Navigating the Maze: An Overview of Career Exploration Paths

4 min read
a checklist of career exploration tasks listing out: self assessment, job needs, market research, skill gaps, options mapping, and action plan

a checklist of career exploration tasks listing out: self assessment, job needs, market research, skill gaps, options mapping, and action plan

In the ever-evolving landscape of the workforce, career exploration for adults has become more significant than ever. Whether you’re looking to pivot in your career, re-enter the workforce, or simply find a more fulfilling path, understanding the journey ahead is crucial. At the core of this exploration is our unique model of VISAs—Values, Interests, Skills, and Abilities. This framework is designed to help individuals navigate their career paths with clarity and confidence.

VISAs: Identifying Career Paths to Set Up Your Success

VISAs are a model we use to help people identify two main things: 1) What you want from a career (your values and interests), and 2) What you bring to the table to be able to succeed in a career (your skills and abilities).

Values: The Compass of Your Career Journey

Values are the guiding principles that matter most to you in your life and career. They are the bedrock of your decision-making process, helping you to identify workplaces and roles that align with what you find meaningful and rewarding. Whether it’s work-life balance, social impact, or innovation, understanding your values is the first step toward a fulfilling career.

Interests: The Map to Your Ideal Role

Interests are the activities, subjects, and challenges that capture your attention and excitement. They are the clues to understanding which career paths may provide the most satisfaction and engagement. Exploring your interests helps pinpoint industries and roles where your enthusiasm can flourish.

Skills: The Tools in Your Exploration Kit

Skills are the learned capabilities you’ve acquired through experience and education. They are the tangible qualifications that enable you to perform specific tasks and functions in a job. In the context of career exploration, identifying your skills helps match your competencies with job requirements, highlighting areas where you may excel or need further development.

Abilities: The Innate Strengths You Bring to the Table

Abilities are the innate talents you possess, which can range from natural leadership qualities to exceptional analytical thinking. Unlike skills, which are acquired, abilities are inherent traits that can give you a natural advantage in certain roles or careers. Recognizing and leveraging your abilities can be a powerful strategy in your career exploration journey.

The Role of a Job vs. a Career: Understanding the Difference

It’s essential to distinguish between a job and a career when exploring new paths. A job can be seen as a stepping stone or a means to an end, providing immediate income and experience. In contrast, a career is a long-term journey filled with growth, progression, and fulfillment. Our VISAs model encourages a career-focused approach, aiming for long-term satisfaction rather than short-term convenience, but you may need to a job to help bridge the gap. You don’t want to rush a career path decision to just fill a need that a job can fulfill, such as providing necessary income. Just be sure to identify if you are in a “job” so that you don’t get stuck without clear career goals!

Keeping Opportunities and Doors Open: The Path of Flexibility

In today’s dynamic job market, keeping your options open is more important than ever. This means being open to learning new skills, adapting to changes, and considering non-linear career paths that may lead to unexpected opportunities. Our VISAs model is designed to be flexible, allowing for continuous reflection and adjustment as your career goals evolve.

Career Exploration: A Checklist

  1. Identify your VISAs:
    • List your top 5 personal and professional values.
    • Prioritize them based on importance to your career satisfaction.
    • Note down activities that engage and excite you, both in and out of work.
    • Research careers related to these interests.
    • Write down your current skills, categorizing them as technical or soft skills.
    • Identify skills gaps for careers you’re interested in and plan for skill development.
    • List natural talents and abilities that distinguish you.
    • Consider careers where these abilities give you an advantage.
  2. Identify Your Needs from a Career:
    • Map out any requirements you have, such as income needs, location, or flexibility in hours
    • Understanding your bare minimum requirements can help refine your search/
  3. Market Research:
    • Use your VISAs to search for roles and industries that align with your profile.
    • Conduct informational interviews with professionals in fields of interest.
  4. Identify and Address Skill Gaps:
    • Based on potential career paths, look at various job postings in that path and compare what your current skills are to the job postings requirements.
    • Continual professional development is a great quality that employers look for, but you can start off with lower cost options, or ones that don’t require a huge time commitment.
  5. Set Career Goals:
    • Based on your research, set short-term and long-term career goals.
    • Ensure these goals align with your VISAs.
  6. Option Mapping:
    • Create a map of different career options, identifying which ones have high commitments and which ones may be lower stakes.
    • List out various pros and cons of the career paths to help identify which ones may be best suited for you.
  7. Developing an Action Plan:
    • Create an action plan to achieve your career goals, including education, skill development, and networking strategies.
    • Set timelines and milestones to track progress.

Crafting Your Unique Career Exploration Path with VISAs

Exploring career paths as an adult can be a daunting but rewarding journey. By focusing on your Values, Interests, Skills, and Abilities, you can navigate the maze of options with greater clarity and purpose. Remember, the goal is not just to find a job but to craft a career that is truly reflective of who you are and what you aspire to achieve. Embrace the journey with an open mind, and let your VISAs guide you to a fulfilling and prosperous career path.

Start your career exploration journey today by assessing your VISAs. Reflect on your values, dive into your interests, evaluate your skills, and acknowledge your abilities. Consider how each of these elements can shape your career path and open doors to new opportunities. Remember, it’s never too late to pivot towards a career that brings you joy, fulfillment, and success. There’s always coaching as an option to help you along your journey!

Casey Schmalacker

Casey Schmalacker, Vice President at New Frontiers, is a seasoned leader in marketing, sales, and business development. With a dual degree in Government and Law and Economics from Lafayette College, he has spent the past 10 years coaching students, adults, and organizations to improve executive functions, soft skills, and workplace performance. Casey’s approach is rooted in strategic development and a passion for personalized coaching, emphasizing a culture of continuous improvement.

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