Paths Paved by Exploration

Considering the nature of this course, I was unsurprised to learn that we would be taking career assessments as part of our homework. While such assessments are interesting and often fairly accurate, I generally don’t need them to tell me about my own personality and habits. The reason? My top five “signature themes” from the StrengthsFinder assessment are an accurate representation of some important aspects of my life. I am a self-aware individual, resulting from aspects of my personal tendencies which, thanks to this assessment, now have labels. A top theme of mine is “intellection,” and it goes nicely with my other themes of “analytical” and “input.” Essentially, I like to think. I ask questions and figure out why things are the way they are. I gather information about a given topic, usually involving human experiences, and I try to explain it. My chosen method of explanation? Words. I use the written word to collect my thoughts and analyze them for meaning. I do this to make connections with people; incidentally, “connectedness” is another one of my themes. I believe that humans are all connected, and I study these connections through reading and writing. And why do I write? Because when I’m “faced with the inherent messiness of life, [I] want to feel in control.” That statement comes from my theme of “discipline,” which also describes my affinity for structure and planning. My strengths are all connected, and I like to analyze those connections.

So what does all of this mean? I’ve figured myself out. I’m aware of my tendencies, personality characteristics, and interests, and I just used my fondness for writing to summarize them. By taking this assessment, I haven’t really uncovered anything about myself that I didn’t already know, but now at least I have some good descriptive information all in one place. However, I know that these five themes are not the only ways to describe myself. I can adapt to situations when necessary. Yes, I am an introvert, but I can be social. I may prefer routine, but I sometimes take unexpected risks. I am apparently an INFJ personality type, but I know that I am much more complex than those four initials. If nothing else, taking these assessments has provided a good foundation of information about myself. This is a good starting point for knowing how to present myself to potential employers.

The next step for me is to figure out how to use this knowledge in my career search. I might not need these sorts of assessments to learn about myself as a person, but they can definitely be used as a starting point for career-searching endeavors. For example, after reading the “ideas for action” for someone with the “intellection” theme, I feel like I’m already on the right track to my future goals since I already study literature and psychology, list my ideas in a journal, and set aside time to think and write about those ideas. However, I can explore even more opportunities if I follow the advice for the “connectedness” theme by looking into jobs involving counseling and listening to other people.

Those starting points based on assessments pair nicely with similar (and often more specific) advice from the course readings for this class, which all focus on the value of a liberal arts education and all the career possibilities. One of the first things to do is to realize that there shouldn’t even be a question concerning the value of a liberal arts degree. That’s what many articles, such as this one ( ), are essentially saying. There may not be a linear career path, as outlined by Katharine Brooks in her book You Majored in What? However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still plenty of useful skills gained by a liberal arts degree, such as critical thinking and writing abilities. Last year I had a conversation with my cousin, a fellow Liberal Arts graduate, about the problem with considering Liberal Arts to be the “lesser” degree field, and her defense was, “I can have a conversation with anybody about nearly anything because of the variety of subject matters I studied and the skills I gained.” And she has a point.

After realizing the value of this sort of education, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start, and that’s where the required course readings come into play. Katharine Brooks teaches ways to discover your own interests and find connections between them that could potentially lead to a career. Blythe Camenson outlines several possible career paths in his book Great Jobs for Liberal Arts Majors. For inspiration, and for proof that your major does not necessarily equal your career, the stories told in Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads by Sheila J. Curran and Suzanne Greenwald would be great to read. There are all sorts of resources out there.

With a starting point in mind, I have found that researching on my own has been helpful. For example, I have been interested in the publishing world for about a year now. More specifically, I think I’d like to get into book publishing, and here I have found a great blog that provides inside details about the world of publishing from the experiences of someone who once worked for a major publishing company.

Blogs such as this one are good because they are based on real experiences, and it is easier to get an inside look at a career path and figure out if it’s really something you might enjoy.

Although editing is currently my first career choice, I know that my opinions may change. If that career path doesn’t work out, at least not at the beginning of my journey, I could venture into writing. It’s definitely something I can look into, especially since, as mentioned before, I like to connect with people through words. Or I could focus on connections with people face-to-face (not just through writing) by pursuing  a career in counseling, as suggested by one of my StrengthsFinder “themes.” I may not have the qualifications now, but eventually it could be possible if my career path is in keeping with the chaos theory as discussed by Katharine Brooks. A career path can take some unpredictable turns, and an eventual career in counseling rather than editing could be one of them.

A major component of searching for a career is exploring. Explore interests in college by taking various types of classes, many of which could go towards a liberal arts degree. Explore career interests using the internet and knowing that where you start is not necessarily where you will end up. Just explore.


Emily Cole



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