Four Big Differences Between the Career Treasure Hunt and Career Navigation Mindsets

During my previous post, I examined the quickly changing industry of paid driving, and how disruptive technology apps like Uber and Lyft and new autonomous driving vehicles will continue to cause workforce disruptions.  The driving industry is a great example of the ongoing shifts that are happening all across the U.S. workforce landscape.

Our workers need to be adaptable so they can grow and pivot when change comes upon them.  This adaptability is a mindset issue and there are two primary mindsets to career development.  One is the “Treasure Hunt” approach which sees a career as a hidden treasure that the individual is meant to discover once and for all time.  The other is a Navigation mindset, where the individual sees his work and career as part of a life journey.  The journey involves discovering more about myself, continually developing my skills and knowledge and personal character, and moving toward opportunities to deploy my talents in a meaningful way that benefit others.

Here are some contrasts between the Career Treasure Hunt mindset and the Career Navigation mindset.

Career Treasure Hunt: Discover a career Career Navigation: Move from one port of call to the next

1.  The Soul-Mate Career

1.  There must be a dream job or “soul-mate” career out there for me.  I need to find it, but that’s a lot of pressure to get it right!



1.  There are several careers that I could be good at.  I need to keep experimenting and being open to new opportunities.  It’s ok to get a job that’s not a great fit – as long as I learn something from the experience that I take with me on my career journey.

2.  The “Sorting Hat” Career Assessment (a la Harry Potter)

2.  This career interest assessment is going to tell me what kind of job or career I’m suited for. 2.  Each career assessment is a piece of information that I’ll keep with me as I make my career journey.  It doesn’t tell me everything I need to know, but it can help guide my course.

3.  “One and Done” Decision-making

3.  I just need to figure out my career choice now so I can get it done and get on with life. 3.  There is no “one and done” approach to career planning.  Any career plan I develop only has a shelf life of about five years.  Even if I’m happy in my current job, I need to occasionally look ahead and think about future prospects and future dangers. I need to always be asking, “what’s next for me?”

4.  Picking a Cool or Fun College Major

4. I’m going to sign up for the college major that seems interesting and matches my skills and aptitudes.  If the college offers the major, there are probably good jobs available.





4. I don’t trust big decisions like a major to vague hopes about job opportunities.  Colleges offer majors and classes that they think students will sign up for, but there is no guarantee there are actually very many good jobs related to that major.  I need to first get more clarity about the career I want, the opportunities in that career, and THEN pick a major and a postsecondary provider that match up to my career interest.

So, finding a career is not a one-time Treasure Hunt; rather, it’s a lifelong journey from one destination to the next.  Ask yourself, is the career development program in my school or college teaching students to employ the Treasure Hunt approach or the Career Navigation mindset?   If it’s the former, what can we do to start reframing career development for our students?

By the way, Chapter 8 of my new book, the Power and Promise of Pathways is all about Exploring and Planning for CareersGet your copy here.

Hans Meeder is President and Foundation of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions.  (  NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems.

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