GatorCast Ep. 5: What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? - An interview with Josh Staffieri
By College Relations, Media Services and the Office of the President, March 7, 2019
President Johnson: Welcome to Green River College's GatorCast. I'm Suzanne Johnson, president at Green River College. Today, we are with Josh Staffieri, our career specialist here at Green River College, and our topic is career exploration, figuring out who you are, where you're going, where you want to go, and how you're going to get there. So before we get started with all of the details of our exploration today, Josh, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you located on our campus and how do students find you?
Josh Staffieri: Good morning Dr. J. Thank you, yes. So again, I'm Josh, and I work in the Career and Advising Center. That's located here on campus in the Student Affairs building, and that's room 104. We're the main level, and our phone number is 253-833-9111, extension 2641. A little bit about me. I was a first gen college student, didn't know what I was doing with my life. Woke up one day my first year in college freaking out, thinking, what am I doing here? And through a process of events, including an on-campus job at the Career Center down in beautiful San Diego, I began to realize, this is an actual job itself and I could use my skills in counseling, listening and empathy to help other students figure out their purpose and what they're doing with their life.
President Johnson: Excellent. Thank you very much. All right, so let's get into the material today. How do we figure out where we're going and what we do in our lives. So many of the students I've met being here at Green River, that's a question that comes up oftentimes when we're talking over Pizza with the President, and I'll ask them, so what are you studying, what are you interested in? And they'll say, I don't know and I don't know how to figure this out and you can tell that they're feeling stressed out and for the students who are listening today, it's a stressful situation to feel like you don't know who you are, where you're going. But I'm thinking this is a pretty normal experience for a college student.
Josh Staffieri: They're more normal than you might expect. Some different research shows it's 40 upwards to 75% of students starting college don't know what they want to do just yet. So you're definitely not alone.
President Johnson: Not alone. And what's great to be able to say then is, this is normal.
Josh Staffieri: Correct.
President Johnson: It's normal not to know. It's normal to have these questions. And that's actually why you're in college.
Josh Staffieri: Correct. So once you're here though, it's a great time to explore, not just classes, but really who you are. And so the first question I ask students a lot of times is just that, first thing's first, who are you? What do you enjoy? What are your interests? What are your talents? What do you, what's your personality?
President Johnson: Right. Excellent. So here's a question for you. Where does a student start?
Josh Staffieri: Excellent question. It really depends on where they're at, which can be difficult to assess too. But I like to kind of equate this whole process. One being a process, and two, kind of like dating, right. So first thing's first, you have to know who you are, right. You need to know your interest, your strengths, your personality. Then you can begin to explore what options might relate to who you are. And people don't hopefully go around dating random people, right. They want to pick someone that they have a lot in common with. So it's the same with career exploration. So first thing's first, do you know who you are? And at the college we have a lot of resources to help you do that.
President Johnson: So let's talk about some of those. So knowing who you are. So many students are at a place in their life in terms of their growing up and developing and being young adults or actually maybe even mid-year, mid-life adults, and they're discovering who they are, where their interests are. What resources are available for them in terms of having more self discovery and more clarity about where they're going?
Josh Staffieri: Definitely. And like you said, there are a lot of different people at different places. So you can be Running Start student and still trying to figure out who you are separate from your family, separate from your friends. There might be family pressure to do a certain type of job or a major, or maybe you've had a job for 10, 15, 20 years and you've kind of, associate yourself with that job and so maybe you've lost that job you've had long term and now are trying to reassess, well who am I without this job.
We have a couple of tools in the Career and Advising Center that can help you do this. And we have some basic assessments. We have a tool we pay for, it's called WOIS, WOIS.org. It's been around for a long time. It's a great place to start. You can do some basic assessments and it's really better for looking up job information, salaries. Is this job growing, is it declining? What's this job do? What schools provide this training. Because we'd love for you to be at Green River College, but there might be some opportunities that we don't have here, and it's good to know that too.
President Johnson: So now where do you find this resource? Do you have to come to the Career and Advising Office, which is located on our ground floor of Student Affairs and Success building?
Josh Staffieri: Correct, yeah. Student Affairs building, looks like maybe an old ski lodge, if you want to try to find us on campus for the first time. And in the office we can give you the website. Again, it's WOIS.org. There's a site key required because it does require a fee for us to pay for it. We can give you that site key by coming to campus, and then it's free for do you use it for as long as you'd like.
