Have you ever stared blankly at an equation in school and wondered if you will even need it after you graduate? Would it have helped if you knew?
In the field of vocational psychology, there has been growing interest in career exploration and how it can help students understand the value of their education in relation to their professional goals. In fact, a positive correlation has been drawn between exposure to career exploration modules and self-efficacy, career planning, and career maturity among students (Talib, 2015).
This article delves into the importance of exploring career options, giving clarity to why career exploration is important, and discusses the concept of Ikigai in relation to career mapping. It will also enumerate effective activities for career explorers.
Traditional theoretical frameworks viewed career exploration only as an initial step. It was deemed as a phase that individuals eventually move on from. Contemporary research, however, has begun to recognize how it factors in on different stages of our occupational journeys. For example, Super (1980) has introduced a life-span, life-space approach to career development. He acknowledged that individuals go through several developmental stages, in all of which career exploration performs a function.
One can go as far as arguing that career exploration is self-exploration. As Flum and Blumstein (2020) posited, it is “a critical means by which individuals can construct themselves and re-explore and reconstruct themselves throughout the life span and across life roles.”
With no doubt, career exploration has become an important consideration in the study of vocation. Lent and Brown’s popular model of Career Self-Management under Social Cognitive Career Theory places it as a central concept, along with commonly studied factors of interests, choices, and performance. Further, the growing interest in the subject compelled Jiang and his fellow academicians to write a review of related literature which includes 67 quantitative research articles. They came up with the following conclusions that answer the question: what is career exploration? (Jiang et al., 2018)
Drawing from the above summary, we can see the potential of career exploration to change lives. That is, if we find ourselves in an environment that is supportive of our career choices, are empowered with personal agency, and given the opportunity to explore our career lives, we might just find the right place for us in this world. This has far-reaching implications not just for individuals, but for society at large. With career exploration, we may be able to build a strong workforce, a set of workers who love what they are doing. Consequently, organizations will no longer be struggling with employee engagement and retention. The people they need to thrive would want to be there and stay.
If you are one of the dreamers, one of the people who still believe they can change the world, advocating for career exploration might just be one of your concrete options.
Source: State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report
Mapping out one’s entire career early on is an overwhelming prospect for many. It would certainly help if educators, leaders, and policymakers are intent on guiding them in this crucial part of their lives.
Just like in any other journey, one first needs to assess their current situation. From there, one can begin to envision where they want to be. What career exploration offers is a way for an individual to navigate point A to point B. Meanwhile, the Japanese principle of Ikigai or “a reason for being” may just be the perfect guide for figuring out what exactly point B is.
Bukowski once said, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” On the other hand, the principle of Ikigai states that you can find what you love and let it feed you. Further, you can be good at what you do and share your talent with the world. Now, isn’t that more ideal?
Empirical evidence shows that intrinsic motivation is important in career development. At this point, you may have childhood dreams you may want to go back to. For instance, your answer to the magic question earlier. Note, however, that to know you love something, you must know it very well. Career exploration can help you manage your expectations. You may think you love something, but experiential knowledge may later prove otherwise, and this can result to a setback.
Create an inventory of your strengths and research occupations where these are valued most. As emphasized earlier, exploring careers is exploring the self. It follows that you must be acquainted with your own idiosyncrasies to land the right position. Career exploration will help expose you to different working environments and find where you will fit in and grow as an individual.
You are more likely to be good at things you take interest in. That is why majority of research on vocational psychology is geared toward using interest-based measures. You may want to explore Holland’s Occupational Themes which categorize personalities into six: (1) Realistic, (2) Investigative, (3) Artistic, (4) Social, (5) Enterprising, and (6) Conventional.
Social and political awareness is important in finding a purpose in life. You may want to check out the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and try to see if one or two resonates with you. Whatever it is you find worthy of pursuing, career exploration can help you prepare you for the challenges ahead.
It would be highly advised that you do not embody the hungry artist metaphor. Especially if you have the privilege to explore careers and find a way to make your skills marketable.
You may opt to research various industries especially in relation to the changing landscape of the workplace brought about by the pandemic. Some industries are doing better than others in coping with the situation, and so may offer more job opportunities during these uncertain times.
Everyone has a different path, and the most successful did not simply follow the others but paved their own way. Find your Ikigai. Let it guide you.
Not only are we stuck at home, but we are also in the middle of an economic recession. Take advantage of the time you have right now to prepare for the future. Here are several career exploration activities to explore.
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2021)Designed by
Wherever you are in life right now, you may find the theory and practice of career exploration to be very useful. Here are some links to career exploration ideas that further guide you on some of the career paths you may consider taking:
Finding your vocation is no easy feat. Every path comes with its own challenges. You need to trust the process, create your own path, and see where it takes you.