A career is a lifelong pursuit and major contributor to life satisfaction. The old adage that you are what you do is true for most people. The meaning from our work is the intersection of skills, interests, personality strengths and values within the context of the realities of our life. As a trained counselling therapist, researcher, coach and senior executive who has managed large organizations, I have a deep understanding of the importance and value of career. I help my clients find the alignment between who they are and the work they do, an alignment critical to career success and all that it entails. However, all too often, people labour in a role fraught with stress and under-performance. I work with clients to remedy these challenges through assessment and self-awareness and help them discover and transition to a new perspective and more fulfilling careers.
I also work with people to overcome the professional and emotional trauma of career loss. According to research, job loss, especially if it is involuntary, has been compared to a “living death.” There are many levels of impact in addition to career, including the social and psychological meaning and the loss of steady income, daily social contacts, friendships, support, identity and self-esteem. In essence, losing one’s job is a devastating experience.
I help clients process the personal loss by understanding the emotional meaning of job loss, which allows them to see and enhance their self-awareness and the professional and intrinsic value they possess. This self-knowledge is a prerequisite for positive growth, and it provides the foundation from which their reconstructed and strengthened sense of self-esteem is built. Additionally, I work with executives to map out and execute successful strategies to rebuild their sense of identity and help them strategize to secure employment, so they can continue to flourish professionally and personally—a true Hero’s Journey and the subject of my upcoming book.
Job Loss and Career Transition
According to Viktor Frankl, career is one of the central elements of meaning in a person’s life. It is well known that career has a direct impact on a person’s identity, well-being and over self-esteem. As a trained clinical counsellor, coach, therapist and senior executive, Peter has a deep understanding on the effects of job loss and work transition that provide remarkable career management services.
Job loss, especially if it is involuntary can be devastating… to the point of being compared to a “living death”. There are many levels of impact including, “economic meaning as well as social and psychological meaning… the loss of steady income, daily social contacts, friendships, and support, and the loss of identity and self-worth”. In essence, losing one’s job is a devastating experience.
Peter works with people so that they can understand the emotional meaning of job loss allowing them to see and find their sense of self as well as the professional and intrinsic value they possess. This self-knowledge is a prerequisite for positive growth and it provides the foundation from which their reconstructed and strong sense of self-esteem is built. In addition, Peter can work with people to map out and execute successful strategies that will help them not only rebuild their sense of identity but to also help them successfully secure employment.
Career Counselling: Finding Your Career Bliss
“Sometimes you get to the top of your ladder and find you’re up against the wrong wall.” -Thomas Merton
Career is a major contributor to your life satisfaction. So how do feel about your work right now? According to the Huffington Post, if you’re like 47% of Canadians you don’t like your work and a recent Gallup poll claims that only 33% of US workers are “engaged” in the work. If you’re not happy in your work that’s sad considering how much time it takes up of your life. No one should be working for the weekend nor should Sunday evening be the worst night of the week.
Let’s consider how it affects the quality of life and what it provides:
- A secure level of income.
- A structure for your life that can ground you.
- A level of personal and emotional attachment.
- A foundation that helps to shape your identity.
- An opportunity to achieve and accomplish.
- A sense of meaning and purpose.
- A sense of personal growth and self-actualization.
- A way to enhance self-esteem and self-worth.
- A sense of engagement, flow and positive emotions
Work can be defined as a mental or physical activity for the purpose of achieving a result (which may or not involve payment). Career, however, is more related to a series of work roles over the life span. The word “career” is taken from the Latin “carrus” for a wheeled vehicle and that “carriere” is a word from medieval French that describes a path. In this context, look at your career as your unique life long journey that provides meaning in life from cradle to grave.
To a large degree we adopt an identity based on our work and career. I’m a teacher, nurse, entrepreneur, etc., all provide a sense of purpose and personal identity. More than ever, you are responsible for your career and therein lies the existential ability to choose what you want to bring into your life. Either because our work never reflected who we are or through the aging process we evolve, the career that served us well may need to change.
Likewise with retirement, which can dramatically alter the work we perform, but still there remains a desire to connect and make a contribution to the world and your community. I personally know what it takes to transition to work that is more aligned to who you when I retooled my career and transitioned from a business executive and CEO, to a Career Counsellor, Therapist & Coach. I am blessed because this work fills me with positive emotions and gives me a meaningful life in the service of helping others.
Career counselling became prominent post WW I to help returning Vets re-enter the workforce, but has come a long since then. Donald Super’s Life Span Theory of Career Development introduced the concept that career is a lifelong pursuit and a combination of all of the activities that take place in our life roles at a given point of time. This is good news because it means that although you don’t feel fulfilled in your work, there are multiple other work roles that give you meaning and purpose. For example, in addition to your 9-5 work, you could also be a musician, chef, coach, volunteer, mother, father, artist, runner, instructor, community worker, caregiver, etc., and it is that role or roles that give you fulfillment – even if it’s not your day job.
Now that we know career is a multi-faceted construct over your entire life, we can spend time on the career counselling process to help you better understand whether your work today is right for you and whether you are on the right path for a meaningful lifelong career.
