By Tami Anderson

Mark Savickas, Ph.D., is professor of Behavioral Sciences at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Counselor Education at Kent State University and Professor Extraordinaire at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. His 80 articles, 40 book chapters and 500 presentations to professional groups have dealt with vocational behaviour and career counselling.Hear Mark Savickas’ keynote address, The Career Counsellor’s Career: From Preoccupation to Occupation, on January 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM.

What a privilege speaking with Dr. Mark Savickas about his book and philosophy on career constructing! Dr. Savickas prefers to refer to his work as Life Designing, Identity Creating or Self Making with career construction as a part of the design.

TA: Mark, could you tell us a bit about writing your book, Career Counseling?

MS: I had originally done a DVD demonstration on career counselling for the American Psychological Association. It sold so well, they asked me to do another and followed that up with a request for the book.

TA: How does this topic fit into the Theories of Psychotherapy Series?

MS: Counselling focuses on the uniqueness of the individual; how they are the only one of them in the whole world. The focus of career counselling is not how you fit into your work; but, how you are going to fit work into your life so you become more whole and more complete.

TA: Can career practitioners use your materials, or is it designed strictly for psychotherapists?

MS: I think it is for everybody who loves career counselling. The goal is to provide training in career counselling for the 21st century. Relationships now take center stage; the stage that was held for a hundred years by work.

TA: Would you say, Mark, this approach to career planning is more holistic?

MS: Holistic – in a sense, yes. I’ve written a paper recently called, Life Designing, A Paradigm for 21st Century Counseling. Career construction would be a part of life designing, but life designing also includes views on relationships, partnerships, commitments to family and to faith community. Each person now is responsible for getting a life and actually designing it. So, we can study about emerging adulthood in our psychology books or we can watch “Friends.” What career constructing does is help people listen to the answers they already have inside themselves and to reinforce the authority they have over their own life.

TA: Is there a place for all career aspects?

MS: I believe strongly in career services. Career guidance is one. Career education is another. Coaching is another. Academic advising is another. Placement’s another. Entering is another. Career counselling is another. Everybody doesn’t have to do everything. Every career practitioner can pick one or two of those and have a good, meaningful career.

TA: What does the statement, “We actively master what we passively suffer” mean?

MS: It’s the most important thing I know. I believe each of us, early in life, in our family, there’s something painful. What we do in life is try to heal that hole in our heart. So, if what upset us in the beginning is fear; the resolution, or strength, that person must develop is courage and bravery. We go from the passive suffering of fear to the active mastery of bravery. I’m looking for the pain. And, then work. Counselling is about how you are going to use work to heal yourself.

TA: Was there a moment you knew this would be the right career for you based on your story?

MS: Well, there’s two parts – the pain and the solution.

The pain was being a little boy with a father who had one leg a couple of inches shorter than the other. He was strong, quick and could do everything, but no employer would give him a good job because he was handicapped.

And then – I’m passionate about my profession because every day I’m honouring my father and helping people like my father. This illustrates “actively master what you passively suffer”: Mark, the big boy, works on career counselling to heal the pain of Mark, the little boy, watching a father not able to get work.

TA: Thank you, Mark for your time, insight and passion.


Tami Anderson sits on CERIC’s Editorial Committee. She’s from the private sector in Alberta and the owner of Best Foot Forward Consulting.