Skip to main content

Career Planning: Is there hope for struggling teens?

Guest Blogger
Jared C. Schultz, Ph.D., CRC, LVRC, HS-BCP

I have witnessed both the unproductive and productive side of vocational assessment. I remember taking the Strong Interest Inventory in high school. My guidance counselor called me into his office and shared with me that I should be a “Mortician and Embalmer”. This is a great profession to be sure; but not a future that will attract the girls. I had a choice; I could either disregard the results of the test, or face a life of… well… you get the picture.

Unfortunately, I think that many people have similar experiences. When vocational and career assessments are done in a fragmented manner or in isolation of the comprehensive process, it leads people to believe that these processes are generally useless. The process of providing a career evaluation is grounded in the task of matching a person to a vocation or career goal. We comprehensively assess aspects of the person and the work environment to determine the level of “fit”.

The following are assessment tools that are utilized to do this. It is critical to remember that focusing on one tool will give incomplete results that are difficult to implement into an Individual Education Plan or Therapeutic Treatment Plan.

1.      Interest Inventories – These instruments measure and report on types of jobs that may be of interest to the student. They are limited to interest only, and do not address the other factors that are required for success in the workplace.

2.      Aptitude Testing – These assessments address an individual’s capacity to learn skills and knowledge in specific areas. Examples of areas evaluated are spatial aptitude, numerical aptitude, motor coordination, verbal aptitude, math aptitude, etc. The focus is on future development and capacity.

3.      Ability / Achievement Assessment – These assessments measure current abilities, and answer the question, “What can this person do now?” The focus is on meeting a minimum criterion for entering a profession. This type of information may include specific ability or achievement tests, and may include academic testing and academic information.

4.      Value Assessment – Examines the value preferences of the individual relevant to the workplace. Again, the focus is on finding an employment setting and job type that is congruent with the value set of the individual.

5.      Personality Testing – Assesses the basic constructs of the individual’s personality. Personality testing is helpful for assessing the match with a particular vocational goal, but in isolation does not provide an adequate picture of potential success.

These assessment areas provide information related to the “person” part of the equation. A useful career evaluation will also provide information regarding the “environment”. This is referred to as occupational information, and entails information on the work environment of specific jobs, as well as labor market surveys. Best practice in vocational and career evaluation will also include observing the interaction of the person in specific work situations through work trials, work samples, and situation assessments.

Finally, a strong career evaluation process will recognize the dynamic nature of career exploration, particularly given the developmental stage of the student. It should provide direction to the student, family, and allied professionals on how to facilitate the continued growth and development of the student.

Simply put, the vocational and career evaluation process for adolescents and young adults who struggle with ASD, NLD, RAD, substance abuse, depression or anxiety disorders is much more complex than completing a few interest inventories.

If you found this post helpful, you may want to read this other post entitled;

The Value of Work in Recovery


Leslie Scarpa said…
So this leaves me wondering, how do these kids, particularly kids who have successfully completed therapeutic programs and are ready to move forward with their lives, get a chance at college or other opportunities. Often times their grade points are below their ability due to their bumps in the road along the way. How frustrating to have straightened their life out only to be turned down by a college because of a hardship. This is a problem facing one of my clients.

Popular posts from this blog

Fishing...It's really about relationships!

By Stephen C. Schultz Spring is in the air and that well known feeling of wanting to get out of the house and go fishing is surging through my body. I found myself in a sporting goods store the other day perusing the fishing lure isle. I was in the yard after mowing the lawn and realized I was walking around my small 12 foot fishing boat that is still covered from winter. I have had people ask me over the years, "What's so fun about fishing?". They usually follow that question up with, "It's so boring!". From my perspective, they couldn't be further from the truth. Fishing represents so much more than being entertained. It's time in the wilderness with fresh air and solitude. It's time to think and ponder on life's problems.  It time to express gratitude and count your blessings. There is also the satisfaction of reading the water, observing a hatch and placing a lure or fly in the perfect spot. It's the excitement of the fish

An Open Letter to Parents Researching RedCliff Ascent

By Stephen C. Schultz "We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." Having been raised in Oregon, I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage year’s steelhead fishing the coastal waters, climbing the Middle Sister in the Cascade Mountain Range, drifting the McKenzie River and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  I have mentioned to friends, family and colleagues on many occasions;   “From a therapeutic standpoint, there is no better place to have a student’s issues manifested quickly than in a wilderness setting.” The question then becomes, “Why do therapeutic issues rise to the surface in an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare program like RedCliff Ascent ?” Throughout the years of teenage development, most teens spend a lot of time with friends. These friends think the same, dress the same, act the same, listen to the same music and sometimes get into the same types of trouble. Some teens also develop patterns of communication and ma

"Sugar and Spice" - A Child's Kindness

By Stephen C. Schultz I recall a childhood rhyme that went something like this; “…sugar and spice and everything nice…that’s what little girls are made of!” As the father of three daughters and one son, there is no doubt about the truthfulness of that saying. I was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago with my family. We were down at Seaport Village right on the bay having lunch. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, light breeze and we were eating on an outside deck. We were engaged in a conversation about what we wanted to do later that day when I noticed my youngest daughter, a fifth grader, was focused on something else. So, I turned to see what she was gazing at. She was following the movements of a transient man who had walked up onto the deck and was systematically searching the garbage cans for food. He was looking in each receptacle and reaching in to move the contents around. At one can, his hand came out with a partially eaten sandwich of some kind. He reached back