Potomac resident makes a living by tailoring careers
Founder of Rockport Institute coined term "career coaching"
Naomi Brookner/The Gazette
According to the Potomac-based Rockport Institute, a career coaching service, 30 to 50 percent of Americans are happy with their jobs. And institute founder Nicholas Lore says that one major reason that number is so low is because the way college students are given career advice simply isn't working.
Typical college counselors may give graduating students a few career tests and résumé help, Lore said. But what many college students don't expect, he said, is that choosing the perfect career means figuring out strengths and weaknesses, natural talents, and which work environments fit best. It also means a lot of work.
"College students just want to push a button and have the answer come to them," Lore said. "But it takes as much work as a difficult college course."
Lore himself is the picture of someone truly happy with what he does. A straight talker with an infectious laugh, Lore founded the Rockport Institute in 1981 after following a varied path. From rubbing elbows with some of the top musicians of the 1960s — living in Greenwich Village, Lore's best friend was John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful, and members of the Mamas and the Papas once took over his New York apartment after he moved out — he became the CEO of a solar energy and conservation company on the coast of Maine.
But he was restless, bored, and unhappy with his job. "I was clockwatching," Lore said. He decided to try and figure out why.
He began taking a series of aptitude tests that allowed him to reflect on his personality traits, strengths and values, and he was surprised to discover that his working style didn't mesh with that of a chief executive. With the help of his friend Richard Buckminster Fuller, a renowned architect and inventor whom he met a Maine boating club, he founded the Rockport Institute, honed methods for testing for best career matches, and coined the term "career coaching."
When a client is undergoing "natural talent testing," Lore uses 13 separate scales. Examples include testing for spatial versus non-spatial abilities — determining if someone likes to work on concrete or theoretical projects. A constitutional law professor or economist would be an example of someone who uses non-spatial skills, while a builder would use spatial skills. Another scale is high idea flow versus low idea flow. Someone who is low idea flow would be well-suited toward a career as a surgeon, because they would naturally be able to concentrate on a project for a long amount of time, Lore said.
Many people have elements of both extremes of the scales, Lore said.
At the core of the institute is the idea that one doesn't have to settle for a job that's just OK. "People just say work is work, and that's the way it's supposed to be — but that's not true," Lore said.
Lore emphasizes that a career should fit like a custom-made suit. He disputes what he calls a general belief that people can pick whatever careers they want, and as long as they are intelligent enough they should be able to catch on. "If a hawk tried to do a dove's job, it would drown within seconds," Lore said.
Lore has recently placed more of an emphasis on coaching college students, and he recently published a book entitled "Now What? The Young Person's Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career."
"Parents are spending $200,000 on a four-year education and most kids come out of it with very little certainty about their future," Lore said. He recently developed a curriculum based on the book along with his stepson, Neema Moraveji, a learning sciences doctoral student at Stanford University. Moraveji is set to teach the course, entitled "Tools for Designing a Fulfilling Career," at Stanford in the upcoming semester.
"You'd think that at a place like Stanford, people would know this stuff, or already be successful,'" Moraveji said. "But it's even more frustrating when you have a lot to give and you don't know where to aim it."
The University of California at Berkeley may also take on the course in the spring, and Lore hopes that college campuses across the country will catch on.
Lore hopes to help college students become absolutely certain about their career choices. In the face of the current economic downturn, positioning oneself as a valuable resource may provide an important buffer against downsizing and layoffs, he said. "The more certain you are, the more unstoppable you are going to be."
Lore recommends observing yourself like a "scientist who is observing an unknown creature in the forest" to try to notice things you are good at and bad at.
Ask a friend what your strengths and weaknesses are, Lore said. "Oftentimes, it's invisible to us, like water would be to a fish," he said.
Notice things you tend to avoid, and leave you feeling frustrated and bored. These things most likely don't come naturally, Lore said.
Pay attention to your hobbies. Lore said he once analyzed a bank president whose hobby was building harps in his garage. "It turns out he was highly spatial," Lore said, abilities he only used while working on hands-on projects.