Innovators in Online Learning: Introducing CareerSMARTZ–Career Guidance that Produces Problem-solvers Capable of Higher Levels of Personal and Career Success



gonyeaJames C. Gonyea, Career Development Specialist
40+ years of experience in career development
Author of 10 books and software programs on career selection, job hunting and career success
Author of the Perfect Career Interest Inventory and Career Quest Inventory
Developer/Host: America Online (AOL) Career Center
Past Director of Career Development Services at St. Petersburg College
Past college career counselor, advisor and instructor
Founder/President: Gonyea & Associates
Host: Internet Career Connection (
Co-Host: CareerSMARTZ website (
Consultant to America Online,, Apple eWorld, Walt Disney World, Pearson Education

goldsmithLarry Goldsmith, Career and Workforce Specialist
20 Years’ experience as a Self-employed Professional Résumé Writer and Job Coach
Worked with over 25,000 job seekers and those seeking to find a different career path
Author of Building the Looking-Glass Résumé book
Co-authored with James Gonyea “ America’s Top 200 Jobs”
Creator of the Jaazle Resume Writing and Job Search Systems
Led Career Development Services at St. Petersburg Colleg
Certified Personal Empowerment by Type Facilitator (P.E.T.)
Certified SCORE Business Mentor  (Counselors to America’s Small Business)
College Professor (Career and Life Planning/Study Skills and College Experience)
Former Workforce Development One Stop Career Centers Administrator
Co-host: CareerSMARTZ website (

As difficult as it is, figuring out what to do is only part of the unknown faced by career planners. Other important questions include, “What’s your mission once you figure out a career direction?” “Why do you want to pursue the career that you’ve chosen?”  “Who will benefit from your work and why?” Failing to answer all of these questions has resulted in many students and adults achieving lower levels of personal and career success than anticipated. The ramifications of such outcomes bear negatively on self, family, corporate America, and our society.

Luckily, seasoned experts in career guidance, James Gonyea and Larry Goldsmith, have developed a program to help individuals maximize the personal rewards that can come from an intelligently chosen, properly undertaken, and purposefully-driven career, while also benefiting their career field and community.

In this interview, James Gonyea will share the story behind the creation of CareerSMARTZ, a career guidance program, which he and Larry developed to guide high school and college students and adults in developing higher levels of career intelligence that in turn can produce higher levels of career success and personal satisfaction. He will share why he created this program and why he felt it was important to make it free and available via Open Educational Resources (OERs).

SoftChalk: Why did you create your career guidance program, CareerSMARTZ, and why is its mission important to you?

James: CareerSMARTZ was created to respond to several negative trends that we observed growing in intensity:

  • The increasing number of adults who were expressing dissatisfaction with their careers.

  • The high percentage (as high as 50%+ in some surveys) of 4-year college graduates who were accepting jobs that did not require a college education resulting in wasted career opportunities, lower income, and college loans that could not be repaid.

  • Our observations that the career guidance services offered in many high schools and colleges were “short-sighted” in design meaning that while they typically taught the “mechanics” of career guidance (i.e. how to select a career goal, write a resume, conduct a job search, etc.) they did not instruct students in the importance of creating a “mission” or “purpose” for their life’s work. Specifically, a mission that would bring about increased benefits to their career field, our society in general, and higher levels of personal career satisfaction and success.

Understanding the negative impact these conditions have on the productivity of the American workforce, the quality of life in America, and the level of personal success and happiness that can come from one’s work, we developed the CareerSMARTZ program to help reverse these trends.

SoftChalk: How did you do about creating it? Describe the process and timeline.

James: Larry and I both have a long history in career and employment guidance (at least 40 years each) and because we worked together at the same college, we often discussed the main issues in career development and how they could be resolved. Our conversations turned into daily discussions that lasted for several years. As we examined the career-related problems inherent in today’s world and how to resolve them a new strategy of career guidance evolved which we ultimately called CareerSMARTZ.

Our goal was to create a complete A-Z program of career guidance that was built around the themes of “Find a need and fill it” and “problem-solvers are the most valuable workers” to produce employees who can bring the most benefit to their work and from it be rewarded with higher levels of personal satisfaction and success. We wanted a “ready-to-go” program that could be adopted fully—or partially—by high school and college career professionals.

SoftChalk: What are the main goals of someone completing the CareerSMARTZ program?

James: There are four main goals of CareerSMARTZ. The first goal (Expand the Content of Career Guidance Instruction) to include guiding students and adults in:

(1) Personal assessment—defining who you are as an individual (interests, skills, values, personality traits, etc.) to establish “criteria” for use in making successful and rewarding career decisions and plans.

(2) Occupational cross-walking—identifying occupations that offer the best opportunities for matching your career criteria, especially those jobs most in demand.

(3) Career selection and mission planning—selecting a career path and developing a mission objective that will satisfy your career criteria while bringing value to your profession and contribution to the American workforce and society.

(4) Identifying the most in-demand employment opportunities—identifying the most widespread problems and needs inherent in your chosen career field and directing your energies—as a problem-solver—towards solving those needs.

