Landing a choice job can be a complicated enterprise, particularly if one is not properly equipped to undertake this task. In her book, Learning to Fish in the Twenty-First Century: Navigating the Career Waters to Find and Land a Choice Position, author Donna Chlopak provides meaningful insights to help job seekers bridge the gap. We spoke with Dr. Chlopak to further explore her thoughts on this topic.
Dr. Donna Chlopak, a Ph.D. industrial/organizational psychologist from Ohio State University, has more than thirty years of experience as an educator, entrepreneur, consultant, and manager working in notable Fortune 500 companies and the Gallup Organization. She has also taught at Rutgers, Stevens Institute of Technology, Baruch College, Montclair State, Seton Hall, and Kean. These experiences has provided her with important insights about the labor market.
ExcelTrek: What motivated you to write “Learning to Fish in the Twenty-First Century”?
Donna Chlopak: I had developed and taught a course in career development at the university level for several years. During that time, although, I had used some texts that covered various areas of career development, I hadn’t found one that provided the complete view of the field that I wanted. I continued to create exercises and activities for my students and I realized that I had the makings of a book that could be of help to many people.
ExcelTrek: You establish a strong link between finding the right job and knowing about oneself.
Chlopak: The saying that “if you find a job that you enjoy, you don’t work a day in your life” supports the notion that knowing about yourself – what you do well and what you don’t, what you enjoy doing (usually what you do well), is what you should use as guidance for your career. Fit is key to having a successful work life – fit with the position –what are the demands and can you meet them and work around any deficiencies.
ExcelTrek: With the advances in technology and the immediate access to information and resources, are we better equipped today at finding and landing the right job?
Chlopak: Not necessarily, because one has to really know what to look for and ask. These advances provide additional information, but it takes knowing how to use them and making sure that you understand the information you gain. Again, the right job match takes knowing oneself, fully understanding the position requirements and also realizing if the company culture is a fit.
ExcelTrek: You focus on two major areas in your book – figuring out which job to pursue and how to get it. In your experience, which of these two do people struggle the most? Why?
Chlopak: People seem to struggle most with how to land a position. However, if individuals knew themselves better and more fully understood the positions and company cultures, it would make getting the right job easier and provide for a more successful match. It is a process and you need to begin with a strong foundation – and then use that foundation (knowing oneself) and do your research regarding what a position requires and what the company culture is to ensure a match.
ExcelTrek: In your opinion, are academic institutions doing a good job helping students discover what career to pursue and how to land the job they want?
Chlopak: I wish I could say yes, but unfortunately too often, students come into college with a preconceived notion of what major they should pursue based on misconceptions about themselves, what specific positions are really like or even what impact families have. Students should be provided with various assessments to help them understand their talents and what areas would be a best fit. This could even be done prior to going to college – everyone could use this knowledge, even after someone has worked for many years – second and third careers are not uncommon.
ExcelTrek: Your book is full of examples and resources. Do you see a greater demand for more pragmatic literature on this subject?
Chlopak: There are many blogs and articles written on parts of the process but less on the entire process and actually putting it together. Since a career journey is a lifetime process, more attention should be paid to the individual’s understanding of themselves and the entire process.
ExcelTrek: What would be your advice to those who have gone through the process, landed the job and company they wanted, are successful at what they do, but are now doubting whether they made the right career choice?
Chlopak: Doubt usually comes from some sort of discontent with the job or company or manager. If one finds that they are questioning their choice, it might not be the career choice/position but with the company or manager. If they determine that it is the position/job that has caused the doubt, they can go back to some of their earlier personal assessments to see if some of their interests, talents, or motivations have changed.
ExcelTrek: What is the key message you want your readers to remember after reading “Learning to Fish in the Twenty-First Century”?
Chlopak: That it is a JOURNEY and therefore there may be several paths to get where you want to go, however, like any journey, you need to know what resources you have (i.e. knowing yourself) and where you want to go (type of position and company culture). Finally, I want readers to know that they can use the book as a resource throughout their journey and remember the title comes from the Chinese Proverb – “if you give a man/woman a fish h/she will eat for a day, but if you teach a man/woman to fish h/she will eat for a lifetime.” I feel that most people know that a career journey is a lifetime effort.
Fred Machado is the founder and CEO of ExcelTrek.