An Existential Perspective on Work and Career Development

Existential career counseling assists and supports clients in exploring and reflecting upon the direction, purpose and meaning of their lives and their work.

Existential career counseling helps clients to deepen their awareness and perspective, to feel more connected to their experiences, their emotions, and their relationships.

Existential career counseling guides clients towards being more fully present in their daily lives and to feel more authentic and confident in their decisions, choices and actions.

  • We Are Always More Than Any One Job: Identity And Work

    08/06/2020

    Several years ago, a client of mine described being invited to a networking event, the very thought of which caused them to dread the following anticipated question: “So…tell me about yourself, what do YOU do”? My client, who was navigating a significant career transition at the time, associated this question quite strongly with their identity. My client then stated, “How do I answer that question? I no longer have an identity”.

    Identity disruption: the impact of career transitions, unemployment and burnout

    The work we do, and the work we aspire to do, has a profound influence on how we see ourselves and how we identify. When I work with clients who are facing career transition, or those who might be experiencing a period of unemployment, or still others who are taking time away from work due to burnout, many of them feel a profound disruption in what they experience and define as their core identity.

    This disruption can be multi-faceted. I have encountered clients who express tremendous fear or intractable resistance at the prospect of changing careers because of a perceived loss of identity. I have often listened to various iterations of, “But this is who I am”! Still others feel a transition or change will result in a loss of certain key capacities and skills associated with their identity. And many clients express worry that any change in work or career will disrupt their sense of purpose and the meaning of their lives, also strongly associated with identity. Each of these experiences and feelings is understandable in the face of great change.

    With more and more people experiencing - and expecting - several career transitions in their lifetime, conversations about identity and its relationship to the specific work we do are increasingly frequent in my practice.

    Transitions and change are not always easy. The capacity to step into and through career transitions without carrying perceptual burdens about identity requires perspective, practice and self-compassion. I view these conversations as very positive and helpful as they can illuminate personal narratives and insights, which once exposed, help clients to connect more deeply with their experiences, begin the practice of self-acceptance and develop emotional openness, flexibility and resilience.

    We are always more than any one job

    Our identities are certainly shaped and influenced by the work we engage in. But we are always more than any one job. We are in fact continuously developing and accumulating a unique and individual “experiential expertise”.

    This expertise is the result of the totality of our experiences. It encompasses all that we have engaged in, learned, contributed to; everything we have integrated, that we have given our unique personal shape and expression to; and all that we carry forward. Discovering, identifying and articulating this amazing pot of personal expertise is extremely helpful to clients.

    When we combine our experiential expertise with the practice and development of awareness, all the while being present to and connecting with our experiences, we are able to build the resilience(s) necessary for transitions. This does not guarantee an easy transition, but it does equip us with the ability and confidence to connect our unique expertise with new possibilities.

    The practice of acceptance, awareness and self-compassion

    Accepting career transition and change is often a difficult hurdle for many people. We may acknowledge the reality of career change taking place in our world but we also like personal stability. Accepting contrasts such as this also takes practice: the practice of being fully present in our lives, of being open to our experiences, of recognizing accompanying feelings of getting to know ourselves. As always, self-compassion is a key requirement! This practice gives us the perspective to separate appropriately the changes that may be taking place in our lives from a perceived loss of personal identity. It helps us to view change as another component of our expanding identity, even when the change is difficult.

    Emotional openness aids in our ability to accept change and contemplate possibility. It refers to our practiced ability to be attentive to, aware of and present in our experiences and feelings.

    The practice of being present exercises our awareness muscles. We get to know and become comfortable with our different emotions, reactions, attitudes, choices and actions. The perspective and insights we gain from “turning towards” our inner self and our unique experiences helps us develop, and go on developing, openness and flexibility.

    Being open to our evolving identity

    A characteristic of existence is our capacity to create and re-create our lives. We are continuously encountering, relating to and integrating the world around us while simultaneously participating in and giving unique shape and form to all that we experience, strive towards and create. Being decisively active in creating and constructing our lives includes accepting the movement and development of our lives with compassion, being open and attentive to our experiences and practicing being present in every moment of our lives. This makes us increasingly aware of our evolving identity, an identity that is both separate from and connected to all that we do.

