Enabling Students to Find Their Place


Dr. Tim Elmore shares three categories of personal style that will help any student get a better grip at what they want to do for their future career.

I've told a story about Craig, who attended a four-year college and earned all A’s but didn’t feel like he fit there. He transferred to a tech school to learn how to work on cars, which he does today as a career. He’s now in his element. For Craig, a university just wasn’t the right place for him, even though he was smart enough to be there. He belonged somewhere else.

I recognize the value of a liberal arts education. I’ve earned three post-secondary degrees myself and love the maturity and discipline that develop in these settings. However, high school grads need to explore who they really are and what lies inside of them more thoroughly before making an expensive decision like this. Time and money can be lost by merely wandering through school without proper direction.

The Categories of Personal Style

My friend Ben Ortlip suggests that one way to help students evaluate career decisions is to examine three categories of personal style. All young adults possess a little of each, but in general, each student will gravitate toward one of these desires:

1. Craft – I want to work with my hands or mind creating something.

Examples of this might be actors, artists, athletes or other performers. Other examples could be builders, electricians, computer wizards, inventors and the like. These students could serve anywhere, as long as they are allowed to work with their gifts to improve or create something.

2. Culture – I want to work in an environment with like-minded people.

Examples of this type are young people who don’t care exactly what they do as long as they are in an environment with others like them. The community is what really matters to them. It could be theatre or social services, real estate or entertainment. The key is to be with the right people and situation.

3. Cause – I want to work toward solving a particular problem or issue.

Examples of this are often non-profit work, where the person may perform a variety of tasks with a variety of people—but what keeps them engaged is the cause for which they work. The big picture is what matters to them. They are serving people and solving problems in an area they care about.

The fact of the matter is that we all have a bit of these three inside each of us, but we tend to be motivated by one more than the others. Over the holidays, I got to meet with three college students to talk about this topic. It was interesting to observe this reality first-hand. While all identified with every category, each were drawn primarily to one of them. Right in front of me was a “craft” person, a “culture” person, and a “cause” person, and what drove each of them into a career decision was different.

This issue, in fact, seemed far more important than a choosing a major.

Questions for Discussion…

1. What matters most to you as you consider a career: craft, culture or cause?

2. Which of the three follows in second place and third place?

3. How can you apply this answer to a field of interest?

May these thoughts and questions help your students as they continue to find their place.

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