Why do we give more thought to what brand of jeans to buy than a career plan?

Posted by: Mark Franklin on December 5, 2012 2:58 pm

“Too many of the young and jobless have given more thought to what brand of jeans to buy than their career plan,” writes Neil Sandell in an article entitled Career education lacking in Canada  in the Atkinson Series on youth unemployment published in the Toronto Star.

It’s not just youth who suffer from lack of career clarification; adults too lack career clarity. We spend 100,000 hours in our careers, so why do we invest so little time – some estimates put it at less than 20 hours for the average Canadian – in focused career planning and exploration?

Sandell says that, for youth, the problem is a combination of unhelpful advice from parents, patchy career education, lack of career exploration experience, among other factors. You can hear more in my interview with Neil Sandell on Career Buzz.

From my perspective leading a busy career management social enterprise, CareerCycles, serving individual clients of all ages and stages, it’s a mess out there. Career management is arguably the most important 21st century skill, and yet the vast majority of Canadians don’t possess a high enough level of that skill, don’t realize they can learn it, and don’t know where to turn.

Our career management profession is still flying under the radar screen of most Canadians. Good for Sandell, the Atkinson Foundation, and the Toronto Star for increasing the quality of the dialogue on this critical problem.

What to do about our youth? Sure there’s valuable career information out there, including useful tools like Career Cruising. But, “does good information alone launch a teenager on a career path?” asks Sandell.

He quotes Dutch researcher, Frans Meijers, who says youth “‘make use of the information but only after they have made the choice on a gut level.’ Meijers says the indispensable ingredient is experience.”

“He [Meijers] compares making a career choice to finding a romantic partner. We don’t begin by reading up on the conditions of the relationship market. We start by dating, by gaining experience. For a student to make a career decision that is ‘heartfelt and lasting, you need to create opportunities for experiential learning — especially in the workplace.’”

I think Meijers has it right. He spoke passionately about this in my Career Buzz interview with Frans Meijers.

One Toronto Star reader commented online: “How about bringing back Grade 13 as a co-op year for all students? Half time spent in the classroom over two terms, and half time spent in 3 or 4 different co-op placements?”

Not a bad idea! Join the dialogue on this important 21st century issue. What are your thoughts?

Join in on Twitter: follow Neil Sandell @youngnjobless, and me @careercycles

-Mark Franklin, practice leader and president of CareerCycles

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

1 comment on “Why do we give more thought to what brand of jeans to buy than a career plan?”

  1. Linda Thompson says:

    Good morning Mark – I enjoyed your article and wanted to add the ‘generational’ shifts since Boomers 1 (now retiring) into sophisticated, upcoming generation Z into the mix of your conversation and current dilemma facing most career counsellor and all the skilled trades and professions.

    I’m a member of the Boomer 1 generation who were experiential learners and workers and we were far removed from designer anything. Career development was experiential, and being an apprentise in training was a given. The ladder concept – employee enters the work place in a minimum wage position, receives hands-on training and experience. One could remain at this level of service or ‘apprentice’ more, move up the ladder into higher levels of service training and education. Is the world ready for us to retire?

    The major work-related change I see in the past 50 years is the work environment secondary to on-going advanced, computer technology and artifical intelligence. Boomers II or Generation Jones lost trust in the government and the 0ptomism of Boomers 1. Their work sense was to look out for themselves.

    Generation X are known as the lost ones, the first latchkey kids exposed to lots of daycare and divorce, dropped out with lots of sckepticism, are caution and pragmatic.

    Gneration Y are known as Echo Boomers who are incredibly, technically sophisticated, radically and ethnically diverse, less brand loyal, flexible, changing fashion with style consciousness. Most kids have co-signed parental credit cards and they are purchasers!

    Generation Z will be known as the ones nutured in highly diverse environments – out-of-sight, in the “iClouds’ or the ‘Sky.’ This generation are nutured within high levels of technology and customized learning….we are yet to learn about their world of work.

    All I know is the national news is full of shortages of skilled worker in many fields in Canada. Regards Linda

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