Creative Students and Career Path Needs

By Kate Siner Francis

Many creative children are taught from a very young age that there is no real place for them to shine. From a young age, these children are trying to learn skills to which their talents are not applicable. As a result, these adolescents are frequently unable to create a satisfying future career. Career counselors are in a position to effect significant change in the lives of creative adolescents but often lack the understanding of this population that would make their interventions more effective.

There have been virtually no studies about creative thinking in adolescents. Most studies have focused on adult creativity leaving practitioners only with an understanding of those who managed to succeed. In fact, most of these studies only focus on the experiences of eminently creative people. Because of their focus, these studies do not offer insights into the dissatisfaction that many creative young people experience on their career path as a result of not being understood.

Creative Traits in Students

            It is vital that career counselor be familiar with the characteristics of creative adolescents. The following is a list of creative traits that can help career counselors spot the creative students they will encounter:

  • Achievement discrepancies: A creative youth often does not perform consistently. A students test-taking skills might be horrible, making them vulnerable to obtaining a low score, but that same student might do extremely well on an individual project. In addition, adults might comment that these students do not seem to be living up to there potential.
  • Behavioral discrepancies: As an adolescent, students with creative personalities might be perfectly "well behaved" and then do something "completely out of character." Mislabeling a creative student as a troublemaker, which can often be the result of this behavior, will limit the student's ability to find their way in the world. Career counselors can be instrumental in directing their creativity during the critical adolescent years.
  • Gender ambiguity: Csikszentmihalyi states that creative people frequently exhibit characteristics of both genders. Even though, young students try harder to fit in with their peers and, therefore, may not be as likely to boldly demonstrate this trait, the trait of gender ambiguity might be a clue that the counselor is observing a creative individual.
  • Mood disorders: Creative students frequently exhibit a larger spectrum of moods than others who are not as creative. These moods may or may not be a symptom of a mood disorder.  However, it is important that career counselors are aware that creative students are likely to demonstrate a larger degree of mood related symptoms.
  • Isolation or sensitivity: Many creative students make themselves known through dress or affinity to particular groups.  If the student has found a peer group, he or she is likely more satisfied than one who has not. It is important for career counselors to be on the watch for creative students, who have not identified themselves, yet, as such.
  • Unseen Intelligence: Creative students, who frequently try new things and need opportunities to do so, will, also, frequently and necessarily fail. In worst-case scenarios, their bungled attempts at finding new solutions to the problems presented to them are only seen as failures not as budding creative insights. This can lead them to believe that they are not intelligent, even when, research shows that this is not the case. As a result, they may fail to consider career paths that would help to maximize their creativity.

Career Counselors' Role

            Once career counselors can identify creative students, they can play an instrumental role in assisting them to achieve a greater understanding of their gifts and most importantly, the application of these gifts in the world. The support that the creative student receives has a big impact on his or her sense of self worth and selection of a future career.

  • Career counselors can help adolescents who do not yet see themselves as creative to understand their ways of thinking, feeling, and working. This understanding of themselves, aided by the career counselor, may allow them to more confidently explore the world of work.
  • Whether it is gender ambiguity or other less unusual personality traits, career counselors can help by offering understanding and support for the uniqueness of the student with whom they are working.
  • Career counselors can be an advocate for adolescents, who are in jeopardy of being labeled and marginalized because of their behavior, and help to get these adolescents back on track through helping to focus the adolescent in a more productive direction.
  • A career counselor, who notices mood disorders in those adolescents, with whom they are working, can help them understand how their moods interface with their creativity or send them to a counselor, who can help them do so.

In conclusion, career counselors are poised to provide essential guidance to a frequently misunderstood or overlooked group -the creative adolescent. Once career counselors have determined that they are working with a creative adolescent, they can teach the student how to leverage his or her skills and apply them in ways to maximize his or her future career success. Career counselors of creative students will be able to provide suitable career choices and provide these adolescents with opportunities for career satisfaction.

Kate Siner FrancisKate Siner Francis, Ph.D., has a private practice in Providence, Rhode Island, in which, she, in part, helps creative individuals find life and career satisfaction. She can be reached at kate@largervisions.com or visit www.largervisions.com


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