President Johnson: So let's talk about some other resources.
Josh Staffieri: So besides WOIS, which again is a great place to start, but the assessments on WOIS are free. I mean, you don't pay for it, so you kind of get what you pay for. They're very basic. We have some other ones that are what we call professional assessments, and off campus it might cost you easily two, $300 to take an assessment and they have someone meet with you and break it down together, like we can do at Green River. But the three include the Strong Interest Inventory. That's really popular. That looks at your interest and instead of looking at your interest compared to jobs, question might be, do you want cut down trees? You say, yes. Great, you should be a forester. The Strong goes way more in depth than that. The Strong compares those interests to people already in jobs they like. So you're not being compared to jobs, you're being compared to people with the same interest as you. And again, for students, we charge just $20 to take that. And for right now, for brand new students, zero to 30 credits, we're offering that for free.
President Johnson: So if I'm a student that's just starting out or thinking about enrolling and I'm about to enroll, I can take this interest inventory and everybody, when we talk about an interest inventory, what we're really talking about is a questionnaire.
Josh Staffieri: Correct.
President Johnson: And they're asking you questions about what you enjoy, what you don't enjoy, things that you find to be interesting, or not. And they cluster your answers around different kinds of categories. So these aren't hard tests or anything like that. This is just questionnaires that you might even find in magazines kind of structure where you rate things on a one to five point scale, most like or least like.
Josh Staffieri: Correct.
President Johnson: So these are not hard tests to take, there's no grade. Now you mentioned that there are three resources.
Josh Staffieri: Yes, we have…
President Johnson: The strength inventory.
Josh Staffieri: So we have two more. So in addition to the Strong Interest Inventory, a second one we provide is called the Myers Briggs, MBTI. And maybe you've heard that in the past. It's been around for a long time as well. And there's a lot of free ones you can take online. You get a four letter code talking about your type of personality. Are you energized around others or more alone? Do you see the big picture or are you more detail oriented? So look at these four different areas of your personality. Then they give you some suggestions based upon what might be a better fit. Where do people with your personality end up in jobs.
President Johnson: So for people like you who studied psychology and psychology of course, is my background as well, the Myers Briggs is something that we're well versed in. We understand it. For our listeners, you all know that people vary, right. We differ, and so we each have different kinds of personalities. And some people are more outgoing, some people like to be more to themselves. Well, if you're a very outgoing person and you like a lot of social contact, sometimes having a job that keeps you in a cubicle at a desk without much social interaction may not be a job that's especially fulfilling. And Josh, I think you're talking about the benefit of Myers Briggs being able to identify some broad categories of how people differ, whether we're more outgoing or not, whether we like to see big picture or we really enjoy detail, as being one of the ways in which we can help guide individuals in finding things that will best suit their interests and the way they like to live their life.
Josh Staffieri: Correct. I think a good point you bring up too is that these are great resources. They're not crystal balls. They're not going to zap your mind. It's not a test, and it'll give you some suggestions based upon your responses. And so it's best to go through these with an open mind and just answer them honestly and spontaneously. There again, and they're a great first step.
President Johnson: Right.
Josh Staffieri: Right.
President Johnson: So what's our third resource? You said there were three.
Josh Staffieri: Yeah. So of all three, this is one of my personal favorite. It's through the Gallup organization. And basically what they've done is, instead of looking at what's wrong with you, they're looking at what's right with you. And this is called the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment, and we call it StrengthsQuest on campus because that's their higher education division. But it's looking at your top five natural talents, and then based upon those talents, what might be better fits for jobs, careers. And here's the really neat part of why I like it a lot, too. Even how to use your talents in class here on campus.
President Johnson: So when you talk about talents, give me some examples of what you would refer to?
Josh Staffieri: Definitely. Well, by definition, a talent is just your natural reoccurring patterns of your thoughts, behaviors and feelings. So really five words used to describe you. And once you know what those are, and I ask a lot of students and I get it, ask the question, what's one thing you do better than anybody else on campus? Maybe because they're shy, bashful, but they don't know the answer to this question. And so talents might include things like communication. Are you able to tell a great story and break things down for people? If you have that strength, great. Then what jobs, right, value and benefit from someone who can communicate clearly? Well, a lot of jobs do. But if you look at, let's see an example, public relations for that. That's also where the interests come into mind, too. So maybe you have a strength of communication, but then that question might be, where do I want to use that strength of communication. And so a lot of times it's looking at multiple pieces of who you are. Again, kind of like dating, right. You're looking at yourself in different angles to see what you want out there as well.
