CANNEXUS 2009, hosted in Toronto on April 6 – 8 was an overwhelming success! Thank you to all the delegates, session presenters and exhibitors for making this, our 3rd national conference, a success. Thanks also to our Sponsors as well as the many Partnering and Supporting Organizations.
The first phase of a CERIC-funded research project has now produced three literature reviews that examine what is happening in elementary education across Canada related to introducing and building career-related foundational skills. These newly available documents include: a review of scholarly literature; a curriculum and policy review; and a review of business and industry partnerships.
The project, Career Development in Children: Identifying Critical Success Conditions and Strategies, is being undertaken by an international team of academic researchers led by Dr. Lorraine Godden of Ironwood Consulting and Carleton University. The research seeks to understand how foundational concepts and skills that are introduced and developed by teachers in Grades 4 to 6 connect to career-related learning in Canadian classrooms.
The reviews have found that across Canada, provinces and territories have implemented a variety of educational strategies, initiatives, policies and programs to help young people achieve productive and fulfilling lives. Ministries, school boards and schools have a range of proactive frameworks and policies. However, several challenges impact their successful implementation. For example, many elementary schools have limited resources beyond the classroom teacher to support students’ career and life planning, and many teachers are not aware they are developing critical career skills in their students.
This document contains a review of literature which investigates the practices to support the development of career-related foundational skills in children aged 9-11 in Canadian elementary schools. The review explores the scholarly literature related to career development terminology, career development frameworks and theoretical understandings, and empirical work that examines the ways teachers introduce and develop foundational career skills (e.g., healthy habits of mind and being, social and emotional skills, self-confidence, self-efficacy). This literature review recognizes that career vocabulary and terminology are the building blocks on which all career interventions are built.
The literature review includes:
- An extensive exploration of career-related terminology that educators might encounter in the career-related work in schools;
- An exploration of how work is linked to career development;
- A detailed overview of typical expected outcomes of career development;
- An overview of empirical career-related learning and career development theoretical frameworks;
- An outline of typical career-related learning outcomes seen in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom;
- An examination of what career-related learning looks like in elementary schools; and
- A summary of contemporary issues related to career.
This curriculum and policy review examines provincial and territorial policy, reporting and curriculum documents for career-related learning, including relevant social studies, health and wellness, and social and emotional learning documents. This pan-Canadian exploration provides insight into what is happening in career education in Grades 4, 5 and 6, showing differences across the country. This review has involved developing a greater understanding of the role that geographic context plays in influencing practice related to delivering career-related learning.
- Some provinces and territories, such as Ontario, British Columbia and Yukon, have embraced a Kindergarten to Grade 12 approach to career education.
- In other areas of the country, career education begins to emerge in Grades 5 and 6 (e.g., Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Atlantic provinces).
- Still other regions do not appear to have any formal career education currently in place at the elementary level (e.g., Nunavut).
This review examines partnerships between elementary schools and business and industry. It reports on industry perspectives regarding the importance of developing foundational skills and investigates formal partnerships between business/industry and schools or school districts. It also establishes where and how the wider business and industry community are providing services, programming, training, resources or partnerships to and with elementary schools across Canada. This exploration provides some important insights into these partnerships and confirmed that some elementary schools do partner with business and industry through various agreements and specialist councils. However, the research revealed partnerships to be more widespread for secondary schools.
The review answers:
- Which provinces and territories have business and industry partnerships?
- What partnerships and programs currently exist between business and industry and elementary schools?
- Which provinces and territories have Industry Education Councils?
- What connections do Industry Education Councils have with elementary schools?
These three literature reviews are intended for and can benefit:
- Teachers – in elementary and secondary schools who are supporting their students with career-related learning;
- Guidance counsellors – who are delivering and managing career-related knowledge, information and services across their schools;
- School leaders and district school board administrators – who are determining the scope of career-related learning across their schools;
- Curriculum developers – who are looking for worthwhile practices to incorporate into career-related programming and development;
- Policymakers – who are directing courses of action across the policy life cycle, and are evaluating the role of different policy actors within career-related policy in schools;
- Government – who are making decisions as to what career-related learning should look like in schools; and
- Business and industry partners – who are making decisions to form or undertake strategies that support career-related learning in their local and broader community schools.
Research for this project is ongoing with data being collected from educators, parents and Grade 4-6 students in public school settings across Canada. This has involved ensuring the inclusion of diverse perspectives: Indigenous communities, immigrant communities, francophone communities, special needs educators, and urban, rural and remote communities.
The next phase of this project is focused on the development of a teacher’s toolkit, including strategies and interventions teachers can use to develop critical career-related foundational skills with students. On Monday, January 23 at Cannexus, Canada’s Career Development Conference, Dr. Godden and fellow researchers will be leading a virtual research circle entitled Teaching Careers to Grades 4-6? Pilot Our Toolkit! In this interactive community consultation, participants can review the evidence gathered to support toolkit development, sample different class-based activities and provide feedback to help shape the final toolkit.
