I am a firm believer that 1st impressions have a large impact on success. When teaching the low income, and often struggling “bling-bling” students at the International Academy of Design and Technology I often engaged in conversations with them about the necessity to integrate the “first impressions” concept into their professional lives. “It is unfortunate”, I would say, “that so much is based on first impressions, but they are. Doesn’t matter what you know and how good you are, what you present to the world says a lot about who you are and what you pride yourself in.” Once again, this issue is closely tied to the social constructs and stereotypes so often battled by minority groups. That being said, I make an effort to show all my students what I mean, and mentor them about their approach to the business world.
One example of this is my portfolio website, something I have maintained for a long time. This course offered me the opportunity to completely revise, update, and enhance what I have had for so long. The complete overhaul included things I had not considered in a career portfolio in the past, and minor new expressions of who I am and how I see the world. (Both can be seen in comparison @ http://portfolio.learn2xl.org or http://evelynz.com/career.) Developing my portfolio online serves several purposes: 1) it demonstrates my creativity and personality, 2) it provides potential employers and interested parties an interactive way to get to know what I have done and who I am, 3) it is unique in the fields I both aspire to attain and currently work in, and 4) it is a great resource in addition to a resume.
When I first graduated from SUNY New Paltz with my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and minor in Art, I began piecing together an extensive portfolio of my teaching endeavors and successes. I remember hauling it with me to Florida in search of a new job when moving from Tucson, AZ. I consolidated it into a shortened version that I provided to potential elementary schools. That made a significant difference in that I had several schools call me immediately to start. All three noted the portfolio as part of their decision.
In developing both this portfolio and the other two I have maintained for years, I have found it useful in keeping a history of my successes, accomplishments, and endeavors. I have a collection of photographs of projects, articles written about some community projects I had assisted in, a collection of letters of recommendations, copies of all degrees, certificates, and awards, and other miscellaneous items relevant to my career.
The career lifeline was valuable in assessing all the skills I have attained over my lifetime. Regardless of income, I found there were numerous skills and career interests I held through play and interaction. Recognizing these is useful in reviewing the things that I liked and did not like about my vocational interests. As a career counselor I see a lot of value in developing something similar with a client. Knowing who they were and the interests they have followed improves my ability to help them make career choices.
The interviewing was also an interesting component. Unlike the usual “references” I was able to chat with some clients and peers about what they saw in me. All of them have known me for some time, and I was pleased they would take some time to briefly share their take on my qualities. I felt encouraged and supported, and there were qualities they pointed out that I had not considered. Utilizing this activity in career counseling can help bring more direction to the individual. It is possible they had not recognized some skills that others see clearly, and thus, there is more to add to the overall picture of how an individual might find a career that matches their personality and interests.
The online assessments were a bit tedious, yet helpful in helping me to gauge where I fall on the career diamond. I really solidified how well I understand my goals, my potential direction, and where I currently stand with regards to career satisfaction. In all points on the career path, assessments such as these are fun and interesting to bring a broader perspective to who we are and how we perceive our vocational world. Concerns about using technology exist, however. Not all potential clients will have computer skills worthy of successful completion of the assessments. Also, not all clients will have access to such technologies. It is important to consider the population and the resources available when suggesting online assessments.
The mission statement I created evolved early this semester in Community Counseling. I have held mission statements before, and written them with others. This one, however, was unique. The experience allowed me to reflect deeply on who I am as a person, my goals, my sense of purpose, and bring those into the world for others to see and understand. I got a lot out of the experience, and although it was one of the more difficult tasks, I know it will be revised again and again as I continue my growth and expand my horizons. I expect the same challenges for anyone working on a mission statement. It is useful for potential employers to see you aspirations, and it provides a vision to a client for their future.
The resume is by far one of the most important pieces of writing that I maintain regularly. In fact, I wrote a guide (first for myself, and later for my students) on the language to use in resumes, and the types of content often useful in representing oneself on paper. Keeping a resume has been handy in many ways. It is always available when an opportunity arises, it demonstrates the thought and attention I give to myself regarding my career and experiences, and it helps me to maintain my history of employment, volunteer work, and other related activities. Encouraging potential clients to begin work on a resume is an integral part of job seeking. It also develops their perception of the skills they have when they are required to dig for words to outline what they have done that was or is significant in their past or current work.
Finally, the Genogram was an interesting piece I didn’t expect as part of career development. However, its focus on strengths and skills helped me to see the places and modeled skills that may have nurtured my own sense of purpose. It has always fascinated me that we have so many teachers in our family. It also encouraged communication with family about what they have done, what they missed out on or really enjoyed. I can see a client gaining a better perspective on their career interests based on the Genogram.
Overall, the development of a career portfolio has an overwhelming amount of uses, regardless if it is shared with others or not. I found many other areas that I am considering implementing into my current portfolio, expanding what is important in relation to what I do, and hope to do. This has been a fun and educational activity, well worth the time and effort for the many purposes it will fill in the future.