, or only have the characteristics of one of the types. It is important to recognize that most people have a combination of characteristics that reflect two or more types. The types the individual resembles are usually the result of their personal background, experiences, work history, social class, hobbies and the impact of family and friends.

The Self-Directed Search produces a three letter code (i.e., SEC, RAI, CAE, etc.). The first letter of your code shows the type you resemble the most, the next letter the type you resemble somewhat less, and the third the type you resemble still less. The remaining types not in your three letter code are the ones you resemble the least - don't focus on these. The first letter is always the most important. You can then look up specific jobs based on your theme codes. This may just validate your thoughts.

So, which themes match who you are and what you are interested in? This can be a starting point to make sense of the world of work. Don't make your career choice based solely on the results of one assessment, but rather from a variety of sources. However, by starting with themes and drilling down to specific jobs or vice versa, you can pick your career with more confidence.

Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Posted Friday, October 28, 2011

Dr. Thomas J. Denham

Dr. Tom Denham is the founder of Careers In Transition LLC, a private practice which focuses on career counseling for individuals and consulting services for institutional clients. Dr. Tom has over twenty years of career services experience at Siena and Union Colleges as well as Harvard, St. Lawrence and Boston Universities.

Dr. Tom founded Northeast Public Radio's award winning talk show, The Career Forum and speaks extensively on career management issues. He earned his bachelors from St. Lawrence University, his masters from Boston University and his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

He has climbed over 180 mountains including the Adirondack 46, Oregon's Mt. Hood and The Grand Teton. In 2009, he survived a huge crevasse fall on Mt. Rainier by ice climbing his way out. Tom lives where he grew up in Albany where he would rather be ice and rock climbing and raising his 11 year old daughter, Rachel.

Dr. Tom Denham has been a professional career counselor for over 20 years. He helps people explore their options with career testing, make job changes and write resumes and prepare for interviews.

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