President Johnson: So let's do a little recap here. A lot of our students don't know what they're interested in. They don't know what they'd like to study. They don't know what their career options are. So first step that they should take is to go over to the Student Affairs building, go to the Career and Advising Center.
Josh Staffieri: Uh-huh.
President Johnson: And ask for you, Josh.
Josh Staffieri: OK.
President Johnson: And make an appointment. You can set them up with resources that they can look at online, whether that's career opportunities or some different kinds of questionnaires they can take in terms of finding more things out about themselves in terms of interests, likes, talents. Then what?
Josh Staffieri: Excellent question. So once you have an understanding of who you are, the next step and process would be more of that exploratory. So now I have some information to go off of. So I've learned about myself. I'm someone who likes to help people directly. I have strong empathy, and so I look at what jobs might benefit from that. So what you can do, we have Woice again, where I can now research jobs. So look up counseling jobs, I can look up teaching jobs, I can look up jobs in healthcare. Why do these jobs pay? What do they do in greater detail? Once I look at more information, kind of like the jobs' bio, I'm looking at who I want to, here's my options of dating. I'm looking at their bios and then I take it one step further after doing that research, is go experience it directly. Why do I want to be a teacher? Have you been to a classroom and volunteered? Have you even asked our faculty who teach those classes, could I meet with you during office hours? Could I sit in on a class and observe what you're teaching about this subject?
So things might look good on paper, you might take the assessment and score really high in a certain type of job. For me, it was elementary educator. And so I tried that job out. Thankfully, my teacher for one of my classes said, Josh, before changing majors, go look at this job. As a TA, teacher assistant for just one month, I ended up quitting early because I learned very quickly it was not a good fit for me, even though it scored high on my interest, I loved my class in education, but I learned through the experience I like more critical thinking and working at the college would be a better fit for me. So taking these, information from the assessments, researching them further and then exploring them directly.
President Johnson: So one of the interesting things that you bring up now is in terms of career exploration and figuring out where you're going in your life, one of the main ways in which students figure this out is by taking courses in various areas. And I know sometimes students have asked me, why do I need to take courses in English or arts or why do I have to take a math class, or why do I have to take a science class because they have interests in other areas or stronger interests in other areas. But one of the benefits of sampling different courses across different areas is to find out whether those courses are confirming, yes, I really do like these topic areas, or no, I really don't. And helps clarify for that student. So trying things out, sampling things out in coursework, in the classes you choose from term to term is one of the best ways to help clarify and get more direction.
Josh Staffieri: Oh, definitely. I meet a lot of students who are looking to go into medicine or healthcare and they take a class in biology and might find out, I love this. Or they might find out the hard way, this is not the best area for me, I'm not succeeding. And so then we ask the question, so what drew you to healthcare to begin with? Well, it was helping people. Well again, there's a lot of jobs that can do that, but yeah, for some people they take the class and realize, wow, this is great, this is exciting. What more can I learn about this topic? And it gives them that motivation to continue.
President Johnson: When's the right time for somebody to be exploring their career and academic futures?
Josh Staffieri: Well, I have an appointment at 10:30 today. It's still open. You can come talk to me. But now would be a good time, right. I always say, I jokingly say, it's never too early, it's never too late, but now is the best time. So again, it's do you know who you are? Do you really know your interests? Can you tell someone your top three strengths? If you can't do these things, now's a good time to explore that. This is a great safe place to do it. Again, we don't expect you to have all the answers. That's why you're going to school. 40 to 70% of students don't know what they want to do, but you can't let that be an excuse to not explore at the same time. You're here for a reason and when you know what you want to do, here's the best part. It keeps you motivated, right. So when classes get tough, even my psychology classes I took as a major, at times, they were tough, but I knew what I was shooting for. I knew my goal, so it kept pushing me.
President Johnson: So I think it's really important again, for all of you students who are listening to this podcast today, it is a normal thing to not have a clear vision of where you're going next after Green River or for that matter, knowing what you truly want to study further past the couple of years you might be with us. This is a typical way of being, especially for those of you who are in young adulthood. If you're between 18, 17, 18 to 24 years of age, the questions of who you are, where you're going, where you want to go and how you'll get there is absolutely the normal set of questions that everyone at this age asks. And here's a secret for all of you between 17, 18 and 24. People in their 30s, people in their 40s, people in their 50s and beyond ask these questions of themselves…
Josh Staffieri: Correct.
