What a great question! Over the 30 years I have been conducting Career Development classes for individuals and organizations, I always start with this question! The simple answer is…every single individual answers this question for themselves — there is no one else in the world who can know their definition of success other than themselves. The “tricky” part is lots of other people want to answer this question for them! Who tries to answer it and why?
- Let’s start with the media. Every day in movies, television, reality shows, ads, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue show us their versions of “success.” At least in the media I see, the majority of people are thin, buff, live in beautiful homes, have perfect marriages, children, and brilliant careers. Really?… Is this “success?”
- Often teachers and other academics in school give us their version of “success.” Is it almost perfect SAT scores, a 4.0 or better grade point average and the “right” volunteer activities? Are there really only a handful of colleges that are going to practically “guarantee success?”
And on and on… As much as our society has tried to emphasize that success means things like money, status, big titles, and fame; at the end of the day, society does not have a clue what the formula for success is and who is successful.
Because success means different things to different people, the first thing a person needs to do is define what success looks like for them. The point is, unless your Young Adult is going to choose something that is immoral or illegal, you need to let them choose. Once you have fulfilled your end of the bargain, (for most people this is assisting with your child’s under graduate degree), it is time to “bless and release.”
Parents often try to define success for their children. This is natural! Parents have spent a lot of time, money, and other resources to help their children “become successful.” This is where it really gets “touchy.”
Whatever their reality is, your kids need to discover it for themselves!! In the long run, they will develop their own passions and define their own success. Often, your children do not share your values, just like they may not look like you or have your personality. I can hear some of you saying, “But my child isn’t old enough to know what they want.” This may be. Often as Young Adults “test the waters,” they adjust their first “definition” once the “reality of life” sinks in.
Previn Fernando, author of a previous blog, “Do you Realize Your Three-Year-Old Already Knows What She Wants to be When She Grows Up?” has some insights into the Definition of Success in her new blog, “Role Playing in the Adult World.” Watch for this upcoming post and think about writing about your own unique experiences. Writing for my blog is a great way to “try out” your writing skills and get published!!
This book has been a terrific resource for me as I work with Young Adults. It was written in 2006 by Madeline Levine, PhD., a clinical Psychologist who specializes in adolescent behaviors. A quick overview:
Which children are at risk for being disconnected and unhappy? The answer from child psychologist Madeline Levine might surprise you. Her insightful and helpful commentary is full of terrific advice and strategies that help parents and extended family members raise children who develop a healthy and authentic sense of self.
There are so many useful ideas in Madeline’s book. In working with Young Adults and their parents I have focused on the Eight Internal Resources all children need to develop to be happy, fully functional adults. Madeline discusses these resources at length in her book.
To order your own copy of The Price of Privilege from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Price-Privilege-Advantage-Generation-Disconnected/dp/006059585X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312337154&sr=1-1
Eight Internal Resources To Happiness and Fully-Functional Children
- Self Control — A belief and an ability to do things yourself, handle things yourself, and figure things out.
- Ability to Delay Gratification — Recognize you can’t have everything you want, when you want it.
- Frustration Tolerance — Tolerate frustration without “acting out.”
- Sense of Competency — Have a realistic view of one’s skills and competencies.
- Self Efficacy — The belief that you can successfully impact your world.
- Ability to Act in One’s Best Interest — Take control and acting in one’s best interest.
- Practice Impulse Control — Know which impulses must be denied.
- Develop a “Self” who is… Authentic — Capable — Loving — Creative — Moral
In future blogs I will be discussing each of these resources and bringing you the voices of my Young Adults as they grapple with “growing up” and developing these important internal resources.
I always turn to the dictionary for a clear understanding before I start addressing a topic. Webster’s Dictionary defines Privilege as:
- Restricted right or benefit — An advantage, right, or benefit that is not available to everyone
- Rights and advantages enjoyed by elite — The rights and advantages enjoyed by a relatively small group of people, usually as a result of wealth or social status / a system founded on privilege
In talking with Young Adults, I begin the discussion of the Eight Internal Resources by telling them the list comes from a book called, The Price of Privilege. I explain the book is written for parents and I always ask, “Do you know you are privileged?”
Most Young Adults pause for just a moment…and all have said, “Yes!” I then ask them to explain how they know they are privileged. This usually involves a long list of material items as well as much description of unique opportunities such as exotic travel; specialized lessons, sports, or camps, etc. they have experienced in their lives. They always include the love and support they have received from their parents and extended family. They view that as part of why they are privileged.