Has employee retention since the pandemic been more difficult for large employers or small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? Is employee mental health more of a challenge for rural or urban employers? In which region of the country do employers put the most effort into recruiting from underrepresented groups? The answers can be found in newly released data from CERIC’s Career Development in the Canadian Workplace: National Business Survey.
On CERIC’s behalf, Environics surveyed 500 Canadian executives in more than 11 industries including service, retail, hospitality, construction and manufacturing. The survey explored Canadian organizations’ views on skills gaps in the labour market; hiring as part of equity, diversity and inclusion strategies; and investing in employee career development. The national findings were released earlier this year at the Cannexus conference. Further survey findings are now available by employer size, location and region.
A shortage of skilled workers is being experienced more sharply by larger employers with 100% of employers with 50+ employees reporting a shortage. Meanwhile, a shortage is still cited as the biggest challenged faced by employers with <10 staff as well as those with 10-49 employees.
The survey showed that larger employers have a greater number of employees working from home or hybrid at 52% compared to 33% (<10) and 31% (10-49). Larger employers are also better equipped in terms of the career management and mental health support offered to employees working from home.
The struggle to recruit is felt by employers of all sizes. Larger employers are more likely to have experimented with new recruitment policies and practices in the past two years (50% vs. 21% <10, 37% 10-49). In particular, SMEs put less effort into reaching members of underrepresented groups.
The impact of the pandemic on the retention of employees has been more challenging for employers with 50+ employees. Among larger employers, 55% find it more difficult to retain employees compared with two years ago.
When it comes to career development for employees, 57% of the employers with 50+ employees offer career management programs, compared to 17% of the smallest employers with <10 employees and compared to 34% for employers with 10-49 employees.
Among the top challenges facing business, employee mental health was cited by 50% of the employers surveyed who were located in major cities and outside major cities, compared to only 23% of rural employers.
Recruitment has been proving more difficult for rural employers (53% say it is very difficult) than the ones in major cities or outside major cities. A key factor cited is low/uncompetitive wages offered by employers in rural areas.
There are some differences in the importance allocated to soft skills by location: Only 7% of rural employers mentioned communication skills while, for the employers located in major cities or outside them, an employee’s communication skills are very important (26% and 24%).
Employers located in rural areas are also less concerned about investing in upskilling employees and then losing them to other organizations than their more urban counterparts.
Agreement among employers surveyed that a skills gap exists between the skills the organization needs and the skills that jobseekers possess is strongest in Ontario and lowest in Quebec: 41% Ontario, 35% Prairies, 34% BC, 28% Atlantic and 20% Quebec.
Conversely, targeted efforts to recruit among underrepresented groups is highest among employers in Quebec and lowest in Ontario: Quebec 27%, BC 20%, Prairies 17%, Atlantic and Ontario 14%.
Among the top challenges facing businesses, finding young employees was a concern for three out of four Quebec employers but fewer than half of employers on the Prairies: Quebec 75%, Ontario 72%, BC 67%, Atlantic 57% and Prairies 44%.
There was very strong agreement with the statement “Employers have a responsibility to provide career management programs for their employees” in Ontario and lowest agreement in Quebec: Ontario 48%, Prairies 40%, BC 25%, Atlantic 23% and Quebec 15%.
Awareness of CDPs was similarly low across all regions of the country. In Atlantic, BC and Quebec, 17% of employers indicated both knowing of and having worked with CDPs, with that number being 11% in the Prairies and 10% in Ontario.
Regional North American career development organizations CERIC (Canada), the Canadian Career Development Foundation (Canada) and the National Career Development Association (United States) are launching a Global Career Month social media campaign today called Career Development Changes Everything that runs throughout November 2022.
Career Development Changes Everything is a hashtag campaign that invites everyone in the career development field and the public to post stories that amplify the value of career development. Participants are asked to share their stories in video or written format on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and using the hashtag #Amplifier2022.
Participants looking to be an Amplifier for the Global Career Month celebration in North America can get started by making use of the prompts provided on the Career Development Changes Everything campaign website.
Social media posts that use the hashtag #Amplifier2022 will be entered into a giveaway with gifts from the Canadian Career Development Foundation, CERIC and the National Career Development Association.
Global Careers Month is a collaboration with the Inter-Agency Working Group on Career Guidance (IAG WGCG), composed of Cedefop, the European Commission, ETF, ILO, OECD, UNESCO and World Bank during which the European and international organizations will promote a series of global and regional events.
