by Susan Guarneri
This is a story about change, turmoil, insight, and opportunity. It’s the story of one person’s career journey, but it could very well be yours or mine. And it’s a story about career assessments, tools for real life career management.
Mary Alice grew up during the “Happy Days” of the 1950s. Life moved at a slow pace. Dad came home every day after supervising an assembly line of manufacturing workers at the big furniture plant in town; Mom was a homemaker and very proud of her calling.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Mary Alice’s career ambitions were narrowly defined by accepted societal parameters: nurse, school teacher, secretary, and housewife. The future seemed predictable.
Then Mary Alice took a career assessment in high school that revealed her high interest in science. Combined with her natural intelligence, eagerness to learn, curiosity, and problem-solving penchant, her guidance counselor suggested investigating science careers. This suggestion opened Mary’s eyes to careers beyond nursing, such as laboratory technician, occupational therapist, research biologist, and more. She “pushed the envelop” of limited career choices and pursued a bachelor’s degree in biology, not for the reason everyone expected — to go into nursing — but rather to conduct investigative research.
To her surprise and delight, Mary Alice landed a job right out of college as a laboratory technician for a local hospital screening blood samples. She found the day-to-day laboratory benchwork activities routine, non-challenging, and ultimately boring. Although disappointed and frustrated, Mary Alice persevered because she thought, “Where is it written that I am supposed to actually like my job? It’s just a job, right? It’s not my life.”
As with many Americans, even today, Mary Alice was very unhappy at work. In fact, according to a survey published by The Conference Board in January 2010, only 45 percent of U.S. employees are satisfied with their jobs. This is a record low, the lowest rate of job satisfaction in the 22 years since The Conference Board started the survey. Young workers under the age of 25 are even more disenchanted — fully two out of three (64 percent) are unhappy.
Why are Americans so dispirited and disengaged from their jobs? It may be, in part, that they find their jobs uninteresting. The same Conference Board study revealed that only 51 percent of U.S. workers found their jobs interesting, another 22-year record low.
The dilemma for the future of America is how to turn that around. Lack of employee interest in their jobs spells big trouble for workplace innovation, competitive market presence in a global economy, sustainable productivity, and employee quality of life. Bottomline, your job does have a huge impact on the quality of your life.
Despite Mary Alice’s initial resignation with her job, she did finally leave. Her career journey twisted and turned as she gained valuable self-knowledge through career assessments. She discovered her motivated skills; these are the skills you are really good at and enjoy using. For Mary Alice these included persuading and influencing others, educating and empowering them with cutting-edge information, and listening. Really listening to issues, problems, and the pulse of what was going on around her as the pace of life quickened was her specialty.
As a result, Mary Alice gravitated to the field of health education. Her problem-solving abilities would kick into high gear with every challenging situation, which she saw as an opportunity. She managed to resolve seemingly insurmountable obstacles by bringing people together to work collaboratively on community health issues, even when those groups had a long history of hostility.
Meanwhile, Mary Alice had two secret passions: computer technology and public speaking. She learned the latest information technology and social-media skills and grew to love software applications. Technology’s labor savings freed up time to spend brainstorming ideas with her colleagues and community leaders. Developing new education programs using technology tools was fun and sparked her creativity. Presenting her ideas at industry conferences and panels energized her. Connecting with her vast network of like-minded professionals and industry leaders in health education via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook was a must-do on Mary Alice’s schedule every day — even on the weekends.
Those in her industry took notice. They started contacting Mary Alice with job opportunities. But she was overwhelmed with too many choices. What job would really be best? Fortunately, Mary Alice remembered the previous helpful assistance of a career coach. In the short span of one month, in collaboration with her coach, Mary Alice used the insights gained from several career assessments to pinpoint her ideal job. With the results of her Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator®, 360Reach Personal Branding, and StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessments, and values prioritization in mind, she could clearly identity her best-fit career.
The job Mary Alice eventually landed was not one of those initially presented to her by her industry colleagues. Instead, the job postings that were pushed her way prompted her to do more self-assessment and soul searching. With her new-found knowledge about herself, as well as career and industry research, Mary Alice developed a laser-focus, proactive approach to her job search. She became the first health education broadcast personality for a major syndicated TV program in her metropolitan city. Her parents watched her on TV every day and smiled in a conspiratorial way saying, “We always knew she was going to do something big!”
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2010.
Known as the Career Assessment Goddess, Susan Guarneri integrates career-assessment insights, personal branding, proactive job-search strategies, and accountability to help professionals and executives find their ideal career. One of only nine Reach-certified Master Personal Branding Strategists in the world, Susan holds a master’s degree in Counseling from The Johns Hopkins University, along with 15 careers certifications. With 25 years of career consulting experience, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, educational institutions, and government agencies. Co-author of Job Search Bloopers (Career Press), Susan has been published in 70+ books and articles. Visit her Website and connect through Twitter: @susanguarneri.