President Johnson: Every so often.
Josh Staffieri: Correct, yeah.
President Johnson: So here's a question I'd love to ask you, Josh. And it's something that I've had a lot of experience with students as well. It seems to me that sometimes students feel like they need to figure out their entire life now when they're 21, 22, 24, 25, and that then creates a huge amount of pressure on themselves. They feel like they've got to come up with the answer for their life, for the, forever and ever. How realistic is that?
Josh Staffieri: Again, I get it, having been there in the past myself and there could be pressures from family, friends, again thinking everybody else has made this decision and knows what they're doing, when in reality, they haven't. But here's, and it's hard sometimes for me, it's looking back in hindsight. And again, if you're 16 to 24, you may not have as much hindsight just yet, but please, yeah, keep in mind that no job is perfect, right. There are days I don't want to be here. I'll be honest. But most days I do. And that's the difference, most. Because I have spent time figuring out who I am and looking at what options are a better choice.
In addition, there's different seasons of life. I haven't always been a single young male. I'm now married, I have three children. So things can change over time as well. New jobs occur or get created over time. So sometimes you can't even predict the job title. And really as a career planner, that's not my goal. My goal is to really help you understand why you're making these decisions, knowing who you are. Five, 10 years from now, there'll be new jobs with robotics, artificial intelligence, that we can't even predict yet. So how can you shoot for that job if it's not even in existence? But the important thing is really knowing who you are so you can make better choices, not the perfect choice, that does not exist, but a better, strong choice.
President Johnson: So would you say for all the students out there listening that when they're thinking about the questions of what do I want to study, what do I want to be when I grow up, that the most effective way to answer that question is to think about the answer to that question, what do I want to do for who they are right now.
Josh Staffieri: Correct.
President Johnson: But keep in mind that 10 years from now, they might be a different person, have different interests. The world might be a different place, and they might need to or want to change.
Josh Staffieri: Correct, yeah. I mean, I don't think people change overnight, right. But I think you can begin to explore right now because it's a process. If it was a simple matter of busting out my crystal ball for every student, I wouldn't be here. I'd be in the corner making a million bucks doing that, but it's not, it's a process. And you're right, I meet with students in their 40s, 50s, 60s that will jokingly say, I don't know who I want to be when I grow up, right.
President Johnson: Well, I'm still asking that question. What do I want to do when I grow up, right.
Josh Staffieri: Right. But again, I think a big part of that helpful resource is knowing who you are, right. Knowing what you like so you can seek out opportunities. For example, students come in looking for a job, I'll ask them, what kind of job are you looking for? And they'll say, I don't know, I just need a job. Well, for me, it makes it really hard then to know what to look for. But they come in saying, I want a job that's in an office working eight to five in a business environment. Then my mind begins to think, who do I know doing that? It's the same with you. If you just go into it with a blank open mind, then how do you know what majors, what programs, what classes to even take without knowing more about who you are.
President Johnson: So if you had three most important pieces of advice that you could give to a Green River College student today who's listening, saying, well, this is about me, I don't know what I'm wanting to do when I get out of school here, I know I should be transferring or I'm gonna be looking for a job, but I have no idea what I'm doing here, why I'm here. What would be three of the most important pieces of advice you could give to our listeners today?
Josh Staffieri: Well, I love what you said more than once today already is, you're not alone. I think a lot of students feel that this is something that's wrong with them. Like, why haven't I figured this out yet, what's wrong with me? Why can't I get this answered? And so again, that's really important to know is, you're not alone, right. A second thing is to know that we have resources on campus for that very reason, knowing there's a lot of students that don't have this answer. And it's not just me, right, in the Career and Advising Center. Again, it's our faculty. Office hours, they're happy to talk with you. This is not something that you have to do on your own. Our advisors. Getting involved on campus, student activities. You might learn a lot about yourself by being the vice president of a club. Maybe you enjoy leading people, maybe you learn you don't enjoy leading people. You like more the administration taking notes part, you're more detail oriented. Even simple things you might take for granted can be a great insight into your future. And the third process is just that. This is a process, it's not a one time deal. I don't take one class and figure it out. I don't take a single assessment. Ta-da, I've got my top 10 jobs, this is it. By no means is that how it works out. These are resources and tools to help you along the way because as we've just talked about, things can change, right. I'm now a father of three children. I can't be doing the job I had when I was 21 without kids, but that, you can't predict, things are going to happen.