A total of 41 career development professionals from Canada and across the Asia-Pacific will be attending the virtual edition of the Cannexus23 conference, courtesy of bursaries and scholarships administered by CERIC. The Marilyn Van Norman Bursary has been provided to 13 practitioners from community-based employment agencies, the Young Professionals Bursary granted to 13 early career professionals and the APCDA Cannexus Scholarship awarded to 15 career development practitioners from non-high-income countries.
Funded by The Counselling Foundation of Canada, the Marilyn Van Norman Bursary is given in the name of CERIC’s former Director of Research Initiatives and recognizes her more than 40 years of leadership in career development. Recipients of the Marilyn Van Norman Bursary this year represent the country from coast to coast to coast, including British Columbia, Northwest Territories and New Brunswick. Bursary winners are non-profit community-based career development and employment practitioners who work at military family resource centres, food banks, immigrant centres, mental health groups and associations for community living.
The Young Professionals Bursary is a partnership between CERIC and the Nova Scotia Career Development Association (NSCDA) designed to support emerging employment and career development practitioners. Bursaries are awarded to ensure the diverse voices of the new generation of employment and career practitioners are represented and that young professionals can benefit from the professional development and networking at the conference. Preference is given to applicants from equity-seeking groups. The young professionals – 30 years of age or younger – who are among the winners this year include those from Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Many winners cited having started their roles during the pandemic and being eager to connect with colleagues. They also want to further develop their skills in order to better support their clients and make a lasting impact on their communities.
CERIC is partnering for the first time with the Asia Pacific Career Development Association to offer scholarships to APCDA members to attend the Cannexus23 conference. The scholarships are sponsored by the Marine Institute of Memorial University. Recipients are from Lebanon, the Philippines, Nepal, Vietnam, India and South Africa. They work for universities, departments of education and in high school guidance counselling. Many plan to use the information they gain at Cannexus to train counsellors and teachers in their home countries and to improve career education for students. The participation of APCDA members is expected to also enrich the conference experience for all attendees who can learn from their Asia Pacific counterparts.
Each bursary or scholarship provides a full registration for the virtual portion of the Cannexus conference. The Cannexus conference takes place January 23-25, 2023 both virtually and in Ottawa. Canada’s largest bilingual conference of its kind, Cannexus23 features 150+ sessions exploring innovative approaches in career and workforce development.
CERIC is looking for a leader who has experience and knowledge of the national career counselling and career development field and offers a demonstrated ability to focus on equity, inclusion and diversity. Ideally, the individual chosen for this important role will have an excellent network of contacts throughout the sector and a sound understanding of the education and research environment within the post-secondary, secondary and/or greater community.
CERIC’s Fall 2022 Careering theme of “Recovery, Reflection, Resilience” aims to hold space for the complex reality we find ourselves in after two-plus years of COVID-19. It recognizes that we’re recreating normal as we go – and it may not be what we had imagined. We asked contributors to consider, how can the career development field navigate what’s happening now and prepare for what’s to come?
- Yes, your employees are still burned out. Here’s what you can do about it
- ‘Crossing the Rubicon’: Turning career action crises into opportunities
- Which hybrid work model is right for your client?
- Case Study: Reimagining mentorship for South Asian & Tamil women and gender-diverse peoples
- Choose crisis before crisis chooses you
- From compassion fatigue to compassion satisfaction
- Future mindsets and skillsets for a changing world
- How to help your clients navigate the trauma of racism in the workplace
- Re-entry moms: untapped talent at its finest
- Stress-management strategies from occupational therapy
- Supporting homeless clients starts with understanding their unique stories
- Taking a gap year could be the antidote to students’ experience deficit
- Three dimensions of career decision-making
- Two models to develop individual and organizational resilience
- Plus: Editor’s note
Careering magazine is Canada’s Magazine for Career Development Professionals and is the official publication of CERIC. You can also access past issues for free online.
Details for the Winter 2023 issue of Careering will be released soon. Check back on ceric.ca/careering-magazine or sign up for CERIC’s free CareerWise Weekly newsletter or subscribe to Careering to get the latest updates.
Solutions to support struggling workers must go beyond self-care
The past few years have been stressful, to say the least. We have had to navigate numerous challenges including but not limited to working through a pandemic while managing multiple responsibilities, witnessing and protesting social justice issues that continue to have a negative impact on disadvantaged groups and losing loved ones. The psychological impact of these stressors has tested us in many ways.
For most organizations, it may be back to business as usual. However, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in four Canadians has accessed support for mental health challenges and their levels of mental health distress are similar to the start of the pandemic. This suggests the pandemic could have lasting effects on individual well-being, requiring ongoing mental health support.
The typical advice employers give to employees who are feeling stressed and burned out is to take care of their mental health, access counselling, engage in self-care and take vacation days. This advice is not enough. Employees simply can’t self-care their stress away. We must address the systems that enable stress and burnout to continue to harm our people.
So, as leaders, how do we move beyond superficial advice to help support the mental health journey of our team members?
