If job-seekers have one thing in common, it’s the tendency to take their skills for granted.
“A lot of people who come to us have skills that they don’t recognize, or that they don’t realize are sellable,” said Mike Thompson, a counselor at Bernard Haldane Associates, a 30-year-old, career counseling firm.
“Among the most highly regard skills are communications skills,” said Thompson, who will teach a seminar at Career Fair titled Changing Careers. “But people don’t realize that they have developed excellent skills in that area. So they tend to sell themselves short.”
It’s the job of a career counselor to help a client recognize his or her skill sets and find ways to match their skills with the job that’s right for them.
“We try to fit the career to the individual and help them market themselves into that career,” Thompson said.
Thompson said there’s a whole range of important skills which job-seekers typically fail to value. Many accomplished professionals fail to realize that the interpersonal skills they have developed over the years are invaluable to would-be employers.
Problem-solving is another.
“A lot of people don’t know they are born problem-solvers,” Thompson said. “A lot of times, they just haven’t had the experience or the opportunity to utilize those skills or develop them.”
It’s not just new workers who under-rate their skills, he added.
“As a general rule, people don’t really see themselves very clearly; a lot of our clients are surprised at what they do have to offer an employer.”
Enter Bernard Haldane, whose job it is to help job-seekers and others put their own skills and abilities into sharper focus.
Using what is called within the company the “Dependable Strengths Process,” clients are enabled to recognize and value their skills and aptitutes.
The process, says the company’s literature, “is a comprehensive approach to job/career transition. It asserts that to be most satisfied and successful in your work, it is necessary to use the strengths you find most satisfying. The process provides critical self-discovery so you know:
which strengths you most want to use in yur work;
which activities/elements you want your work to contain;
what kind of work you can get excited about.”
The process utilizes testing and one-on-one counseling, Thompson said.
“The program begins with a personal appraisal. We bring in the client’s personal values, their achievements and their individual skills and put all that together and develop with them through testing and counseling a plan for the career path that will best match their skills and interests.”
Often, the client’s spouse is involved in the process, since the decisions made will affect both partners.
Bernard Haldane focuses on serving clients in the professional market, Thompson said, and not all of them are out of work when they begin the process.
“We see people who are looking to advance their careers - often that means a transition into a high-tech field - and people who have been downsized.
“A lot of older executives who have been downsized are looking to re-enter the job market.”
There is a third category of worker; those who feel their careers need a boost and for whom the Haldane process is a way to refocus their careers around their skill sets.
“In short,” Thompson said, we teach people how to effectively manage their careers.”
Thompson is himself a product of the process.
“I came here looking for a change in careers, and I was surprised at the skills I had developed through my lifetime; I did them everyday as part of my lifestyle.’
Bernard Haldane Associates was founded in 1947 by its English-born namesake, whose budding medical career was derailed when U.S. medical schools wouldn’t accept the credits he had earned at London’s Royal School of Surgeons.
After working in a number of fields, Haldane stumbled into the career counseling field when a local business organization formed a volunteer group to help World War II veterans find work. Haldane had a knack for the work and wrote a summary of the group’s accomplishments which was excerpted in a number of publications, including the Harvard Business Review.
He helped pioneer the career counseling field in 1947 when he founded a company called Executive Job Counselors. He retired in 1974 and wrote a book, “Career Satisfaction and Success: A Guide to Job and Personal Freedom.” He has revised the book twice to keep its contents pertinent to the changing professional environment.
In it, he discusses those innate qualities - he calls them “dependable strengths” or “motivated skills”- which everyone person possesses. He encourages professionals to assess their life experiences in an attempt to understand the areas which have provided them with their greatest satisfaction and success.
“It’s important to get into what really turns you on, and people are not trained to do that,” he recently told an interviewer. “People need to be trained on how to bring out the best in themselves and how to build on it.”
Haldane cites studies showing that few people use their abilities well, and that those that do enjoy a higher quality of life.
He writes in “Career Satisfaction and Success”: “One national survey showed that managers believe that productivity could increase by 40 percent if people were in jobs they did well and enjoyed doing.
“The possibility of such a change is shown by aggreement among social scientists that people rarely apply as much as 20 percent of their potential. If 10 points of their unused potential were shifted, their 20 percent of applied potential would shift by half to 30 percent.”
Haldane holds that growth begins when people are able to see clearly what’s happening in their lives.
“It begins,” he writes, “by recognizing that you have ups and downs and that the usual to improve one’s position is by ‘learning from mistakes.’ This means ‘finding out what you did wrong and never doing that again.’
We all have peaks and valleys, he writes, and we can see things more clearly when we’re on a peak, though we tend to be more introspective when we’re in a valley and our vision is limited.
“That’s really when they need to reviews, when they were near their highs, when they feel free to view from on high.”
Respected management consultant Peter Drucker is a big Haldane fan.
“Long before it became fashionable, Mr. Haldane realized that placing people is the most important help one can give them, whether they work in an organization or for themselves,” Peter Drucker in his foreward to Haldane’s book.
“And understanding what one is good for and what one should therefore try to strengthen and develop is the key to self-improvement.”
After retirement, Haldane relocated to Seattle where, in 1984, he founded the Dependable Strengths Institute with the intent of working with groups.
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