A common goal that brings many clients to career counseling is the sincere wish to find one’s “passion”. As career counselors, the identification of this passion is something that we want for all of our clients, too. However, I was forced to rethink the concept of “career passion” when an anxious client commented to me, “Juliana, how can I figure out my career passion when I can’t even identify what I like or what I am curious about?” I realized the pressure that a client might feel when a counselor asks about passion.
To clarify this question, I decided to look at my client’s statement from the very first step. In thinking about my clients, I realized that the pursuit of passion mirrors how every living thing begins. Human life, plant life, trees, animals, new relationships, and interests all begin with a tiny seed. And, since the career development process is a living organism too, the seeds of career exploration need to be the starting point. To prosper, the seeds of career development need three vital components; career options, a foundation for growth, and strong networks. The presence of these critical elements determines the fate of the seed of career passion and whether it will thrive or just remain a seed.
In looking at career development, particularly the first stage of self-assessment and career exploration, I realized that one of my first goals, as a career counselor, is to help clients nurture and foster the interests and curiosities within them. The nurtured seed within our clients can then grow into a mighty oak tree as evidenced by a strong sense of their career direction and identity. To assist with this “gardening” project, I offer some helpful ways for counselors to support their clients in this process.
Gardening Tip #1: Career options
Water is essential for all living things. Despite other favorable circumstances, such as fertile soil and warm sun, nothing survives without water. As with our clients, we can help them identify the seeds of a possible major or career option, but we must also help provide abundant opportunities for the seeds to germinate. “Career hydration” for our clients may include:
Gardening Tip #2: Foundation for growth
As a devoted gardener, you foster the development of career interests and rejoice when one day you notice that a few tiny leaves have sprouted. Success! However, there is still critical work to be done to ensure the sustainability of the career interests you planted.
Gardening Tip #3: Strong networks
Slugs, dandelions, weeds, and other vermin can threaten the success of a plant, especially if the plant or tree bears fruit or vegetables. Companion planting is “the concept of planting two or more plants next to one another to enhance the growth or flavor of the plants.” As our clients begin to bear the fruit of their work and see their resumes come together they need to grow strong connections. Career resilience does not develop on its own.
With our clients, creating a support network as they navigate through the career development process is essential. Akin to a support rod for the trunk of a tree, strong connections with mentors, counselors, instructors, and positive friends and family members creates a community for our clients. Additional resources include joining professional associations or Facebook communities to network with individuals with similar interests. Clients might also find volunteering in an area of interest another valuable way to create a strong and supportive network. Likewise, weeding out critical and unsupportive voices is also essential.
Suggest that clients try the “Career Day Fantasy,” which only focuses on the positive aspects of the future. Just as a gardener looks at seed packets and garden designs to envision a lustrous garden, in the “Career Day Fantasy” exercise, clients can visualize all aspects of their ideal life and occupation. For example:
According to Christy Welhmi, an organic gardening instructor and blogger, “Gardening is entirely about patience. Waiting for seeds to germinate, for sprouts to generate true leaves, for the right weather to transplant out, for crops to mature.” As career counselors, we must communicate to our clients the power of patience while waiting for the seeds to sprout and grow. Like biting into the first juicy strawberry of the season, cultivating and harvesting these dreams and goals are worth the wait.
University of California, Berkeley. Career Center. Planning Your Future: Visualization Exercise. Retrieved from https://career.berkeley.edu/Plan/VisualizationExercise
What is Companion Planting? Retrieved from www.veggiegardener.com
Juliana Parker, M.S., CCC has a Master’s Degree in Career Counseling. She is a CalWORKs Counselor at Santa Monica College and an adjunct Career Counselor/Instructor at Cypress College. She can be reached at email@example.com