The first challenge we can address is encouraging or supporting team members to have a more balanced life. One of the positive aspects to come out of working during a pandemic was the fact that many companies were able to move to a work-from-home option. A study by Statistics Canada indicated 90% of people who worked from home reported they accomplished as much work at home as they did in the office. This gave employees the chance to prove that their success can’t be measured by the hours they spend in the office, but rather by their ability to get the job done. Working remotely also helped increase employee happiness by as much as 20%, while returning to work and dealing with long commute times decreases happiness, according to a June 2022 study from Tracking Happiness.
“Employees simply can’t self-care their stress away. We must address the systems that enable stress and burnout to continue to harm our people.”
When we think about work-life balance, the ability to work remotely and have a flexible schedule can significantly impact the life of your employees and help bring more balance to their lives. If you are a people leader, think about areas where you can offer these options. This can help reduce some of the stress employees are experiencing when they come to work.
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Another area to consider when you are trying to help your team manage their stress is not waiting to act until employees are burned out and need to take a stress leave. This is a reactive approach.
To be proactive, all people leaders need to engage in professional development around recognizing the signs of stress and burnout. Tuning into your employees’ changing needs and finding a way to help accommodate them can shift their experience from entering a state of burnout to feeling supported in their mental health.
The website Workplace Strategies For Mental Health has some great tips for recognizing signs of burnout in your employees. It outlines actions leaders can take including assessing employees’ workloads, setting realistic expectations and giving high-achievers choices. Leaders and employees may also be able to access training options through a company Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
In addition to professional development, leaders can conduct weekly check-ins with reports, note changes in behaviours or attitudes and provide opportunities for professional development or stretch projects (if employees express the need for a change) to help prevent burnout. When we can anticipate our team’s needs, this can help us to uplift and empower them, especially in challenging times.
Create a safe space
If you want your employees to let you in on what they are experiencing, you must create a psychologically safe work environment. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, psychological safety occurs when team members feel comfortable being themselves, including speaking up, disagreeing with the status quo and embracing respectful conflict.
As people leaders, it’s important to assess where you stand on fostering a psychologically safe environment at work. You can ask yourself:
- Do your team members speak up in meetings?
- Do your reports open up to you when you check in on them or do you get surface-level interactions?
- Do you notice team members tend to agree with mostly everything you say?
A McKinsey & Company study found that organizations that invest in leadership training see an increase in psychological safety. When leaders commit to continuing to build their leadership skills – especially in the domains of emotional intelligence and creating an inclusive environment – this can create a safe space for employees to speak up when they are feeling overloaded, stressed or in need of accommodations. This is an important factor for preventing burnout and creating protective factors.
Courses such as Amy Edmondson’s Psychological Safety: Clear Blocks to Innovation, Collaboration, and Risk-Taking and Anima Leadership’s Authentic Management – Leading Diverse, High Performance Teams are excellent places to start building your skills in the domain of psychological safety.
Take a systems approach
Lastly, burnout can be caused by the workplace systems that keep employees overworked and often underpaid. Consider updating policies that may be causing your team more harm than good. Whether it’s introducing a remote work or diversity, equity and inclusion policy; updating compensation packages; or simply pointing out when policies don’t seem fair, these systems-level considerations can help improve the day-to-day experiences of employees.
If you have spoken up, but you and your team must abide by these policies, what can you do in your power to make a difference? For example, can you show flexibility in areas such as work hours, re-distributing workload, advocating for your employee’s needs, listening or looking out for professional development opportunities that can help your team grow?
As a leader you can also lead by example and model taking care of yourself. And encourage other leaders you connect with to do the same. No longer is working 10-hour days perceived as a badge of honour; rather, it’s seen as a recipe for burnout. When your team sees you modelling the behaviour you want to see in them as well as encouraging other leaders to do the same, this can create a culture of wellness.
In summary, employees are still feeling stressed and burned out. As a leader, you can make a difference. You can work with your team to create more balance through work-from-home options or flexibility in scheduling. You can also take a proactive approach by investing in your own professional development as a leader to recognize the signs of stress and burnout on your team and have strategies in place to minimize the effects. Creating a psychologically safe work environment is also essential for your team to speak up when they need help or accommodations in the workplace. And finally, continue to challenge the systems that can cause your employees harm, find workarounds that minimize the stress your team feels and model the behaviour you’d like to see on your team.
Jodi Tingling is a Licensed Therapist in Ontario and Wellness Coach. She provides wellness training for organizations and helps high-achieving professionals navigate stress in the workplace (including impostor syndrome, toxic workplaces and creating balance). To learn more about her work check her out here: www.creatingnewsteps.com.
