Do You Have an Internal Career GPS? Many Veterans & College Students Lack Sense of Direction

31 Oct Do You Have an Internal Career GPS? Many Veterans & College Students Lack Sense of Direction

Not everyone is hardwired to know what they want to do in life. While many people are gifted with an embedded homing signal to chase their dream career or life quest, many remain confused throughout their life about what education or career choices are best for them.

We identify what causes this career direction confidence dichotomy with the CDR Character Assessment [1]. Under the Leadership Energy scale, this is what the subscale “Career Focus” measures. When one has a low score on Career Focus, this means that they are career ambivalent – or they go through life not knowing what they want to be when they grow up. This uneasiness or feeling of uncertainty stays with them throughout their lifetime. Sometimes they end up in jobs by chance or by some good or bad luck. Many veterans and college students suffer from this career confusion dilemma.

Recently, I debriefed a renowned executive development expert who had a very low score on Career Focus that surprised me given his notoriety and success. He confided in me that his trick to success was he knew what he didn’t like to do and was good at steering clear of those opportunities. Those with high scores on Career Focus tend to be more strategic about their career choices and seem to have a good sense of the jobs for which they are a strong fit.

Having a low score on Career Focus does not impact one’s capability, strengths, intelligence or talent. However, what often results is that these individuals may be career wanderers and have odd changes or bizarre jumps in educational and career pursuits. Also, the lack of a clear internal sense of career direction confidence can be frustrating, worrisome, and in some cases, costly. For example, when a person has low Career Focus, they may start out majoring in biology, then flip to art history, then to marketing. Or, perhaps their career starts in administration, next to being a veterinary technician, later to a bartender, then to IT. These erratic switches can result in the HR talent acquisition staff (or HR screening software) tossing their resumes to the “no go” pile. Meanwhile, these individuals could be by far the best candidates, yet they never make it for any serious consideration.

Since my firm launched the Vets Coaching Vets initiative in 2016 in Houston, more than 50 Veterans have completed the CDR 3D Suite and had career coaching to date by volunteer CDR certified executive coaches from across the nation. During this process, we have stumbled onto a curious finding. Of the veteran participants (of those who were not being trained as coaches) to date, 55% have a low score on Career Focus. This means that the percentage of veterans struggling with career ambivalence is considerably higher than what see with our typical clients.

Frequently, a good number of individuals join the military because they don’t know what they want to do from a career standpoint. By going into the military, this buys them time while they try to find their true calling. However, because their low Career Focus stays with them throughout their lifetime, when they come out of the military – despite their experiences on active duty – they still don’t know what they want to do. Their low Career Focus causes them to accept or pursue jobs or academic tracks (using their GI Bills) that are not the best fit for them, later ending up in frustration, disappointment and with a great deal of time and resources wasted.

Our purpose for starting Vets Coaching Vets was to help assimilating veterans get on to onto the best career or educational track without delay by using our robust assessments and our proven coaching methodology. Since veterans have already served us and given years of their own lives to serve and protect our nation, we do not want them wasting another day going to jobs or degree programs that are not a good fit for them. We identify their character (personality) traits and motivational needs so they can immediately steer to their own best career paths.

With college-bound youths, most are unsure what they want to do because they lack any understanding of what is out there and available. Those with high Career Focus find their way fairly quickly without too much difficulty as they move through their college years. Others, however, with low Career Focus scores, remain unsure about their direction. Meanwhile, they are often racking up huge college loan. Several times a year over the past two decades, as a favor to a client or colleague, I assess and provide coaching to their college student child. Without exception, every student I have ever coached by request was in the WRONG major. Every one of them scored low on Career Focus. Obviously, these cases come from those parents who recognize their kids are struggling as to what to do.

Having low “Career Focus” can cause career mistakes that can take a financial and emotional toll on a person and a family.  The good news is that these mistakes are avoidable. Once someone goes through the process, it does not mean the individual will immediately land that best-fit job. However, at least they are on the correct course for their career and no longer wandering and wondering.

When individuals have low Career Focus, our certified coaches help them zero in on their strengths, gifts, gaps, and intrinsic motivators (drivers) to identify the best-fit career opportunities for them. We advise them to focus on their character strengths and drivers (intrinsic motivators) always, and they will be able to determine the best-fitting roles for themselves.  One without the other won’t work. Individuals will not succeed if they do not find a role that taps into their inherent strengths and gifts. Further, they will find work annoying, tedious and unfulfilling – if their motivational needs are not being met. Keep in mind, even if someone has a strong affinity to a particular profession or calling and they lack the capability or strengths to perform, they will not succeed. Character strengths fit plus motivational fit are the ticket to success and career fulfillment.

Of course, those with low Career Focus will get an occasional nagging question in the back of their head from time to time of: “am I in the right career?” All they need to do is pull out their assessment data report to reassure themselves they are where they need to be.

[1] 1998, CDR Character Assessment, CDR Assessment Group, Inc., Sugar Land, TX.