I’m an idiographer. You might think I’m an idiot for saying so but idiography is actually the study of individual cases or events. And that’s what I do as a career professional. It is a proven, scientifically valid method for career assessment.
I demonstrated this method in some detail recently to colleagues in Las Vegas at the Career Management Alliance conference. Heres’ what one of them wrote to me after attending my session:
“I so enjoyed your presentation. I have long been perplexed by the emphasis career professionals place on assessments. Although I have a masters in career development, and took a semester course on assessments, I have found them to be of very limited value in the work I do with clients. Like you, I prefer the story approach as a more effective vehicle to discover the critical subtleties and nuances of their true essence. Your presentation was a very refreshing change and was much appreciated!”
My clients come to me because they want to make a significant career transition. In order to help them make on, I ask them to write stories about times in their life when they are doing what they enjoy most and doing it well.
I then analyze those stories for their key success factors in order to construct an accurate and reliable picture of their right work. I match this picture to specific jobs in work settings that will recognize, reward and motivate them for what they do naturally and effortlessly.
We then work together on the practical and realistic stuff to move them for where they are now into a better jobfit, one that harmonizes with their motivational pattern.
What is assessment?
Assessment is all about answering two simple questions: WHERE and WHAT? Which organization or work setting will motivate me by recognizing and rewarding me for what I enjoy most and do best. And, what are the job titles in that organization which best match up with my talents, skills, experience, education, and values.
To borrow a sports analogy : it’s choosing a ballpark to play in, and the position you are best suited to playing.
Two kinds of assessment
Most people who have taken an assessment through school or work have used a nomotheic assessment tool. That is a technical term for a tool that helps an individual search for general traits or characteristics, such as skills, values, aptitudes, interests, or personality traits. Some of these tools are self-assessment, and others need to be administered by a professional. But they all use prescribed categories of characteristics and match them to careers.
The idiographic approach is not about particular strengths or traits. It’s about the pattern! At the risk of stating the obvious–like any meaningful story, our personal stories are greater than the sum of its parts.
But our left-brain, cause-and-effect, linear, engineering-driven world (the mechanistic worldview) tends to emphasize component parts, instead of spending more time looking for the relationships between the parts (the systemic or holistic worldview).
The pattern of relationship between parts
A personal story has many elements that influence individual behavior, including family of origin dynamics, a sense of place (geography) and time (history), key relationships, major illnesses, attitude to authority, and much more that can influence choices and outcomes.
For me, each component part of a story might be important but they are only important in how they interact when my client is in action doing what they enjoy most. It’s the pattern! And, yes, the component parts that make up the pattern are important. In my case, I focus on certain key success factors. That doesn’t mean the others are wasted, not at all.
This picture of a man in a cart trying to pull a horse looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? This person is not going to get far. And yet, this is exactly where many of us end up in our careers because we put the cart in front of the horse.
Worse, yet, we neglect the horse as we develop our careers. We focus on our social assets, filling our cart with acquired skills, education, credentials, contacts, and so on. We invest so much time, energy, and money on these elements of career, that we neglect to nurture and develop what the horse represents: natural strength, vitality, drive, energy, passion!
The story-telling approach to assessment focuses on the horse; that is, it helps our clients to remember and recount times in their lives when they were energized, full of life and vitality. My job as an idiographer is to show them how those key success factors connect to real jobs in the real world of work, personally rewarding and financially sustainable jobs.
The cart is still their with all its goodies. What is important is the correct relationship putting the horse in front of the cart. Now the horse is pulling the cart with passion, drive, strength, and energy.
Passion and profit are not mutually exclusive! My job as a career professional is to make this connection real for my clients.