Gray Poehnell is an experienced author, trainer and presenter interested in holistic approaches that cultivate hope, practical spirituality, creativity and career integrity. He focuses on developing alternative career approaches, especially for those outside the mainstream. Gray currently trains career practitioners both nationally and internationally.

Gray will be a keynote speaker at the New Brunswick Career Development Action Group conference in November 2013 and will also present at Cannexus in January 2014.

In one sentence, describe why Poehnell_Gray_10 questionscareer development matters.

Crafting a career matters because it is about hope; hope for individuals, families and communities who want to find practical, realistic and holistic paths to meaningful lives, regardless of their life circumstances.

Which book are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown; it addresses vulnerability and shame issues. For the last few years, I have been focusing on books that summarize the research and practical implications of self-defeating mental processes that can take away hope and result in people giving up. The better I understand how to help people change their thinking to thinking that cultivates hope and keeps people going, the better I can be in helping people find hope in their lives.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was young, I didn’t really think much in terms of a “career.” I tended to have escapist fantasies, such as discovering I was really an alien from another planet who would be rescued from the mess of my life. I did my undergrad degree in mathematics, thinking I would be a mathematician hiding away from people. My career journey, however, has been one serendipitous event after another; I’m a poster boy for chaos theory and planned happenstance. The paths I have taken have always led to destinations I would never have imagined or even thought possible. I’ve learned to do what I believe is right at the time and then be open to wherever that leads.

Name one thing you wouldn’t be able to work without?

I need something (whether it be scraps of paper, my iPad or my computer) to collect and explore ideas through scribbling, doodling, mind mapping or just plain jotting things down.

What activity do you usually turn to when procrastinating?

This really depends on the time and my mood: more energetic – walk or bicycle; thoughtful – research and more research; practical – cooking; escape – TV or movies (especially romantic comedies).

What song do you listen to for inspiration?

The first song I remember inspiring me was “To Sir with Love” by Lulu, and it is still inspiring me 46 years later. It was the closing song in the movie starring Sidney Poitier. Poitier unexpectedly finds himself working with troubled youth who had been written off as hopeless by others and by themselves. Rather than giving up in discouragement and cynicism, Poitier saw something different, and so was willing to creatively try something different. I didn’t have anyone like that when I was young, but I certainly want to be that kind of person as I work with others.

Which word do you overuse?

I’m sorry to say that the word I most overuse is the word “sorry.” In my mind I know better, but too often my mouth is faster than my mind and I find myself apologizing for things I shouldn’t. The good thing about the word slipping out is that it is a constant reminder to keep on confronting my perfectionism and low self-esteem issues.

Who would you like to work with most?

To be honest, I think I’m already working with him. I’ve had the privilege of working with Dr Norm Amundson since 1989. Norm has generously shared his wisdom, integrity, creativity and life with me. What more could I ask for?

Which talent or superpower would you like to have?

Even though I’m quite musically challenged, I collect world percussion instruments as I travel. I would love to have the musical ability to actually be able to play them.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Sometimes I think my greatest achievement is that I’ve learned how to plod and keep going. Others often tell me that I’m good at seeing things in different ways and then making complex concepts accessible and practical to “ordinary” people. But I would rather think in terms of my greatest gifts that have enabled me to keep going; God has brought so many incredible people as gifts into my life upon whose support I am very dependent: my lovely wife Trish, my daughters, my partner and mentor Norm Amundson and many true friends.