Can Character Strengths Be a Useful Part of Careers Discussions?

Can Character Strengths Be a Useful Part of Careers Discussions?

At St Margaret’s Berwick Grammar we are committed to helping the young people we work with understand all that they have to offer the world.

Each year, one tool we use to discuss and recognise this is the VIA Character Strengths, and last year we did a whole series of articles on The Wellbeing Hive about how we use these with students.  Here are just a few if you would like to look over them again.

A Case for Character Strengths

Targeting Character Strengths

A Model for Strengths-Based Mentoring

These 24 positive qualities are possessed by us all, and working in harmony with our signature strengths – the four of five that we draw upon most readily, is a recipe for fulfillment and success in many areas of our lives.

Like many of you, I was present at the recent VCE Information Evening in which we invited Senior Boys and Girls in Years 9 & 10 to come with their families to talk about the pathways ahead.  Everyone there was privileged to hear from Tyson Day from Arrive and Thrive, an organisation that helps prepare young people for the world beyond school.  Tyson talked about choosing careers that match your values – and talked about the increasing desire evident in young people to contribute something the world needs – something that was very affirming to hear.

It’s wonderful to encourage people to consider what makes their heart sing in terms of a future career.  The statistic he gave, that most people spend 90,000 hours in their lives working means that it is really important for our future wellbeing and happiness to have some kind of understanding of the types of work that will make us happy.

As I was sitting listening to his engaging presentation, I thought about how understanding our signature character strengths might also provide young people with some clues about environments and ways of working that might suit them.

Although our character strengths are prone to shift and change over time, often key strengths remain towards the top of our list.  We call these Signature Strengths – and these may be a great discussion point when you are talking about future plans. For example, one of my signature strengths is Love of Learning – which is a fairly common strength amongst teachers – and a particularly useful one!  I repeat the survey every year to look at how my experiences shape the way I respond to new situations and that strength is always right near the top.  It seems pretty clear that teaching is a vocation – and one that my signature strengths have always hinted at.

Recently we invited some Year 8 students to brainstorm some career pathways that interested them, and then use their strengths to add to this list.  There are certainly plenty of careers that utilise key strengths every day.  Carers of all kinds from in the medical field to looking after the young and old must draw regularly upon Kindness and Love.  Those who value Fairness and who utilise Judgment may be drawn to careers in the law, or in advocating for refugees and others who struggle to speak for themselves.  Artists of all kinds whether musical, writers, entertainers or anyone in any kind of design field will draw regularly upon the strength of Creativity.  If Curiosity is a signature strength – you might be drawn to a career that closely examines the natural world, or societies or economic structures. it might even lead you to being an academic!

There are endless possibilities of future pathways out there, and even pathways that may not exist yet… but we may even create by simply activating our signature strengths.

While we shouldn’t consider this process and definitive match for a young person and their career – it my help them find interesting pathways they have not considered before, and may prove to be yet another useful component of the discussion about values, desires and aptitudes that are no doubt happening in many homes right now.

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