When you don't fit in ...


I wish I had encountered Carol Eikleberry’s The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People (or something very much like it)  back when I was I college, or perhaps in high school, as it would have likely pointed me in directions I did not take, and might have encouraged me to have taken risks (on which I demurred at the time) which might well have opened up career paths that would have been, in retrospect, far better fits for me that where I’ve been.  This is not to say that the areas in which I’ve worked over the past 30 years have been wrong for me, in fact, I did seem to be constantly orbiting the sort of jobs that the book would suggest would be best for me; but it would have been nice to have had some sort of confirmation that these inclinations were based on more than situational preferences.

Eikleberry’s book is based on the Holland personality types, and is the first book that steered me to the government’s “official” site for those sort of things, O*Net (one of many resources she has included on her website).  This model has six types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional; and these are related to various job and career path possibilities, with the focus here (as one would deduce from the title) being on those hard-to-fit “creative and unconventional” sorts who aren’t likely to be the particular cookie-cutter shape being sought by a company’s HR department.  

Here are her responses to my e-mail interview queries:

Q: Briefly, what’s your background?

A: I am a licensed psychologist who studied creativity, career counseling, and talent development in graduate school. Since then, I’ve worked as a counseling psychologist in private practice and also for university counseling centers. My focus in practice has been career choice — helping people find the occupation that is a ‘best fit’ for them as an individual.

Q: Have you had notable job-transition experiences?

A: Several transitions have felt notable to me! Thinking I would teach, I majored in English and even earned a Master’s degree before I realized that I did not enjoy either teaching or academic research. I went through a painful period before I found psychology and counseling. Later I transitioned again to writing about psychology.

Q: Why did you decide to write a job-search book?

A: The book I wrote is the one I wish I’d found on the bookshelves thirty years ago. My adviser at the University of Washington gave me the idea, when he said during a lecture on vocational counseling that “Holland’s Artistic types tend to cruise the self-help section of the bookstore looking for help with their careers. Someone ought to write a book for them.”

Q: How do you see the job market in the next 3-6 months?

A: I suspect the job market will continue to be challenging. Creative work always tends to be more competitive than conventional work anyway, since there are more creative people than paid creative opportunities. On the up side, creative work is now more plentiful and more valued, currently recognized as THE source of economic growth.

Q: If you had just ONE piece of advice for today’s job searcher, what would that be?

A: Try to think outside ‘the job.’ Although the way that work is packaged is changing, work remains. Remember that some of the greatest accomplishments of recent history — the Wright brothers invention of airplane, Gandhi’s peaceful liberation of India, and Martha Graham’s creation of modern dance, for example — all happened outside of a traditional job.

Q: What do you feel makes your book unique?

A: My book is based on the well-researched theory of John Holland. The book is devoted to people who prefer unstructured tasks with opportunities for self-expression (in the fine and applied arts), and the book’s focus is not job hunting but broader guidance: How do you recognize and support your creativity? How do you nurture your Self through work?

Q: Aside from your book, what resources do you recommend?

A: Check out my website: www.creativecareers.com. On the site you will find recommended books and websites, a web-based support group, tips on career choice, and all the tools you need to create your own career notebook. The notebook is designed for self-expression as well as career exploration, to help you find your ‘best fit’ occupation. It’s free!

Q: Any additional words of wisdom?

A: My advice is to call on your courage. Creative work is desirable — even exhilarating — but also scary. It is not an easy thing to challenge the status quo and leave it for your own unique path. Add to that the financially uncertain nature of today’s job market, and your career adventure may at times feel like you really are slaying dragons.

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