An Integrative and Existential Perspective on Work and Career Development

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

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

Integrative and 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.

  • When Are Career Transitions Necessary?

    09/13/2021

    Career transitions, despite their growing frequency, present us with a range of emotions, practicalities to sort through, and decisions to be made. 

    Many clients who contact me want a listening ear as they talk through the subject and feasibility of a career transition. They seek perspective on whether the feelings they currently have toward their work indicate that a change in job or profession may indeed be necessary.

    Some career transitions we deliberately choose to embark on. We may seek out new professional experiences, we may look forward to change, learning new skills, and having opportunities to express our capacities in different environments. We can also feel apprehensive about change, and the choices, adjustments and decisions that will be required.

    Some transitions, such as job loss, are imposed on us and can therefore be destabilizing because of the abrupt change they bring to our lives. These transitions can entail both a loss of professional identity and financial instability; they can shake our confidence in our skills and abilities.

    I want to share 4 examples of when a career transition may be necessary. These examples draw on the many conversations I have with clients and their personal experiences.

    Lack of structure and support

    Until we are actively engaged in a job or career, until we have some direct experience, we rarely reflect on how much structure and/or support we may need or want around us.

    Structure and support can mean many different things depending on the individual and the nature of the work.

    Some of us are quite comfortable with minimal structure, we flourish designing and organizing how and when we do things. We enjoy having different responsibilities and are confident navigating frequent changes including the pace of work day to day.

    Some of us require, and flourish equally well, within more structured environments. We want regular work hours, we want clarity and consistency in our role(s) and responsibilities. Because of structure we feel engaged and confident in our abilities and our contributions.

    I have often listened to clients who feel lost in their work environments because of inadequate structure and support. For these individuals, the lack of structure and support casts their talents and skills adrift and over time they begin to feel less engaged, less confident and less committed to their jobs.

    Unintentional versus intentional career choices

    I have listened to clients who describe their initial career choice as “unintentional”. Their choice of study or training seemed like the most practical at the time, friends were entering the same University or College program, they heard or were advised that a specific job or professional field was financially stable or a “good career option”, a particular professional role was perceived as having social status.

    Years later with more experience(s), perspective, and changes to their skill set, that unintentional choice doesn’t quite look or feel the same.

    I have written about the movement of our lives in relation to the movement of our work. Often the two do not move in tandem. We change, our perspectives change, we develop new interests, we may want more flexibility in our work and careers in order to balance the movement and expansion of our lives. Our skills and expertise can sometimes expand beyond the scope of our jobs.

    Suddenly we no longer relate to our work and we begin to feel unfulfilled. Suddenly we want to make a career choice that is more intentional and takes our present realities, livelihoods, capacities and values into consideration.

    Challenging work environments

    We know that work environments are not created equal. Some are more challenging than others.

    Shift work, for example, can have unpredictable hours that over time negatively impact our health and our lives away from work. Some work can be highly stressful, all the time. Other types of work may be physically demanding, or the demands of the job may be inconsistent or well beyond the training provided to us. Work in which we are not sufficiently trained or work where we receive minimal support can present any number of challenges for us from lack of confidence in our abilities, to our disengagement, to experiences of unmanageable stress and possibly burnout.

    It is impossible to calculate at what point a challenging work environment is simply too much for us. A career transition may be necessary when the physical challenges and/or the stress of a job impede our skills, disrupt our capacity to do the job and negatively impact the personal satisfaction we get from our work.

    The shifting meaning and value of our work

    The meaning of work shifts at different stages of our lives and this can sometimes influence our willingness and decision to seek out new jobs and careers.

    At one stage of our lives work can mean personal and financial stability, at another it can be a satisfying marker of expertise and personal success. At another stage we may want work that is balanced with other areas of our lives to which we want to devote time and attention. And at some stages we may want work that aligns with our values and as such we may want to seek out work that feels purposeful and is centered on contribution. At any point in our lives, work may mean any combination of these.

    For reflection:

    Do these 4 examples resonate with you and your experiences of work? How would you describe your current relationship with work? How has your relationship with work and/or attitude towards work changed over time?

    Are you considering a career transition? Contact me at brittmari@brittmarisykes.ca to book a consultation call.