    Britt-Mari offers customized 3 or 5 session coaching packages that help clients create personally empowered solutions to career transition, burnout and the development of meaningful careers. For more information on how an integrative and existential approach to career counseling can assist you, or to inquire about individual session options, contact her at brittmari@brittmarisykes.ca
     

  • Uncertainty AND Acceptance

    08/06/2020

    Acceptance, as a topic and as an experience, is always present in my work: how to comfortably accept a sudden job loss in order to begin moving forward, how to accept a necessary career transition in order to begin plotting a new path, how to acknowledge and accept that we are experiencing burnout and then to commit ourselves to discovering personal solutions, how to accept that we have no idea what educational or career path we want to pursue after high school and thus to be open to taking a gap year.

    From the outset of COVID, I have witnessed and listened to both my clients and the students at Discover Year grapple with acceptance, while simultaneously experiencing the many feelings that accompany the uncertainty that a pandemic creates. Accepting working from home, accepting a job lay-off or job loss, accepting that the last few months of high school or the start of first year University is now online, accepting the inability to socialize with family, friends, and colleagues, accepting a new social reality and being even more mindful of our individual and collective health and welfare.

    How can we comfortably “hold” the uncertainties that currently surround us while we also continue to be actively engaged in our lives, our work, our relationships? Where can we be flexible in our lives? What role does acceptance play?

    How do we integrate the adjustments, changes, and losses we are experiencing while also being mindful of and active in what we can control in our lives? What role does acceptance play?

     

    Acceptance opens the door to possibility.

    Accepting the many changes currently taking place in our lives and daily routines due to COVID does not mean resignation to these changes or a complete loss of control. Are there serious challenges? Absolutely. Are there uncomfortable adjustments to be made? Yes indeed.

    Practicing acceptance - and it does take practice - allows us to re-gain some much needed energy and perspective on our feelings and experiences. This is especially valuable right now.

    Acceptance helps to reduce the energy we are expending to minimize, deny, judge and/or fight against what we are experiencing.

    Acceptance gives us the “internal” space to see, feel and create possible changes to our lives. This is the space that fosters resilience, attitudinal and emotional flexibility, compassion for ourselves and for others. This is the space where we can engage and contribute to possible change. This is the space where we can discover and experience meaning.

    The practice of acceptance includes:

    • not judging ourselves so harshly – we are currently caught between feeling we must be highly productive at this time and feeling self-critical when our motivation flattens. Acceptance means taking our feelings seriously – neither minimizing nor judging them – and recognizing the valuable information and insights they give us. The practice of offering ourselves a daily dose of self-compassion and extending that compassion and care to those around us helps.

     

    • being aware of and monitoring our fluctuating energy and motivation. It is hard to manage our entire lives literally under one roof: to shift how we work, to become tutors for our children, to adapt to online classes and coursework, to have less space and less privacy, or to lose the daily companionship of colleagues, fellow students and friends.

     

     

    • actively implementing boundaries between the different areas of our lives. This is not always easy under one roof. We need to be flexible and creative in integrating appropriate, healthy and manageable strategies into our lives that also benefit us physically, psychologically and relationally.

     

    • pulling back from the stress and anxiety of “what ifs” to being more present and connected to our lives. Being more present enables us to regain some personal agency and be active and decisive in creating and implementing any necessary changes in our lives, be they physical, emotional, or in our attitudes.

     

    Acceptance creates the space for, and nurtures, resilience.

    When we look closely at our lives, at how we experience our lives and the world around us, and when we reflect, we gain valuable perspective. We can feel and see more clearly what is going on around us. What am I experiencing? What is needed? What is available to me? What kind of support do I have around me? What can I do to self-soothe, to relax, to re-charge?

    What is possible in this moment, during this day? Where can I be more flexible? What can be changed or adjusted in my life?

     

    Britt-Mari helps her clients create fulfilling and flexible careers, navigate career transitions, and build meaningful solutions to stress and burnout. For more information or to schedule a consultation call, contact her at brittmari@brittmarisykes.ca