Firming the Foundation: Developing Lifelong Career Evaluation Skills

Students who take ownership of their education and cultivate a desire to be lifelong learners are more likely to maintain their relevance in a highly competitive global market. In a panel discussion with other technology leaders at the 2012 ECEDHA Conference, Gene Frantz, Texas Instruments Principal Fellow and now Rice University professor, emphasized this underlying criteria in TI’s global hiring practice:

“Is the student coming out ready to learn for the rest of his life and work with other people collaboratively?” 

Just as important as being lifetime learners, students who understand that career planning and evaluation is not a one-time exercise but an ongoing life activity will be able to more readily adapt to and take advantage of ever-changing economic, technological and cultural trends. The description for a Career Development course offered by Florida State University’s College of Education underscores the need for effective career planning skills:

“Contemporary Americans have thousands of different occupations from which to choose. In just a little over a century we have gone from a no choice or limited choice situation to a point where the sheer multitude of possibilities often makes the process of choosing an occupation very frustrating, time consuming, and haphazard. Individuals will likely go through the career decision making and problem solving process many times over their lives.”

SDS 3340 – Introduction to Career Development

Effective career evaluation is a learned skill which requires accurate self-assessment of personality preferences, hard and soft skills, knowledge base, values, interests and risk tolerance. The natural tendency is to skip these foundational assessments altogether and jump directly to a course of study, occupation or job search based on necessity or urgent fleeting opportunity which may not align with an individual’s strengths. Circumventing the assessment process often leads to academic non-completion or a dead-end, emotionally draining career once the allure of the opportunity dissipates or the urgency has been addressed.

Investing time and energy to thoroughly inventory those unchanging personal strengths and preferences not only validates and provides academic direction, but lays the foundation for lifelong career evaluation skills. Students who develop these skills will be able to make better life decisions and to identify opportunities in the changing competitive landscape. More important, they are more likely to remain energized as they employ their gifts in meaningful pursuits.