Posts Tagged ‘career’

The four quadrants of career choice

Here is what I came up with last summer while I was trying to help my students choose majors.

Strengths Interests

Values Preferences

The rationale behind the method is that in order to be happy and successful, you have to find the solid ground where all these elements overlap. We agreed that there are numerous ways to earn a decent living, so it would be better to do that in joy rather than in pain.

Strengths: these are the skills you are proud of, what people praise you for

Interests: these are the questions you ask, the topics that make you curious

Preferences: these are your likes and dislikes

: these are the pillars of your life – for some values might include family and trust, for others these might be fame and challenge – all these are things you find as essential as air, food and water

You might be a really smart person who can retain myriads of facts in her mind and see how they interrelate (strenths). You might also be interested in biology (interests). Some people might say you should become a doctor. Well, what if you hate dealing with people? (preferences) You’d better become a vet? Mmm, what if you hate the smell of animals and you could never imagine touching them? (preferences). You see, it’s  not as simple as drawing the cliche lines from favourite school subjects to what you could do as a job.

In class we are going to discuss that, and later I might write more on how you discover what your strengths, interests, values and preferences are. Some people feel they don’t have any of these :D, but that is barely possible. Meanwhile, you might start topics in the forum and discuss them 6 days a week while you are away from our classroom 🙂


No excuses

If you have already chosen a field to major in / a career to prepare for, you will be expected to demonstrate genuine interest in the field / career and motivation to study / practice it. Most often this is the element that will make or break your application.

Too many students cannot tell colleges more than “I have wanted to be a lawyer / doctor since I was a kid.” They believe that they don’t need to know anything about the field as learning about it is what they expect to do at college.

Colleges, however, do not think so. They want to make sure what you know about the field / carer is much more than what you have seen in the movies. Why?

1. Colleges want to attract students who will not be disappointed with the field / career. They need students who will be motivated to graduate from college, not ones who will drop out when they find out what the field / career is really about.

2. Colleges believe that if you are really passionate about a field / career, you will have tried to learn as much as you can about it before submitting your application.

Some students say they don’t have enough information, but I believe that’s the most ridiculous thing to say in the Internet era.

How can you find out more about a field? The least you can do is listen to video lectures. More and more universities are uploading their courses online. You can find some links in this blog.

How can you find out more about a career? The least you can do is read some career profiles online. You can find some links in this blog.

You can ask at least me and Google for more information anytime. That translates as “You have no excuse for ignorance.” Remember: what I have just mentioned is the LEAST you can do, the least colleges expect you to have done before submitting your application.

Choosing a major: the Stamford test

I have just taken the Stamford test, offered on the UCAS website. It is based not on your personality traits but on your preferences and interests.

Initially it gives all test-takers the same questions, but later, when you have done the first page, it generates a special page for you to help you narrow down your choices.

As I am interested in too many areas, I was offered too many opportunities. Stamford suggested choices in the following subject areas:

International Studies
Politics Based
General Medical
Modern Languages
History of Art
Design Studies
Philosophy & Theology

It also suggested a very long list with specific courses. Every item was a link, leading to a list of couse opportunities in specific UK universities. For further details, you could check with specific universities.

If I were applying to university now, I would have either to give up most areas of interest to choose a single course or opt for the combined honours option. If that still felt rather confining, I would (1) choose to study in another country where liberal arts education is available, (2) choose a course / combined honors I am most attracted to and explore the other areas outside the university course – by reading books, taking up courses, etc., (3) take a year off to explore myself and the world (which might include taking stray university courses too).

I would have been happier if these links took me to related career profiles first, but as they don’t I can simply google for them 🙂

Interest based tests help you eliminate some areas you are not interested in, but they could also “help” you eliminate some areas that could be of interest to you if you had a realistic idea of them. They also does not account for your personality characteristics: you might be interested in a subject, but some related to it careers do not match your personality.

I suggest you take not only subject based tests but also personality tests.

Choosing a major

I have just added some links in the “Careers” link list. They might be of some help when considering majors and working on personal statements, especially for career-oriented schools.

What makes a good college applicant?

Some people have already chosen a major and plan to apply to a career preparation program. They have to write motivational essays to show they have made a wise choice and will make good professionals.

I always have uneasy feeling about such people as it seems to me that it has been rather easy for them to choose. Too often they have no clear idea of what the chosen career is about, what it takes to be good and successful in the field, etc.

One way to find out if you have the potential to become a good whatever you have chosen to become is to Google “What makes a good whatever you have chosen to become“. I have just tried that with a couple of professions, and I have got amazing returns 🙂