As I listen to their discussion of privilege I know how much these kids’ parents would love to hear this! I always encourage these young people to share with their parents what they have so willingly shared with me!
In my next few blogs I will bring you a mother’s voice, a Young Adult who has a good perspective on “privilege,” and explore a very important question. Who defines success?
My very first Information Interview was life changing. I had been a teacher for nine years and knew absolutely nothing about what other people did for a living! I was seriously thinking about making a career change so I hired a Career Counselor and arrived at our first meeting with my “list” of what I wanted in my next career.
- Work downtown in the business district
- Get dressed up in corporate attire
- Go out to lunch in a nice restaurant!
Sad! I used to drive around in downtown San Diego, California wondering…what do all of these people do to earn a living in these huge office buildings?
My counselor and I talked about my likes and dislikes, my college years, my prior job experiences, and my personal “pluses and minuses” of working nine years in the teaching arena. After compiling and analyzing all my information and skills, my counselor suggested I look into the field of Training and Development inside a business environment.
Since I didn’t know anyone in the training profession, I did some research on local corporations and decided to “cold call” a major company knowing that there would be a Training and Development department. When the training professional answered the phone I told him I was a Special Education teacher ready to make a career change. He was very gracious and agreed to meet me to answer my questions and share his information.
We agreed on a meeting date and I sat down to think through and prepare my information questions. Some of the questions I like to ask:
- How did you get into this field?
- What attracted you to this organization?
- What skills does the field require?
- Can you describe the typical responsibilities of the position?
- What are the most challenging aspects of the position?
- What is your typical day or week?
- Are there professional groups and journals for this job?
- What is the career and advancement path?
- Will I receive any formal training?
- If I were to consider a career on this field, what salary range could I expect? (Avoid asking about salary, vacation time, employee benefits, etc. until you have asked a number of other questions that demonstrate your interest in working for the company.)
The day of my appointment I was confident, prepared, and looking forward to my meeting. My interview was eye-opening! As we exchanged information I couldn’t believe someone was going to pay me to teach adults how to get along with each other! Of course there were many courses in his Management and Leadership program and they all sounded interesting and “doable!”
At the end of my interview my contact made a great suggestion. He said, “Since you are so interested in this field, why don’t you come back in two weeks and watch me teach a class?” I was thrilled! This technique is called “shadowing.” Job shadowing is a work experience option where Young Adults learn about a job by walking through the work day as a shadow to a competent worker. Anytime you can actually watch someone do their job, take the opportunity!
From that day forward, not only did I know I wanted to do this job, I knew I could! It was perfect for my natural talents, and the type of experiences and training I had developed at this time in my professional life. Nothing now would stop me from getting into the Training and Development field!
It is my deepest pleasure to help Young Adults make these same amazing and “eye-opening” connections! I know how crucial they are, as Young Adults make decisions about their future career choices.
WOW, I had No Idea How Much You Could Learn from Talking to People! The Importance of Meeting the Professionals Who Can Help Your Young Adult Pursue His/Her Career Dreams
Throughout my 30 years as a Career Coach I have been asked repeatedly, “How do I “motivate” my clients?” The easy answer is, “It’s not only me!” What does motivate anyone searching for their dream career is to actually see their future. Once a career seeker discovers his or her ideal job they will do all they need to do to get there! How do they do this? Information Interviews!
This process, first documented by Richard Bolles in his book, What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, involves conducting Information Interviews. Many people don’t know that Richard Bolles wrote his best selling book after leaving his career as an Episcopalian Priest. He spent the next two years interviewing anyone and everyone about their career path. He coined the term “Information Interview” to describe an interview for career information and advice — the process of “trying on jobs to see if they fit you.”
He notes, “Most people choose a career path without taking the time to speak with professionals in their field of interest. As a result, they find themselves in careers that are not a true match for their skills, values, interests, and abilities. Information interviews give you the opportunity to conduct the screening process before accepting a position.”
These Information Interviews are crucial to the career decision-making process! Unlike other types of job interviews, an Information interview is an interview that you initiate — you ask the questions. The purpose is to get information, not to get the job.
