Anxiety, Career Choice and Aptitudes! PART III


Young Adult DevelopmentPost College Career Decisions based on Aptitude testing

The area we are most interested in — and in which we can provide the greatest support – is “greater focus on personal development and maturity.” IMD has been working with young adults and their parents since 1986. Over the years it has become increasingly apparent that the launch of young adults has changed, and that over time the solutions we used to offer have also shifted away from the therapeutic counseling interventions of the early ‘90’s to the career, life and vision-development interventions of the mid-1990’s and since. The approach we have developed over time is less about focusing on weaknesses and remediation and more on identifying strengths and internal resources, and on developing the knowledge to act with greater emotional intelligence. This approach relies quite heavily on the Highlands Ability Battery as a foundational piece. Over the years we have found (and we have tried!) no better tool for assessing natural hard-wired talents.  In addition to the Ability Battery and our assessment of hard-wired Abilities, or as so many traditionalists refer to them, Aptitudes, we embrace a 7- Factor Model that explores the complexity of the individual and provides a blueprint for self-direction. Due to the limitations of space I will only direct my comments to the Ability Battery and in a future article discuss the 7 other factors.

Sam is 21 and heading into his junior year of college with his major undecided. His experience is that the school doesn’t reach out to him, and that he, like many others, “can’t” find the Career Center. His parents feel out of control as they see their child flounder, but they try to work within the university system from a distance. Sam located our website and suggested to his parents that he take the Highlands Ability Battery.  Let me underline this: Sam took the initiative. Parental anxiety momentarily subsided as action took place. (Rule of thumb – when working with young adults, action, any action, is always preferable to paralysis in the case of life and work goals!).  After taking the Battery, Sam and I met to review and discuss his report. Among the many interesting results of the Battery we discussed during our 2-hour review (while the CD I burned recorded our meeting for Sam’s parents to hear later) indicated a strong hard-wired basis for Sam to prefer a smaller school (or at least smaller classes), with more opportunities to interact in class, with an emphasis on experiential learning and tangible hands-on outcomes.  The large liberal arts curriculum wasn’t a good fit for Sam. Initially, Sam’s parents had taken many of their cues from the High School Counselor at the private school their son was attending. However, the tools available to the counselor, as well as the school’s own marketing approach, prevented creative thinking about what might have been a better college choice for Sam.

John, 27, a graduate of one of our nation’s most prestigious colleges, easily found jobs but never chose one with adequate information about his own strengths and resources. In college he availed himself of little help – though he did visit the Career Center once. (He didn’t find it especially helpful.) Upon graduation, not knowing what else to do, he followed his peers into lucrative positions as Financial Consultants – because that was where the money was. His anxiety about what to do was momentarily settled.

Now, 27 years old and 3 jobs later, he worries about his future fate as he watches the “grey men in their forties glumly going to their cubicles,” and he wonders if he will always be dissatisfied with his work. When I discussed John’s results with him, it was clear that he needed to find an area of expertise, that his longing for a passionate commitment to a job was as much a part of him as his eye color. He had a short learning curve and he longed to work in an environment in which he could contribute to long-range solutions.

At the same time, he needed a fast-paced, problem-solving environment in which his ability for strong rapport-building could be maximized. Until now, everyone had detected only one of John’s abilities – his gift for working with numbers. That one gift appeared to shape everyone’s view of what John should be doing and in turn limited the information John had about himself! His parents were very supportive of John’s search for a new direction, because they could see the long-term benefit of his getting it right.

Gail, 29, graduated from a University with a Communications degree, and never quite “latched onto an area of interest”. She did things and landed jobs as  “opportunities” rather then from a sense of direction or purpose. Fortunately, her natural gifts identified her as a rising star.  Eventually, she rose to a management position in a retail store! Her problem was that she wanted to choose for herself what she would commit to. And it wasn’t retail management! Gail had managed to remain untouched all through High School (wealthy suburban) and University by any career development information. Gail’s parents supported her in looking at her alternatives knowing that her choice was important to her. Overlooked by Gail and the others were her artistic talents, coupled with her talent for seeing the big picture, for sensing the gifts of others, and for helping them succeed. All this worked together to make her excellent at roles in which she taught others, fueled by her passion for delivering concrete results.

Each of these young adults and their search for fulfillment are not offered as proof of my awesome powers as a psychologist! (Although my family, grad students and clients think I am pretty amazing!) Rather, these are fairly standard outcomes of our work with The Highlands Ability Battery and the 2-hour feedback session. The Battery is not just an assessment – it is brought to life and becomes a life intervention by the power of the 2-hour feedback conference.

Concluding Remarks
With each of these adults, their parents were actively involved in supportive roles. They assisted their adult children in sorting out alternatives, knowing the value to be derived from taking time to explore and put together a tentative plan for success. In turn, each of the young adults found the Battery enlightening. In some ways I often feel as though I am giving water to a very thirsty person. John, for instance, was astounded that he had never been exposed to any assessment as comprehensive and penetrating as the Battery. He declared, “this should be mandatory in all colleges and high schools.”

Is this the final piece of the story for each of these people? Of course not. They all left our feedback conference with homework – read your complementary copy of “Don’t Waste Your Talent”, listen to your CD or MP3, read and re-read your 34-page report, and if you’re not entering one of our workshops, contact me in a month on your progress. I provide them with all these things so they can move in the direction of developing a career- and life-vision, and use the 7 other factors that go into creating a personal strategic plan and a Career Vision.

In the midst of an environment, breeding disaster and failure at the economic-environmental-social-political level, with faltering signs of occasional improvement, each of these young people will do what he or she can to get by.  They will all share a common desire to contribute more of themselves, to feel passion and live a valued life. Each of them found his or her way to our door and signed up for The Highlands Ability Battery – the starting place for self-knowledge for thousands of people over the years…a responsibility we take very seriously!

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