Career coach Helen Naftali shares her tricks of the trade

By Keanu Austin

As a career coach, Helene Naftali guides people toward success, but her definition of success has little to do with how many zeroes are in a paycheck. Naftali subscribes to the idea that to be successful is to be happy.

Naftali gave a presentation on her self-published book, Own Your Zone!, to a journalism class at Kean University, where she discussed what it means to discover a career that fulfills you, which she described as something akin to having an epiphany.

“Owning your zone is when you determine beyond any doubt that you’re on the right path,” Naftali said.

Owning your zone, Naftali continued, is about discovering your unique gift that helps you to define your natural talents. For Naftali, her natural talents led her to career coaching.

“I have the ability to uncover people’s blind spots,” Naftali said. “My zone is tying my gift into helping people out.”

Naftali discovered her own zone after many years working in finance—a career that enriched her, but left her less than fulfilled. In mid-life, she returned to college for a master’s degree in social work. During a class activity, she learned she loved to facilitate and help fellow students.  It was her natural gift—her zone.

How do you find your zone? One way, she said, is to value what the people who know you well have to say.

“We can’t be objective about ourselves,” Naftali said.

Asking others what they think about us, Naftali said, can result in us learning things we never knew about ourselves. This information can lead people to the right career for them, she said.

Naftali’s book, which she describes as a wake-up call to parents, students and educators, has the goal of setting students on the right path as early as college. Students need to know more about themselves, which will lead them to the right academic major, courses and activities.

“Our students are floundering as they navigate the maze of college to career!” the back cover of the book reads. “If we want them to lead happy, productive and successful lives, they need to start with a process of self-discovery and dig deep to find out who they really are.”

“Make college count,” is a line that came from Naftali several times throughout the lecture, emphasized with gestures. Naftali’s book is all about giving her readers what she says is the clarity and confidence they need to make a difference.

“Sixty percent of kids are taking five to six years to graduate,” Naftali said. “Seventy percent of people surveyed by Gallup [a research and analytics organization] are disengaged with their work.”

Naftali concluded the presentation with career tips, which included job shadowing various careers and doing internships.

When seeking to job shadow, she advised that students request the opportunity to observe a person as he or she works for as little as one day.  If the person declines, Naftali said to make an alternate request, in which you ask for 20 minutes of that person’s time to ask about his or her field of work. Job shadowing can save students from doing an internship in a career that they might find is not for them. Internships, Naftali said, should only be done in a job you are absolutely certain you want to do. Otherwise, she said, it is a waste of time.

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