They not only provide information important to a career field, they also involve:
- Learning about the career path of the person being interviewed
- Talking about the various ways to acquire the skills, training, and experience needed to succeed in the career field
- Seeing the actual work environment
- Sharing other contacts in the career field
- Getting advice about how to enter the field
This step is so important once the Young Adult completes a self-assessment. I enjoy matching the students with professionals we know — who like and enjoy meeting, talking, and sharing their valuable career information with interested young people.
Below is a Young Adult who can describe her hands-on experiences with the Information Interviewing process much better than I can!
My name is Kate and I am 27 years old. I have just returned to the United States after living several years in Santiago, Chili.
Having been told it didn’t really matter what my major was in college, I leafed through the UC Berkeley course catalog as a freshman and decided that Peace and Conflict Studies looked interesting. Four years later, I had my degree and absolutely no idea what to do with it!! I ended up at a medical device startup company where I had been an intern in college. Once I’d become bored with the job I was in, I decided to pursue a master’s at Harvard in International Education Policy — again having little knowledge of whether I’d actually enjoy the career for which the program was to prepare me.
After spending some time abroad, I have decided to reenter the Medical Device Industry, but this time I’ve been conducting Information Interviews to see which positions best suit my skills, interests, and abilities. Had I known to do Information Interviews earlier, I might have saved myself the rather expensive (albeit fun) detour into education and be farther along in my career by now. As it turns out, all I would have had to do was walk down the hall at the medical device company where I was already working and talk to some folks in Regulatory Affairs or Marketing to understand that these fields were a much better fit to my personality and interests!
The people I have interviewed in the medical device field so far have provided valuable advice, both on how to transition back into the medical device industry and on where to go once I’ve done so. Everyone has been incredibly generous with their time — not only in the initial interview but afterwards as well, checking in on my job search, alerting me to openings, offering feedback on my resume, and providing kind words of support.
When I started conducting Information Interviews I knew they would give me a clearer picture of the kind of career I want; but as I’ve spoken with more and more people in the field, I’ve realized that I’m also learning things that will help me actually get the job I want. Things like learning the specific vocabulary and acronyms people in the field use and which specific skills are looked for in prospective employees.
Really, there’s no downside to doing Information Interviews. I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know people in the field and learning about all the possible paths that I can take to a fulfilling career.
There is a vast world of work out there in this country, where at least 111 million people are employed in this country alone—- many of whom are bored out of their minds. All day long. — Richard Bolles
Richard Bolles has also teamed up with Carol Christen, a Career Strategist and Jean Blomquist, a College Counselor, to come out with this great guide to help teens zero in on their favorite skills and apply that knowledge to get the most out of school, set goals, and pursue their dreams. What-Color-Is-Your-Parachute-for-Teens
Do you Realize Your Three-Year-Olds Already Know What They Want To Be When They Grow Up? Parents watch their kids play all the time! I would like to add an extra dimension to this that will give you clues to your child’s future career opportunities.
These observations can start as soon as your child begins to show interest and play with a variety of objects and toys. Studies support the fact that the toys children gravitate towards help promote the skills they may draw on in their future careers.
As you watch your child play, does your child:
- Attempt to build with different objects and toys?
- Take things apart and then attempt to put them back together?
- Create stories about different toys or even attempt to act out the stories?
As your child has grown does he/she show natural interests such as…
Create a “school” inside your garage complete with desks, blackboard, and handouts?
My twin sister and I held “school after school” for a few years while we were in elementary school — although we can’t remember what we “taught.” We began reading at age 4 and loved to “teach.”
Wear a suit he created by himself as his first Halloween costume because he loved playing a spy and wanted to be Bond…, James Bond?
His dad tells me he gladly joined the National League of Junior Cotillions when he was eleven because he got to wear a suit! This young man is now in high school and plans a career as a Navy SEAL.
Gather the neighborhood children together to “picket” for equal allowance so they could all have the same fun?
This young woman now works in public relations for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Pervin Fernando used her observation skills and wrote to tell me about her son Kamran.
For the past year I have observed my son, Kamran — now 22 months old — taking different toys out of his toy basket and banging them on various surfaces throughout our home. Now, I’m sure that those of you at home are probably saying right about now… what’s the big deal about that? Just about every kid bangs his toys around.
And you would be right. Children do love to use their toys to generate noise. But I have learned through career counseling sessions with Jan that games children play are a surefire predictor of future career choices.
