What ChatGPT suggests for career decision-making

ChatCPT and open AI chatbots are currently all the rage, with potential possibilities such as generating mashups of ideas in creative ways in a manner of moments, to problems such as generating entire papers that are undetectable for plagiarism, or stealing artwork and creating derivatives without artist permission or compensation.

Can ChatGPT be helpful for would be career decision-makers? What happens if I ask ChatCPT for help? No need to wonder – I did, and here’s the response.

What do you think? Not bad advice. It’s missing the “how to’s” – like how to do a self-assessment, and the “where to’s” – like where do I research information. There’s some other aspects that career researchers and practitioners will recognize as missing right away, such as thinking about your career path to this point, considering emotions, what barriers and support you have, and that the process of making a decision is more than just making a list, checking it twice, and trying it out. But, still, the advice seems pretty solid. So, I decided to drill down on self-assessment:

Hmm – this response is VERY interesting. Why these specific assessments? How did these rise to the top of the algorithm? MBTI is listed as #1? I’ve seen the research and it’s not pretty when you look at the MBTI and career. So, I asked a follow up question:

So the MBTI and the DISC have high levels of reliability and validity? I’ve never heard that, and have often heard the opposite. So, I queried a bit more, this time asking for references.

Hmm. See that I asked for research supporting – I did not ask for “any research” or research that negated – and what I was given for the MBTI was 2 articles against. Not ONE article in support – and yet, in the earlier search, the bot stated that both had HIGH reliability and validity. What? That seems a bit contradictory, doesn’t it? The second citation for the DISC is just confusing – it’s a book from 1986, with no clear link to the DISC. If it’s been around for decades, why are the first 2 citations given for it decades old and not particularly relevant? And do you see the takeaway for both? Should be used with caution? Yet, these were among the top 5 recommended?

What should be the takeaway? Once again, it seems like the AI chatbot COULD be useful for people wanting to make career decisions, but at the same time, has CLEAR LIMITATIONS and PROBLEMS. Most individuals will not ask the AI for the psychometric properties of an inventory, and if they did, they probably also wouldn’t ask for references – and if they did, they might see references posted and assume those references actually supported their statements. I have found the thought/reference citation matching to be way off and clearly wrong in some cases, on other AI searches I have conducted. More importantly, the AI’s advice is straightforward and simple, and while many career decision-makers can likely follow those steps and come to an informed career decision, the process of career decision-making is often more complex than this – otherwise our clients wouldn’t seek help if it was that easy. Research (e.g., Hayden & Osborn, Walker & Peterson) has repeatedly shown how other issues such as mental health, negative career thoughts, and external experiences such as discrimination, socio-economic status, and the like all impact our ability to make career decisions -and yet the bot did not acknowledge these. While they did suggest talking with a career practitioner(Yay!)- they didn’t share how to find one (Boo!).

As a career practitioner, it’s important to be aware that just as patients may google their symptoms and self-diagnose before seeing a doctor, our clients may do some searching online about how to make a career decision and come in bearing the outputs of the AI’s advice. I see this as similar to when someone takes a “color” test or a Facebook survey that tells them the career they should pursue and brings it in. You don’t insult the client by dismissing the results altogether, but instead use it as a launchpad for discussion. What did the “results” say that resonated with you? Would you like to take a different inventory that has been developed and researched for career interests (or skills, or values, etc.) or try a different approach (like card sorts, or writing your career story) to see what that might reveal?

It’s also part of our responsibility to help clients evaluate information about self and options (Sampson et al., 2018)- not in a preachy kind of way, but demonstrating how some of the information can be accurate and some of it may not be, and how to sift through it. This could be done by modeling, and searching, in the moment, online with the client and the practitioner speaking outloud as they evaluate links that come up (oh, this looks like it is a sponsored site or this is by the author, so that information is likely biased, or this was published in 1986 – wonder if there’s anything newer).

All in all, ChatGPT and AI chatbots are ultimately a tool that some clients will use to help them in their career decision-making process. It appears that some of the information is appropriate and may be helpful. We may never see those clients in our office. For some, that information will prove to be overwhelming as they seek to follow the straightforward steps, and that may lead them to knock on our door. In that case, the online conversation was the impetus to get help, so a net positive.

But what about those who are overwhelmed, and see this as yet another failure or additional proof that they can’t make good decisions – and as a result believe that seeking help will likely ending up in the same outcome? This is troubling. Perhaps our professional associations can seek to provide guidance to the AI developers to include that will encourage information and guidance seekers to seek support from professionals, or at least let them know that such support exists. Maybe as practitioners, we need to be more proactive in asking our clients about their online exploration. Ignoring it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Bring it into the discussion. Don’t demonize ChatGPT but don’t canonize it either. It’s one resource among many – and it’s how we use it that will affect the outcome.

Hayden, S. C., & Osborn, D. S. (2020). Impact of worry on career thoughts, career decision state, and cognitive information processing-identified skills. Journal of Employment Counseling, 57(4), 163-177. https://doi.org/10.1002/joec.12152  

Sampson J. P., Jr., Osborn, D., Kettunen, J., Hou, P-C., Miller, A. K., & Makela, J. P. (2018). The validity of socially-constructed career information. Career Development Quarterly, 66(2), 121-134. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_libsubv1_scholarship_submission_1521225668_d3959a6c doi:10.1002/cdq.12127

Walker, J. V., III, & Peterson, G. W. (2012). Career thoughts, indecision, and depression: Implications for mental health assessment in career counseling. Journal of Career Assessment, 20, 497–506. https:// doi .org/10 .1177/1069072712450010 

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