Current graduates are facing more challenges finding jobs this year. As we attempt to counsel students, our goal is to discover their career interests, develop appealing resumes and prepare them for job interviews. We can help students develop their ability to engage in personal inquiry to navigate a tough market and grasp emerging opportunities.
Inquiry has both philosophical and practical meanings. Its philosophical meaning relates to the discovery of the existential purpose of an individual’s life. Inquiry can guide students to engage with ethical or moral reflection, and can help them find meaning in a complex world. Inquiry can also help students solve problems, and connect theory to life experiences. It provides opportunities for curious minds to discover their careers at different stages. Engaging in inquiry can reduce students’ anxieties and fears by enabling them to take ownership to solve the problems in their lives.
Personal inquiries are questions people are curious about with respect to their life and career. They experience confusion and seek answers. Who am I? What are my values? What are my beliefs? Values and beliefs guide us in making critical decisions in life, including those related to career. They vary from person to person; while some people think security and protection are important, others want to devote themselves to helping others. There are no right or wrong values. They represent the difference and the uniqueness of self, and anchor individuals in their life’s journey.
Developing inquiry skills
When I worked in a professional firm, everyone, including me, wanted to be promoted as soon as possible. One day, when some of us were dissatisfied with the promotion result, my manager and my mentor told us that when you are quickly promoted to the top, you start to drop down. They asked, “Is that the career you expect in your early 40s? Is it necessary to sprint the marathon?” These words changed the way I saw my career in the long term.
The ability of inquiry is not innate. It requires a curious mind, rigorous study and action, which career professionals can help students develop. People who are curious are open-minded and have the desire to learn about new things.
Although developing a curious mind is not the optimal goal in the counselling process, it is essential for students to develop inquiry skills, which can benefit them in the long term. Career professionals can help students assess how they spend their time and energy in daily life and the reasons behind their activities. They can observe students’ body language or voice changes when they talk. Providing feedback to students can expand their understanding of themselves and bring a new possibility for discovery. Cultivating a curious mind requires constant challenging of current thinking about the status quo. Constantly asking more questions than usual can help students explore, which provides room for reflection. Through this process, career professionals can demonstrate how to develop personal inquiry skills.
Career professionals can consider how to create an interactive social environment to develop students’ inquiry skills. They can consider the following two types of social interactions to improve the learning effects: one with experienced coaches or mentors involved, and the other with peers of students only. Social interactions with experienced coaches, mentors and peers enhances the quality of personal inquiries. Experienced coaches or mentors can stimulate thinking and provide necessary information, perspectives and experiences.
“Engaging in inquiry can reduce students’ anxieties and fears by enabling them to take ownership to solve the problems in their lives.”
Career professionals can consider becoming group counsellors, assume roles as coaches or mentors, and can participate in group discussion. Their facilitating role in inquiry allows students to challenge their existing perceptions and status quo. Social interactions with peers can create a team atmosphere, which is important for graduates as well. Students can share their common problems and brainstorm possible approaches in the discussion. They can expand their understanding of a specific issue by collective inquiries. Collaborative and inquiry-based environments provide them emotional support, which helps individuals maintain their learning momentum. Both types of interactions enrich the dynamic of personal inquiry abilities.
Rigorous study provides a solid analytical foundation for inquiry skill development. Career inquiries usually interweave multiple dimensional issues such as personal interest, pay, family or lifestyle. An overall analysis of the industry outlook, employment environment, job and skills requirement, and personal needs can be made through rigorous study. This is similar to drawing a map to provide students with holistic views of career. When job opportunities emerge, students can clearly understand the positioning and the meaning of this opportunity for themselves. Career professionals can guide students in sharpening their analytical skills and in analyzing their personal needs, work and market environment.
Action plays an important role in the career discovery process. Career professionals can encourage students to take actions based on the analyses from their studies and modify their actions when necessary. Career professionals can help students develop positive and growing mindsets, which Dr. Carol Dweck mentioned in her book Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success. The book suggests that everything that happens is a learning opportunity to become better. It is not uncommon to make mistakes; quite the opposite, not trying means to stop learning.
Career professionals play an important role in helping students develop inquiry abilities because personal inquiry creates an authentic space to develop necessary attitudes and abilities in their dialogue with themselves and others. It serves as the meaning of career development as well as helping graduates confidently and happily search for the truths of life.
Get the best of CareerWise to your inbox each Tuesday by signing up for our CareerWise Weekly newsletter.