     

  • Gathering Information Is The First Step In A Career Transition

    09/13/2021

    COVID has brought much change to the work landscape. It has either had a direct impact on our work or it has shifted our perspectives about work. Whether we have experienced outright job loss, had our work suspended due to lockdowns, whether we are navigating work from home, or re-thinking the value and meaning of a particular role or job, work and career look and feel different.

    Through this period, we have also become acutely aware of the fragility of work, the job market, and just how dependent we are on having access to work.

    It is one thing to prepare ourselves with training, education, experiences, and skills but we are also dependent on the other side of the equation, a robust and diverse job market that offers us access to opportunities and good work. Here too, COVID has exposed many cracks.

    Fragility and stability

    Not surprisingly, career transitions have been one of the most recurrent issues I have faced with clients during COVID. The fragility in many sectors of the job market, has also given rise to a heightened, and certainly understandable, desire to experience security in our work. This concern for security is now an added layer in my conversations with clients about career transitions.

    More than ever, the clients I see want to make the RIGHT decision when it comes to a career transition. And yet they are also experiencing tremendous stress to make that one, RIGHT decision. As a result, clients are often paralyzed, unable to engage reflectively, to think creatively about what is possible, or to move forward by taking smaller incremental decisions.

    Take a step back, pause for a moment

    It is valuable to reflect and collect information. I encourage clients to collect information on their “personal position” and to re-assess their skills and expertise through a slightly different lens.

    The more information they gather the greater they expand their perspective. This generates more material to work with and to leverage. This opens space to see more possibilities, to start making smaller decisions confidently, and to start creating a map forward. It isn't about making the perfect RIGHT decision but about making decisions we can stand behind at a particular moment in our lives.

    For those of you in the midst of a career transition, or contemplating one, or perhaps re-assessing the value and meaning of your current work, I have outlined some sample questions to help you to start gathering your own information.

    What is your “personal position”?

    Some examples:

    • What is my current attitude toward work? At this stage in my life what expectations do I have of work/career?
    • What do I value, what is important and meaningful to me – personally and professionally?
    • How do I feel about a career transition? How do I feel about the changes a transition brings? Am I comfortable with these changes? Am I comfortable with a change in professional “identity”?
    • How do I currently feel? Am I relaxed about a transition? Overly stressed? Am I aware of the different feelings I have? How am I coping day to day?
    • How would I rate my level of motivation? How can I prepare myself for the time and energy a career transition may require?
    • Do I have support around me, family, friends, mentors?
    • What is my day-to-day reality? What other personal contexts influence my relationship with work? This may include burnout, financial or health considerations, childcare, or looking after aging parents.
    • Is a career transition financially feasible? How long am I able to go without work? Is re-training or going back to school a possibility?

    Gathering information about your skills and expertise

    Some examples:

    • List 5 – 6 of your innate or natural skills/capacities/talents.
    • List 5 – 6 skills you have learned or developed through specific work experiences.
    • Think about the different work/volunteer experiences you have had. When you look at these experiences cumulatively, what kind of unique and personal expertise have YOU developed from these diverse experiences?
    • Think about your work experiences and imagine yourself in the various roles you have had. Describe “how” YOU work. What unique approach, attitude, style, perspective, and skills do you bring to your work? How do YOU bring a role “to life”, or put your personal stamp on what you are doing?
    • What do you want to develop further and/or how do you want to contribute?
    • Create a role for yourself. Let your imagination run. Be as descriptive as possible: what are you doing day to day, what responsibilities do you have, what does the workspace look and feel like, are you working on a team, independently, or a combination of the two? Re-read the role you have created, what information does it give you about your interests? Or which innate and learned skills you would like to be using at this stage of your life? What does it reveal about your motivation, “how” you work, and the personal meaning work holds for you?

     

    For reflection:

    Based on the information you have gathered, can you describe the unique value/expertise you currently have? Can you describe both innate talents and learned skills? What unique value are you bringing to a prospective job/role?

     

    Considering a career transition, re-assessing your current relationship with work, or wanting to re-evaluate your skills and expertise? Contact me at brittmari@brittmarisykes.ca to schedule a consultation call.