(5) Selecting the right employment education and/or training—selecting the right education and/or training program and other criteria necessary to qualify for entrance into your chosen career field.

(6) Defining your talent (Professional Brand)—through the use of critical thinking, brain-storming, networking, research, and problem-solving, define a strategy that offers promise for solving the most in-demand problems inherent in your chosen career field.

(7) Finding and securing employment—learning how to identify employers who need your talent and how to present yourself to those employers that will result in offers of employment, and to be able to repeat this procedure several times throughout your career as your career criteria and/or workplace conditions change.

(8) Legacy building—Upon retirement, to leave a record of your career body of knowledge and assist in teaching or training the next generation of workers.

The second goal (Produce Better Career Problem-Solvers) includes the addition of critical thinking, innovation, research, and networking training exercises into as many steps of the CareerSMARTZ program as possible to produce higher functioning career problem-solvers.

The third goal (Advocacy) is to improve the understanding of the importance of career guidance in secondary and post-secondary education, and to bring about a wider realization that the ultimate success of students requires equal exposure to both academics and career guidance.

The fourth goal (Institutional Success) is to improve the rates of college admissions, student retention, and graduation which can come from student participation in a proper program of career guidance.

SoftChalk: How does CareerSMARTZ differ from the aptitude tests many are familiar with?

James: An aptitude test relates only to one aspect of a career guidance program. If it were the only tool of career exploration and guidance used when guiding individuals, it would miss the wider content of a proper program of career guidance. CareerSMARTZ covers all aspects of a professionally developed career guidance program.

SoftChalk: Other than your program, are there career guidance programs available to high school and college students? Has their availability changed over the years?

James: Yes, there exist many programs of career guidance in high schools and colleges today—some developed by career guidance experts and practicing professionals, and, unfortunately, some developed by non-skilled workers who have been assigned to work in career guidance services. As a result, some programs have evolved properly over the years, while others still seem stuck in the earlier days of career guidance.

What we found lacking was the fact that the objective of many career guidance programs was short-sighted in that the common objective was simply to help individuals find relevant employment. CareerSMARTZ includes that same objective but adds the importance of becoming a problem-solver as the best means of achieving career success and personal happiness while also contributing to the overall productivity of the American workforce and lifestyle.

SoftChalk: Describe how the program is set up and why it was developed this way, in this sequence.

James: CareerSMARTZ is available as a series of downloadable Checklists (aka lesson plans)—each Checklist addresses one of the main objectives of the program including step-by-step directions for achieving the objectives of the Checklist. Checklists were chosen to provide both the end-user and career guidance professional with a complete, ready-made program of career guidance packaged in an easy-to-administer and follow format.

The ideal approach is to start with the first Checklist (after reading the Welcome document) and proceed forward sequentially. However, it is possible to use some of the Checklists in a buffet-style approach to meet certain specific needs missing in an established career guidance program.

SoftChalk: You made the program free and available as OERs, using SoftChalk. Why was it important to you to make it widely available this way?


CareerSMARTZ: Welcome Lesson

James: One of our main objectives in developing CareerSMARTZ was to become advocates for the advancement of a new model of career guidance that guides individuals in becoming career problem-solvers and innovators. This can only be accomplished if it is well adopted by high schools and colleges. Giving CareerSMARTZ away for free is the best means of achieving our goal.

SoftChalk: Can you share some of the feedback you’ve gotten from individuals who have completed the program?

James: While success is in the eyes of the beholders, the proof of our work can be seen in the thousands of “Thank you” messages received from the people who participated in our personal counseling, workshops, lectures, and classroom instruction. Another measure of the wisdom of CareerSMARTZ is it underlined the development of at least 6 commercial books published by both authors, and the basis for America’s largest online career service called the AOL Career Center used by millions of America Online subscribers.

While CareerSMARTZ is relatively new on the scene it has already been adopted by several colleges, universities, and state rehabilitation services, and was the basis of James’ consulting services with, Apple eWorld, Walt Disney World, Chronicle Guidance, and Pearson Education.

SoftChalk: How does someone who had completed the CareerSMARTZ program benefit an employer? How would that person differ from someone who has not completed the program—or how would you HOPE they differ?

James: Individuals who have completed the CareerSMARTZ program are able to clearly define their career talent, identify employers who need their talent and provide those employers (especially during employment interviews) with a clear, concise strategy regarding how they can help the employer succeed. CareerSMARTZ graduates know their value in the employment marketplace and are able to communicate that value bringing about more and better offers of employment.

SoftChalk: Any last thoughts or things you’d like people to know about your program?

James: Larry and I both strongly believe that proper career guidance is “as important” to the career success of each individual as is their education and/or training, its role and importance needs to be more fully recognized, elevated, and adopted by all high schools and colleges in order for students and adults to more easily achieve a life of personal success, happiness, and fulfillment.

Additional information, and contact information, about CareerSMARTZ is available at Questions about our program are strongly encouraged! Professional career guidance counselors and instructors who wish to contribute to future editions of the program are also encouraged to contact us.

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