The pandemic has set the stage for individuals to reflect on, embrace and overcome challenges related to their career goals
Geneviève Taylor, Kaspar Schattke and Ariane Sophie Marion-Jetten
Julian is a Canadian professional soccer player whose career goal is to get into a European club. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he felt the constant stress of having to isolate when a team member was sick and started feeling disenchanted about having to play without an audience. Things are more “normal” now, but he has not been performing well and has suffered repeated injuries. Thus, he gets anxious about his performance and career goal. He often ruminates about his mistakes and wonders whether he should disengage from his goal or not. He is experiencing a career action crisis.
What is a career action crisis?
An action crisis represents the internal conflict that arises when thinking about whether to continue with or to give up an important (career) goal, for which difficulties have been accumulating. This has important negative consequences, such as elevated distress and depression. It can also make failing one’s goal more likely and often leads to giving it up. Giving up career goals can be unsettling because they are usually identity-defining. However, what if going through an action crisis is exactly what Julian needs to realign his career with the life he really wants to live?
We do not know much about the potential positive long-term outcomes of career action crises. While it is certainly distressing, an action crisis can also represent a “golden opportunity.” It may provide an occasion to reflect on one’s career goals, to let go of the ones that no longer make us happy, and to help us find more motivating and meaningful goals. However, this depends on how we cope with our action crisis, which is precisely where career development professionals can help.
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Action crises through the lens of the Rubicon Model
Career development professionals frequently meet clients who are experiencing a career action crisis, without using that terminology. The Rubicon Model of Action Phases helps us to understand why action crises are problematic by differentiating four phases of goal pursuit (see Figure 1).
In the predecisional phase, people deliberate about how desirable and feasible their different wishes are. Intending to put a wish into action turns it into a goal. At that point, we have “crossed the Rubicon,” as Julius Caesar literally did to conquer Rome. In the preactional and actional phases, people plan and execute their actions, respectively, while ignoring the pros and cons of their decision to focus on goal attainment. In the postactional phase, people reflect on their progress, or lack thereof.
In an action crisis, people start oscillating between the predecisional and preactional/actional phases, preventing them from effectively pursuing their goal because they question it instead of working on it. For example, Julian starts losing games and wonders whether to let go of his European ambitions.
“While it is certainly distressing, an action crisis can also represent a ‘golden opportunity.'”
How can career professionals use the Rubicon Model to help their clients cope with and learn from an action crisis? Our own research suggests that mindfulness is linked to a reduction in action crisis severity and can help individuals who are coping with an ongoing one. Thus, we propose three ways of turning career action crises into “golden opportunities.”
1. Reflecting on career goals and embracing action crises
A career action crisis offers the opportunity to readjust our priorities related to an overarching goal. We will have to “cross the Rubicon” again, either in deciding to keep and recommit to the initial goal, with necessary adjustments, or to abandon it and re-engage in another goal. One means to facilitate this challenge of embracing an unpleasant action crisis can be self-compassion, consisting of three components:
- Self-kindness – being caring toward oneself after failure
- Common humanity – recognizing our negative experiences as a part of being human
- Mindfulness – paying attention in an accepting, non-judgmental way to our thoughts, sensations and emotions, in the present moment
For example, we could help Julian become mindful of his anxiety and self-critical thoughts, be kind with himself for having experienced unanticipated obstacles such as losing games and help him recognize that this just makes him human. This way, we normalize experiencing an action crisis and allow our client to accept his negative thoughts and emotions without avoiding or being consumed by them.
2. To disengage or not to disengage? That is the question
After having reflected upon and embraced the action crisis as an opportunity, we can help the client explicitly explore whether they need to disengage from their goal. First, why did the person initially engage in their career goal? Was it because of external or internal pressure (controlled reasons), or because it was related to their values and interests (autonomous reasons)? A career goal chosen for mostly controlled reasons will be more likely to lead to action crises in the future, and to decrease goal progress and increase distress. If a person already has an action crisis for a controlled goal, it could be time to disengage and search for a more autonomous goal, one that is connected to their values/interests.
Second, we can support clients to consider the attainability and desirability of the goal. In Julian’s case, is getting into a European league still attainable and something worth investing in?
Finally, one has to evaluate the obstacles that triggered the action crisis. Are they surmountable? If it is a desirable, attainable and autonomous goal, is it worth continuing to work on getting over the obstacles? If so, then we can use tools such as WOOP, which helps us reflect on our Wish (goal), its desired Outcomes, internal Obstacles and create an action Plan to overcome the obstacles. If the goal is not desirable, attainable and autonomous, then we can help the client to disengage from it, cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally.
3. Re-engaging after an action crisis
After disengaging from a career goal, the challenge is to help the client re-engage in a more meaningful, feasible and fulfilling career goal that reflects their true passions, interests and core values. They can achieve this through various exercises that career counsellors use daily, such as interest inventories, value exploration, narratives and life space mapping.