Both my husband and our son’s caretaker have noticed this “game” that Kamran loves to play — and we have all commented about it at separate times. It is fascinating to watch the way Kamran searches for objects in his toy box. His favorites are a terry-cloth teddy bear, a wooden block, or his ultimate all-time favorite — a tin pie pan from Marie Callendars restaurant. He will carefully carry each toy to a different part of the house so he can test out the sound it makes as well as how high it bounces if he throws it on the carpet versus the tiled areas of our home. He has tested these toys on our concrete patio as well as the grassy areas of our backyard.
We are all certain that Kamran will gravitate toward a career as a scientist or engineer. He is clearly focused and happily absorbed while he conducts his tests. He can’t seem to help himself from approaching the world in this fashion. It is a wonder to see it!
Kamran also loves to play with a doll-size stroller and toy vacuum that his sister owns — but not to play house. He turns over the stroller and the vacuum and studies the wheels. He will spin them to see how they turn and to what parts they are connected. He will turn the battery-operated vacuum on and off, while placing his ear close to the engine so he can listen to the noise and its variations when the vacuum is placed in different positions and on different surfaces.
We’ve bought Kamran a tool set and given him no-longer-used cell phones and flash lights to take apart. My husband and I both want to encourage our children to develop their individual talents and to find their passion, so they too can enjoy their life’s work as much as we do.
Some interesting literature and articles on this subject are:
An article appeared on the Los Angeles Times on Monday, October 25, 2010 entitled Recession to Echo Loudly for the Young. Because of the current recession and what many people call a “jobless recovery,” it has definitely been more difficult for new college graduates to get that all important first job in the career field of their choice. Many young people are literally being left behind as others begin to build their careers.
After all the hard work and financial resources that college demands, there is nothing more depressing than returning home either unemployed or under employed in a “McJob.” It’s one thing to be the bottom rung of a ladder you want to be on…but it’s another thing to be at the bottom of a career field you don’t even like or wouldn’t normally choose!
Because it is so competitive, Young Adults in college need to begin their career journey early in their college career. There are many activities they can engage in that will help them clarify their career goals and make the contacts that are so pivotal in their future job search.
While it is commendable to concentrate on their studies, many college students make the mistake of doing this to the exclusion of all else. Grades do matter — especially for that all important first job out of college — but a high grade point average is only one factor necessary in landing the job.
The Advantages of Career Building Activities
As I work with my clients who are in college, I have them engage in a number of Career Building Activities. Depending on their major and career goals these activities could include:
- Networking with their teachers and professors who can give them further career information and valuable contacts in their chosen field.
- Using a variety of sources to conduct as many Information Interviews as possible to gain valuable career insights and those all important contacts.
- Participation in all appropriate college sponsored Job Fairs.
I am working with a young man, 23, who is just finishing his junior year in college majoring in Hospitality. He has completed several important career focused activities that will make job hunting next Spring very fruitful:
- Jaik has been working in a local restaurant as a busboy and waiter since he was 14. Through his dedication, customer service, and experience, he has proven to the owner that he can take on new “management” duties that include food ordering, scheduling, and menu planning. She now feels comfortable with him managing the restaurant in her absence.
- Jaik has been contacting and interviewing Food and Beverage Managers from a variety of businesses. To date, he has talked to representatives from the Hyatt and Westin hotels; also PF Chang’s and the Cheesecake Factory restaurants. Not only is he learning job responsibilities and how business hiring practices work, he is making terrific contacts for his future job search!
- Jaik and I are currently preparing for a major Job Fair for his field. He will be “dressing for success” with a new suit, updating his resume; and is practicing his marketing script and interviewing skills.
My Career Program is designed to build insights and self-awareness that allows the Young Adult to begin the very significant step of linking their personal and academic experiences with the World of Work. This step is crucial as they look towards graduation and a great beginning to a new career!
For those of you who know me, you can attest I am rarely at a loss for words!
I am currently working with eight young clients and loving every minute. I find I have a tremendous amount of information I want to share, and this is the perfect forum to do just that!
Every blog will contain a new idea, concept, or challenge. I will provide real life case studies to bring these ideas and concepts to life. I will always provide a variety of ideas, strategies, and resources that will enlighten, entertain, and prove helpful to both you and the Young Adults in your life.
I welcome your comments and feedback!