President Johnson: So let's circle back to a couple of, I love your advice. I'm going to write it down for myself as well. And let's go back though to these other resources, right, another piece of advice. There's a lot of people on our campus that are here and available, not just Josh Staffieri in Student Affairs who's our career specialist, right. You mentioned other advisers. We have many advisors at our college, and where are they located, Josh?
Josh Staffieri: Most of them are going to be in the same building I'm in, in fact, in the same office, the Career and Advising Center.
President Johnson: Mm-hmm.
Josh Staffieri: We also have an office here on campus called TRiO that can meet with you if you qualify for their advising, and that's very hands on, very one-on-one. We have the MESA Center on campus if you're looking to go into science, technology, math. We have a disability advisor on campus. We have bachelor programs advisors on campus. We have a lot of people for different programs here on campus to do that with.
President Johnson: Right. I'm thinking, especially in the context of you, me, everyone who works here at the college, we are prospective people that students can sit and speak with and talk about questions and wonderings about how we got to where we are or what they might want to be doing in their future. So in some ways, I think every staff member or faculty member at this college are prospective advisors for our students. The other group though that you mentioned are our faculty. These are our course instructors. Students out there. your course instructors are not just here to share with you their knowledge of a particular content area. These are individuals that have had their own life journeys. They've identified a career in education and as being a college professor, a college faculty member, and now they're here in the classroom. These are individuals that might very well have some of the most important information for you in terms of your career exploration. Can you talk a little bit Josh, about the role of faculty and our classroom instructors in student advising.
Josh Staffieri: A lot of times I meet with students, we'll maybe come up with a couple of areas they're considering. Let's say it's physical therapy. We have a physical therapist assistant program on campus here. Great program, very competitive though at the same time. And so I'll ask a student, have you ever gone through physical therapy yourself? And some may say yes, and some say won't. But I'll say, well, guess what? We have faculty on campus that not only teach that subject but work in physical therapy. They can give you their perspective. And another little hidden, a golden nugget that they don't think about is they know other people in physical therapy they can recommend and refer to talk with as well. So talking with the faculty, and you might even ask, hey, could I sit on a class to experience what this might look like if I pursued this further. So they can give you their information, their background in working in the industry directly. They have other colleagues I guarantee that work in the industry, they can get more information. It's good to get it from at least two resources, right. And then of course, maybe you can sit in on the class and experience it without having to take the class just yet at the same time.
President Johnson: So we like to, at the wrapping up of episodes, give our listeners some next steps or actions. And of course, one of the actions is everybody listening, please subscribe to GatorCast, and you can do that by going to GreenRiver.edu/GatorCast, G-A-T-O-R-C-A-S-T. But our listeners today in terms of where am I going, what am I doing with my life, what am I going to be when I grow up, what are the next action steps, Josh, you want all of our listeners to take today?
Josh Staffieri: Well, so if you're coming to Green River College, part of that process will be the in-person orientation session. At the same time, we give you, we ask the question, do you know why you're here, right. We're honestly curious to know and want you to succeed. So through that process of the new student in-person orientation, we can give you the link again to take the assessment, the Strong, look at that for free, or even just come by our office. I meet with people who aren't even students yet, who are not even sure they're going to be prospective students. So you can also just stop by the Career and Advising Center. Again, the Student Affairs building. You can call us. Our extension on campus is 2641.
President Johnson: And if you're calling from off campus?
Josh Staffieri: That would be 253-833-9111, extension 2641. Again, the Career and Advising Center, and the front desk would be glad to get you set up with our free assessments, our paid assessments. Make an appointment with me just to talk about anything before taking the assessment. So we're a great resource on campus to get started.
President Johnson: Excellent. All right, so all our student listeners today, keep in mind, you're not alone. You can do this. The fact that you don't know what you might want to be doing tells me you're in exactly the right place. That's why you go to college.
Josh Staffieri: Yes.
President Johnson: To figure it out, to get more training and education and get on your way with your life. I want to thank Josh Staffieri for being with us today.
Josh Staffieri: My pleasure, thank you.
President Johnson: And Gators out there, let's do this day, tomorrow too. You will succeed. You can do this. Thank you for listening.