Another complementary tool clients can use is a mindfulness practice to pay attention to how they feel when discussing certain goals: Do they feel tight in the chest or open and relaxed? This could help identify new areas for goal setting; however, it is important to explore the source of these feelings first, which could also stem from anxiety around uncertainty or considering a goal that is largely different from what they are used to, rather than because it is not the “right” goal for them.
Finally, since career goals are usually identity defining, another idea is to help clients re-engage in a related goal. For example, Julian could aim for a career as a trainer in a European club if his injuries do not allow him a career as a player at a high level.
An action crisis is an unpleasant experience, yet it also constitutes an opportunity for realigning life priorities with work goals. Using mindfulness and self-compassion can help to embrace an action crisis in lieu of fighting it. It can help to figure out which “Rubicon to cross”: the one that reaffirms the initial goal or the one that disengages and re-engages in a new career goal, while applying the wisdom that the action crisis experience has bestowed upon us. Without the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us would have never had this opportunity.
Geneviève Taylor, PhD, is a professor in career counselling at Université du Québec à Montréal. She obtained a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management from the London School of Economics and a doctorate in clinical psychology from McGill University. Her current research focuses on the role of mindfulness and self-compassion in career-related goal pursuit and other motivational processes.
Originating from Berlin, Kaspar Schattke obtained a doctorate from the Technical University of Munich and is now an Associate Professor at Université du Québec à Montréal in work and organisational psychology. Dr. Schattke is also a certified management trainer and consultant specialized on leadership and motivation. His current research interests focus on goal disengagement, greenwashing and work motivation.
Ariane Sophie Marion-Jetten, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Psychology and Movement Science at Universität Hamburg, Germany. Her research focuses on the role of mindfulness and implicit and explicit motives congruence for self-regulation and goal pursuit (career and other types).
The ability to find possibility within uncertainty can be key to thriving
In 2020, CERIC released a series of Career Work in Action publications based on its “Guiding Principles of Career Development” to provide insights as well as consistency for career-related support in five key areas: self-exploration, decision making, support through transition, future thinking and mental health. After more than two years of the pandemic, with so much change in the global labour market, one might consider whether our implementation for those five key areas of career support has been sufficient.
According to a survey by Gartner, the pandemic has prompted 52% of employees to question the purpose of their job. Research from McKinsey shows many people are still considering quitting their jobs in the coming months, with lack of meaningful work as a top reason. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, at the individual level for our clients, it has also prompted a crisis of purpose. For career development professionals, it has served as a test case for how we respond to and help clients respond to unexpected challenges.
Writer Bruce Feiler calls those unexpected challenges (whether they are voluntary or involuntary) a “whenever crisis,” as they can happen at any moment in our lives – not just quarter-life or mid-life, as we usually discuss. It’s no longer enough to just support clients through their current transition or external crises. We need to maximize mental health support by helping them learn how to prepare for the inevitable crises ahead.
Mental health support in the era of uncertainty
Each client’s life is a constellation of interconnected pieces. As career guidance professionals, we learn about clients’ life roles, barriers and constraints and help them to take into consideration all variables that might affect their career decision-making. When people feel that some of those variables are out of their control and that they are unable to predict what might happen in the future (as in the COVID-19 crisis), they experience uncertainty.
How could we, as career development professionals, better support our clients to manage uncertainty and be ready for crises? I often work with immigrants and underrepresented groups who have to go through uncertainty more often than others do. I’ve found that what distinguishes thriving individuals from surviving ones is the skill to see possibility within uncertainty.
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According to author Nathan Furr, possibility is reflected in the thinking, “What could happen if I get through my fear and just do it?”
Inspired by the five key areas of career guidance practice in CERIC’s Career Work in Action publications and Furr’s four-stage process to turn uncertainty into possibility, I adapted a five-step process to help guide clients through uncertainty.
Step 1: Self-reflecting
A 2022 Joblist survey revealed that more than one-quarter of Americans who quit their job as part of the “Great Resignation” now regret their decision. Many weren’t ready to handle uncertainty and had a lack of clarity on what they wanted. If we learn who we are and why we do what we do before making decisions, the what and how will come clear.
Our first support could be as simple as creating a safe space for clients to unpack their stories and their experiences. What work-related and non-work-related stories do they have? How do these shape the way they look at themselves and the world? How does that affect their career decision-making process?
Using the Wheel of Life assessment tool, journalling and talking with others are great ways to initiate self-reflection.
Step 2: Reframing
Is it possible for uncertainty to bring opportunity?
I believe the answer is yes. COVID has created new opportunities for running the economy remotely. At the beginning of 2021, 32% of Canadian employees worked most of their hours from home, compared with 4% in 2016.
Our job in guiding our clients through an uncertain world of work is to help them explore different possibilities. We can tap into their creative power by helping them brainstorm new ideas without judgment. We might ask:
- If money and status were no object, what would you do?