I separate the career counselling process into four main steps:
Who are you?
All scriptures and sages throughout history have told us to “Know Thyself” from the Oracle of Delphi, to Socrates “the unexamined life is not worth living”. From a career perspective you need to go within and find a personal attunement with who you are.
I believe that our #1 responsibility in life is to find who we are and give that back to the world. As a client one time said “we can’t all be snowflakes”, but by definition we are all unique and it our spiritual responsibility to discover it and harness it for the good of all.
Here is the approach we will take together:
The Story of You:
Developed by Dr. Mark Savickas, the “Narrative Career Construction” is a subjective and personal approach to career. As Dr. Savickas said, “In the pieces lies the whole”, so a better understanding of your likes, dislikes, role models, early experiences, etc., will shine a light on who you are and help point the way towards the right career path. As an example, for me at 5 years old I wanted to be a doctor, at 6 a priest, at 7 Superboy, my favourite TV character was “Judd for the Defense” (a lawyer who protected the innocent from wrongful prosecution), John Lennon (he was the leader) and Captain Kirk, my favourite soccer position was goalie, at 12 I wanted to be a teacher and at 18, a therapist/psychologist. So, you can see a pattern of leadership and helping or even saving people.
Understanding your own unique personality traits, motivations, characteristics and qualities will help to shine a light on the right career path for you. Everyone has different personality traits so it’s essential that you know your traits and use them to the fullest. There are many personality assessments with the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) probably being the most popular. However, I prefer the Lumina Spark assessment which is a combination of MBTI and the “Big Five” traits. Lumina doesn’t “type” someone as much as better understand a person’s traits.
They are the guiding principles of your life and if they are not aligned with what you do, there will be internal personal conflict and stress. It’s important that your values align to the organization which is the foundation of a corporate culture. To determine your values, I use Donald Super’s “Work Values Inventory” and Psychometrics’ “Career Values Scales Report”.
What is your risk tolerance? Do you like to work alone or in teams? How comfortable are you in a leadership role? Understanding your work style will can help you find the right work environment. I use the Strong Interest Inventory assessment to understand your work style.
The point where your abilities and interests intersect with the challenges of your work. If the work is too easy it’s boring and if it’s too challenging given the level of skill and/or experience, the work can be stressful. Flow is the brainchild of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow (or being in the zone), is that psychological state where a person feels energized and focused, where time can stand still in a good way and fly by at the same time… where one feels full involvement and positive energy.
What is my Career Path?
Once we know more about you and your unique self, we can explore career paths and formulate a transition plan. We will complete a Career Narrative and explore different questions that point in the direction of the work roles and career that you will find meaningful and fulfilling. Questions such as:
- What would you do if money didn’t matter?
- From your last job what gave you positive energy?
- If you woke up tomorrow and you had the perfect job, what would it look like?
The Strong Interest Inventory:
The Strong Interest Inventory (SII) is an interest inventory used in career assessment. It has been around for decades and updated regularly which provides a high degree of validity. It is an objective review of your interests/skills and they are matched to certain jobs and career by using the Holland codes that provide insight into your personality and how that applies to a career. The six different personalities are: Social (the people person), Conventional (the organizer), Realistic (the builder), Creative (the artist), Investigative (the researcher) and Enterprising (the entrepreneur). Everyone has all six career personalities, but given your interests, the SII will rank them.
In addition, the SII will also suggest specific work that might be a fit. It does this by comparing your answers with other people who are happy in their career roles! Within each career personality “type”, the SII will offer and rank different career opportunities. In addition, the SII can also suggest college training to support it.
Letting go of what is holding you back?
To quote the Tao Te Ching, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”. Moving forward in life always entails having to let go of something that we hold on to… like a serpent that must shed its skin, it seems that every gain involves a loss. In some cases, it is a comfortable life structure, fear of the unknown, or your ego. It’s like the parable of the monkey trying to grab the moon reflected in the pond but only when the monkey slips and lets go of the branch it is clinging to does the monkey fall into the pond, but when it looks up, only then can it see the real moon. What is it that you need to let go of in order to move forward? For some that I have counselled it is primarily life experiences that have created negative beliefs about the world or the self. To provide the insight we need, I use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to delve into circumstances and beliefs that is holding them back. In the end, as the great Joseph Campbell said, “you have to follow your bliss” but since the head is a “secondary organ” and can lie, you have to “listen to the body” (i.e. your gut), because it doesn’t lie.
This journey starts from the moment where your mind dreams of a change. For career work transition, according to Bridges (2000) the transition begins with the end and ends with the beginning. Ending your job is the start and beginning your new work is the transition’s end. To quote Joseph Campbell again, “We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us”. This is not just an emotional transition but potentially a physical, intellectual and spiritual change that requires forethought and planning. We can look at all aspects of your life and chart the course forward to where you want to find your new beginning.
The schematic shown below from Dr. Norm Admundson, lays out the various considerations for your job transition.
To learn more about Career Counselling, contact Peter directly.