Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What is career development and coaching?

I received the following question last week and thought that my response (extended for this post) could be interesting for those whose experience of career counselling is a ten minute appointment with someone at school when they were in year 10 discussing work experience, or during year 12 when they were granted a few rushed minutes to discuss "life" plans and their post-school options.

The question:
What would you advise an ex cop, local government councillor and youth worker who wants to be in the social and environmental development industry?

My answer:
This sounds like a magic wand request!

What happens during a career development session is generally quite different and no crystal balls or magical wands are involved! It's a lot more complex than some of the ads you might have seen make it appear, and more complex than some people are prepared for.  It takes time, and the ability to self reflect to get the most from the investment.

Generally, my work with clients is firmly based on values, so we begin with an exercise to help them clarify what's important to them as an individual and to help them think and see their life from a different perspective.

Many of us bumble along, fall into our first job without thinking too much about what's important to us, and stumble haphazardly from one thing to the next with no particular idea what we're searching for.

The values exercise is, for most people, surprising and grounding. They often say, "I'd never thought about it like this before." It helps them see where their values may be at odds with their employer and vice versa. When values aren't compatible, or worse, completely at odds with your employer, it's no wonder you're unhappy. (The mini documentary Green Generation introduces a young man whose values led him from an arguably desirable job where his values weren't met by the company to completely new challenges. There's a bit about it here)

Working within the reality of your situation
Sometimes bitterly unhappy people know what the issues are, but for financial or other reasons are unable to change careers or workplaces. We then work within the reality of that situation and look at ways to support, and possible expand on, the positive things that are happening in their lives so than an unhappy work situation doesn't overwhelm them.

This might include support in more effective communication strategies, assertiveness training, or tactics to deflect the undermining aspects of bullying. It could be looking at spending more time on significant relationships outside work, finding new hobbies, getting more exercise or eating with a mindful attitude. There is no "one size fits all" quick fix response.

Simultaneously, we could be looking at a 5+ year plan, working towards a career theme (not a specific job) supporting your values, skills and interests, which will be more fulfilling while meeting current family and financial commitments. 

Then of course, there are the challenges of location. It's not always possible to work locally, and this can be an uncomfortable issue when an hour plus commute through heavy traffic is at odds with valuing environmental responsibility. For that one, there are no easy answers.

I hope this doesn't sound like a cop-out response. Any superficial reply would be ultimately unhelpful, and doesn't allow for the nuances, contradictions and complexities of a real person.

I do so wish I had that magic wand, I'd have made a fortune by now!

A quick fix is less satisfying than deep reflection
... But, just thinking on that, I doubt my clients would be better off if I waved a magic wand. Whilst the journey of looking deeply into their values isn't for everyone, and can sometimes be challenging and confronting, most people are grateful for the experience, and they are enriched by the process.

While none of us have the ability to see into the future, our values stay with us for life. The people I work with want to live with integrity, and when decisions are made thoughtfully and based on the solid foundation of values, they have much more chance of living a rich, full and meaningful life, no matter where they end up working.

As you can see,  what you might have experienced at school will be quite different to what I've described here. Career Development is often a life-long process, evolving as our interests and needs change, and in response to economic conditions and environmental factors. It's something most of us will revisit time and time again as we respond and adapt to real events in our lives right through to retirement.


David Macaulay said...

workplaces so often seem to be gah - so aren't you doing the challenge this year Sue?

Sue Travers said...

Ah, David, what can I say - Two years, four challenges. I burnt myself out last year and wasn't going to join in this year, but then you asked in your dulcet tones "Sue are you going to do The Challenge?" ..... How could I possibly refuse?

And in case you miss it over on Flying possums (or was it squirrels?) here's my reply there "Do you go backwards in time to attend to the few blog hopping fools feebly attempting to find fabulous words with which to flabbergast fiendish foreign friends? I fear not, but if you do, your question last Friday encouraged me to fiddle around with some ideas and give this year's Blogging Challenge a bit of a feverish catch up with only a fifty-fifty chance of success. I'm here Sue feeling my way because I don't want to upset the FBI with my not always feel-good "Images of America" not formally advertised because I doubt I'll finish.

Deborah said...

Terrific explanation of what you do Sue and it is your own ability to self reflect and adhere to values that makes you really great at doing it!

Deborah R.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. I'm keeping this open to come back to read after the A-Z has happened ... cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Deborah, thankyou so much for taking time to read this piece and comment so encouragingly.

Thanks Hilary. I'm not sure I'll finish on time this year. I hope to come back later to complete the alphabet.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. we all start at different points from school to 'career' or job ...

We can enhance our skills later in life too .. you've thrown up some thoughts that I wish I'd had the opportunity to think about way back when ..

It's a funny old life!! Delighted that you're out there helping people and people are coming forward asking for help or advice ..

Great post - thanks for enlightening us .. cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Thanks for returning Hilary. Many of my clients are looking for a complete change in career direction and I feel privileged to share my skills with them. By far the hardest thing for me was having a web site made and 'going public' - now look at what I'm doing! It's one of the best journeys I've taken!