- If you had multiple lives with multiple possibilities, what would you do?
- If plan A no longer works, what would you do?
- If plan B also goes awry, what would you do?
This brainstorming and thought exercise helps our clients prepare for future uncertainty and understand that an option they didn’t even consider initially may be more exciting than what they could have envisioned.
Step 3: Priming
A 10-year linear career path with one employer is no longer guaranteed for our clients in this chaotic, constantly changing world. We need to help them prepare for uncertainty, recognizing that a career crisis can happen at any time.
We should help our clients look at their support system including money, people and environment: Do they have savings? Do they keep networking and building connections with people? Do they regularly update their skills and knowledge?
Step 4: Doing
While thinking about the long-term future can be intimidating, many things in the near future or present moment are within our control. Backward goal-setting is a powerful technique to help our clients break big goals into small goals, small goals into tasks and tasks into daily to-do lists.
Reflecting is essential to the success of doing. Hence, it’s important to review Steps 4 and 1 side by side, helping clients constantly take inventory of where they are, who they care about, their purpose and its alignment with their action plan.
Step 5: Sustaining
Sustaining effort to deal with uncertainty and crisis means two things: being proactive and being resilient.
Being proactive comes from monitoring risks regularly. Our success as career guidance practitioners should not be on clients’ dependency but on their ability to self-coach. Start with the importance of regular career checkups and equip them with exercises, tools and materials so that they can periodically go through Steps 1 to 4 themselves.
Being resilient is about building a strong support system. “Resilience” stems from Latin word “resilire” for “bounce,” yet bouncing back while relying on only oneself creates limitations around the sustainability of personal growth. Handling and preparing for the unknown are possible in the presence of a person we trust. A partner, a friend, a coach – they can help us to see our blind spots and cultivate a positive mindset.
An upcoming recession?
Many jobseekers and recruiters are concerned about how a recession could affect the labour market. While the prospect of uncertainty may be alarming for workers, this is just another crisis in many crises we need to prepare for.
By preparing for this reality, rather than waiting to react to it, workers will be better positioned to weather the storm and jump on opportunities that emerge from these challenges. Much as COVID ushered in a new era of remote work, uncertainty can introduce new possibilities. We can never foretell what will come in the future, but by choosing crisis before it chooses us – acting instead of reacting – we walk through life with a real sense of purpose.
Tam Nguyen is a Certified Career/Life Coach and workshop facilitator at Empurpose – a private coaching practice dedicated to helping underrepresented groups unlock professional potential and develop a sense of work/life purpose. She is a member of APCDA and a sustainability enthusiast with an interest in purpose-driven community.
Career professionals can learn how to have safe and meaningful conversations to support clients experiencing this form of bullying
I was first introduced to the concept of bullying in the workplace in 2010 during my graduate course in Career Psychology. I realized that although bullying has been a workplace issue for many years, it has received very little attention in the Canadian context. Nevertheless, as a Career Counsellor in private practice, I have often heard clients share stories that highlight clear instances of this issue.
Unfortunately, when I researched tools to support clients in navigating this reality, the resources were very limited. This stayed with me, as I find that it reflects how our society often approaches “negative” topics. For example, in 2003, the Canadian government conducted an Ethnic Diversity Survey (EDS) and reported that 65% of underrepresented individuals experienced racism in the workplace. Even though this is a high percentage and it’s a known fact that racism has a serious impact on a person’s mental health, I did not find any follow-up action plans to deal with this situation – until now. In this post-George Floyd era, when racism and systemic racism are a hot topic, we are now witnessing everyone jumping on the equity, diversity and inclusion train.
But are we really implementing lasting solutions to this problem?
I would like to open up the discussion on a topic that is often overlooked: racism as a form of bullying in the workplace. By starting this conversation, my hope is that as career development professionals, you will be better equipped to have safe and meaningful conversations with your clients, and to help them set boundaries to protect themselves from various forms of bullying in the workplace and to limit its negative effects on their mental health.
What is bullying?
In the literature, bullying is described as a series of negative behaviours that includes harassing, offending, socially excluding or negatively affecting someone’s work, taking place repeatedly and regularly over a period of at least six months (Podsiadly, A. & Gamian, Wilk, M., 2017; Samnani, A-K. & Singh, P., 2012; High, A., Hansen, A.M., Mikkelsen, E.G., Persson, R. 2011). However, when working from a trauma-informed lens, one event is often enough for an individual to experience trauma and/or to trigger an individual’s past trauma. Therefore, it is important to recognize that an individual who experiences any type of bullying in the workplace over any period of time could still experience its negative outcomes.
In the context of this discussion, I would like to include in my definition of bullying: any type of workplace situation where an individual feels unsafe or distressed or lacks the tools to protect themself from an actual or perceived threat. In this case, I include racism as a form of bullying and as a consequence, relational trauma in the workplace.
