Planning Your Career, the “Meal” Way!
By Aya El-Mir
Last spring, I was asked to talk to a group of sophomore students about career exploration. What could I say, how could I develop a workshop for them that would engage them in the process of beginning their career exploration? Yes, they were teenagers; however, they were outstanding young scholars coming from remote/rural areas who made it through an extremely challenging selection process to receive a scholarship to study at our university, one of the most expensive private universities in the region.
As always, my main focus, other than delivering the right material, is to not make my audience yawn or stare at the wall behind me or literally fall asleep. I started my preparation with one slide in mind: the classical career development process where students are presented seven different stages of career planning (mentioned below). However, I was worried they wouldn’t remember a single detail once they left the room.
1. Become aware of the need to make a decision.
2. Learn about and/or evaluate self.
3. Identify occupational activities.
4. Obtain information about identified alternatives.
5. Make tentative choices from among available occupations.
6. Make educational choices.
7. Get a job.
It was extremely important for me to relay the right message about the career development process to this group of scholars. Then I had the idea to present it to them in the form of planning their meal. I was sure to catch their attention since the presentation would be taking place before lunch time. Here’s what I said:
“Who’s hungry?” I showed those words on a slide with a growling stomach sound.
“To plan your meal, first you have to be aware of the need to eat; however, if you don’t plan your meal well, you could be eating gluttonously.”
(I showed pictures of two girls: one biting hungrily in a huge piece of cake and the other one eating voraciously from a plate of pasta.)
“And then,” I continued, “you will end up with a stomach ache!” (I showed a picture displaying a person with a stomach ache.) “Or a big fat belly!” (I showed a picture of a big fat belly.)
“To best avoid eating erratically and ending up with indigestion or even more serious health issues, you need to plan your meal properly and efficiently.”
“First, you need to become aware of the need to eat,” and I showed a picture of a person holding his stomach indicating that he is hungry.
“Second, you need to identify your current taste: do you feel like eating Italian, Lebanese, or American?” – and I showed the flag of each country.
“Third, you need to identify current alternatives for each type of food,” and I showed a picture for each type:
pasta or pizza under the Italian flag,
falafel and kebab under the Lebanese flag,
and a hamburger and a Philly steak sandwich under the American flag.
“Fourth, you need to obtain information about the identified alternatives such as Italian, Lebanese, and American restaurants in the college neighborhood,” – and I showed 2-3 restaurants for each type of food.
“Fifth, you need to make choices from among available selections, but for that you have to collect information about the taste, the cost, the reputation, and the rating of each restaurant,” – and I showed icons of an
an emoticon licking its lips,
a dollar sign, and a trip advisor logo.
“Sixth, you will have to make the choice of where to go,” – and I showed the image of a famous American diner in the neighborhood.
“And seventh, you need to know what you want to eat,” – and I showed a big, mouthwatering hamburger with fries.
It’s amazing how well the photos caught the attention of the audience. They quickly saw the connection between my eating examples and the connection to the message and goals of this career planning workshop.
The students started asking about how to link this to career planning! I had reached my goal! My audience was all ears! Finally, I linked each step of the meal planning process to the career planning process:
The outline and graphic for the Career Planning Process used above is reproduced from the Student Manual of Facilitating Career Development, copyright National Career Development Association. Reprinted with permission.
Career Convergence welcomes articles with an international connection.
Aya El-Mir is the Career Guidance Associate Manager at the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Beirut, Lebanon. She has 10 years experience in career development with an extensive background in planning and implementing career guidance related projects. She is a Career Development Facilitator, a Certified Life & Career Coach, a Certified Resume Writer, and is certified in use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory. She holds a Master of Business Administration from West Virginia University, USA and a Bachelor's degree in Business Finance and Economics from the Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon. She may be contacted at email@example.com