Principles in Action: Framing Career Development as a Lifelong Process
By Paula Wischoff Yerama
With a goal of bringing greater clarity and consistency to our national conversations about career development, CERIC developed a set of Guiding Principles of Career Development that have been enthusiastically embraced across Canada. These eight Guiding Principles are intended as a starting point to inform discussions with clients, employers, funders, policymakers and families.
One of the greatest challenges we face as career development practitioners is helping our clients to understand that “career” is a journey, not a destination. Our clients often come to us for assistance to identify “best fit” options and settle on a definitive career choice. They want to make the “right” decision for their situation, their values, their interests and their needs. They want to choose a “career” that will guarantee them a stable and secure future. If I had a dollar for every time a client asked if there was a test they could take that would provide them with the title of their perfect “career” or a table that listed occupational equivalents related to their previous job title(s), I would be writing this article from a beach instead of my office – I love career development way too much to ever give it up completely!
While this profile is certainly not true of all clients, it is for many of them – particularly many of the military-to-civilian transitioners I work with. How we address the expectations of our clients is part of what makes us professionals in our field. It can be tempting to dive into a description of what career development is and how their expectations may not be in line with the realities of today’s labour market and world of work. While there may be a time and place for this, it is not where I choose to start. I have been known, however, to tease that my crystal ball is currently out of order or to tell my clients to choose the chair they sit in carefully because under each is a piece of paper that will determine their “career,” when it has been identified they are looking for assistance with career direction. This light-hearted way of breaking the ice is almost always greeted with laughter, and a comment about wanting to choose the “win the lottery” chair.
My initial interview always starts with what the individual is hoping to get out of the appointment. The strategy for moving forward is very different depending on what the individual is looking for. While many of my appointments simply involve signing an out-clearance form, others evolve into deep and meaningful career conversations. In almost every one of the latter appointments, at some point, I produce a copy of CERIC’s Guiding Principles of Career Development to help frame our discussion. It is a helpful visual with easy-to-understand descriptions of foundational career development concepts.
Career development is a lifelong process of blending and managing paid and unpaid activities: learning (education), work (employment, entrepreneurship), volunteerism and leisure time.
For many of the individuals I see, the focus of their career development has been related to their military service – training and qualifications leading to promotions, promotions leading to postings, and postings leading to further training and qualifications. They speak very matter-of-factly about their trade / occupation, rank, training and qualifications, domestic and international deployments, and service awards. While this information is helpful and certainly integral to their career, it is the conversations we have about their learning, work, volunteerism and leisure activities outside of the military that allow me to support them at a different level and to expand their career considerations beyond directly transferable occupations. I remember one individual who presented with an interest in securing a full-time position outside of the military that was directly related to his military trade. We talked about his motivation for making a direct transition, direct and transferrable skills for specific occupations, his knowledge of the labour market, available resources and services, and networking strategies but it felt like there was something more we hadn’t uncovered. I asked him if there were any experiences or interests outside of his military experience that would support him through his transition. His eyes lit up and he talked for well over an hour about his passion for bull-riding, his dream of becoming a professional bull-rider, and slowly building a farrier business. He described his business plan, the steps he would take to get the best credentials available, and the rodeos he was signed up to compete at. I do not recall his military rank or trade. The truth is, it didn’t really matter. When all was said and done he realized that while his military service was, and always would be, a part of him, it did not define him. By framing career development as a “lifelong process of blending and managing paid and unpaid activities, learning (education), work (employment, entrepreneurship), volunteerism and leisure time,” he was able to expand his thinking about career and give himself permission to do what was right for him and not what he thought was expected of him. Had we not delved into the other aspects of his life – of his career – we may very well have been stuck trying to find a directly transferable civilian occupation for his military occupation.
On another occasion, I recall being asked why I was inquiring about the individual’s education, volunteer activities, community involvement and leisure interests. He was very blunt in telling me he was there to find a second career related to his military trade / occupation and rank, and that his outside interests did not matter. I asked him, in response, to describe for me his perfect day. He talked about spending time with his family, coaching his kids’ sports teams, handcrafting writing pens and travelling. Then he stopped talking. He realized that while he was proud of his military service, and rightfully so, his interests and activities outside of his work with the military were just as important to his career as his work with the military was. This realization opened a door for us to reframe his perspective of career and explore possibilities he had not considered.
Framing career development as the “lifelong process of blending and managing paid and unpaid activities, learning (education), work (employment, entrepreneurship), volunteerism and leisure time” is essential to quality career conversations. We owe it to the people we serve to look beyond their paid work experience, formal education and training, and work-related skills. Magic happens when we ask the right questions!
Paula Wischoff Yerama, CCDP, is the Executive Director of the Career Development Association of Alberta, Secretary for the Canadian Council for Career Development, and Chair of the Canadian Council for Career Development Certification Working Group. She is passionate about the future of career development in Canada and in 2017 was recognized as an Outstanding Career Leader by Career Professionals of Canada.