“It is important to recognize that an individual who experiences any type of bullying in the workplace over any period of time could still experience its negative outcomes.”
The psychological impact
Research has not only confirmed that bullying in the workplace leads to negative psychological outcomes (i.e. higher rates of anxiety and depression) for individuals who are targeted by these negative behaviours (Podsiadly, A. & Gamian, Wilk, M., 2017; Samnani, A-K. & Singh, P., 2012; High, A., Hansen, A.M., Mikkelsen, E.G., Persson, R. 2011); it has also identified that targets are often ethnic minority women (Samnani, A-K., & Singh, P., 2012).
Furthermore, in its 2022 training on the trauma of racism, NICABM (National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine) emphasized the hypervigilant behaviour racialized individuals often exhibit due to the serious psychological impact of regular racial stressors in their environments. Thus, we cannot take this topic lightly if we care about the Canadian population’s mental health and well-being.
So, what can we do about it? I’d like to continue this conversation by suggesting some simple interventions you and your clients can start to use to address this problem.
Interventions and solutions
It can be challenging to recognize that your client is experiencing racism in the workplace; it can also be difficult for your client to acknowledge that they are being bullied at work. Therefore, I believe it’s important to highlight that it is never the “victim’s” fault or responsibility to find solutions and interventions to issues of racism, discrimination and racial micoragressions in the workplace. We do not ask the person who is bullied to come up with solutions, so let’s ensure we take the same approach when it comes to racism in the workplace.
Educating employers and employees
It should no longer be acceptable for employers to lack training and/or education on issues surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. To create a safe space for all leaders and employees, it should be mandatory for everyone to receive training on bias and anti-racism in the workplace. Employers need to question their current practices and go beyond simply reaching their employment equity quotas – a practice that does not protect underrepresented individuals. On the contrary, individuals can experience serious repercussions when they are tokenized and thrown into unsafe work environments where their colleagues have not explored their personal biases.
If you are a non-racialized individual, or your client is working with a non-racialized supervisor, it is important to remember that your experience of power and privilege means you are not in a position where you have experienced what racism looks like, feels like or sounds like. This lack of awareness can lead you to ignore serious complaints that require your immediate attention.
Denying an act of racism can be as harmful as the actual racist experience your client has endured. Remember that calling out racism requires a lot of courage from a racialized individual and puts them in a very vulnerable space, emotionally and psychologically. Treat every complaint with the amount of attention it deserves.
It is also important to remember that microaggressions are very subtle acts, incidents or comments that cannot be easily identified – (see Microaggressions in Everyday Life by D.W. Sue & L. Spanierman). Some things are felt in the body, and not easily explained by the mind.
This is where you can teach your client strategies to protect themselves against racism in the workplace. How can you help your clients identify safe working spaces? How can clients voice their concerns and opinions to encourage positive change in the workplace? When should a client consider leaving a toxic work environment? How can you support your client to ask questions such as: What anti-racist policies are in place? How do these translate in the workplace?
Co-operation and commitment
Is your client’s employer ready for open and uncomfortable conversations? Are they ready to hear suggestions from the groups affected by racism and discrimination? Are they ready to dive into the complexities and subjective realities of their employees? Have you prepared yourself as a helper to explore these ideas and to be in an uncomfortable space with your clients?
In order to create meaningful and positive changes in the workplace and to ensure safe work environments, employers as well as the work environments and culture need to be open and willing to listen and communicate with racialized individuals about their experience.
The interventions and strategies I have shared only scratch the surface of the conversation that needs to be had about racism as a form of workplace bullying. As Canadians, we will have to participate in in-depth discussions to shift mindsets and dismantle the systems that uphold work environments that are conducive to bullying and racism. If we want to create meaningful changes where the goals of equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives are optimally reached, we will have to do the uncomfortable work.
Priscilla Jabouin, M.A., C.C.C., c.o. After a career change in 2010, Priscilla returned to school to complete her master of arts in counselling psychology. She then embarked on a new path as a Career Counsellor in university career centres in Canada and the United States, and is now in private practice helping creative professionals who are unhappy at work, wake up to a career they love.
Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute (CTRI) (2021). Trauma: Counselling Strategies for Healing and Resilience (Training Manual)
Khan, C. (2006, Summer). “The Blind Spot”: Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace. In J.S. Frideres (vol. 2). Our Diverse Cities. (pp. 61 – 65). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anita-Friesen/publication/332180728_Winnipeg’s_Inner_City_Research_on_the_Challenges_of_Growing_Diversity/links/5ca4db0da6fdcc12ee9113e9/Winnipegs-Inner-City-Research-on-the-Challenges-of-Growing-Diversity.pdf#page=63