Fostering Relationships and Growth: The Role of Power Questions in Career Services

By Candina Janicki

Questioning constitutes a fundamental component of career services delivery. Maietta (2022), underscores its significance noting that questioning enables clients to articulate their thoughts, emotions, and concerns, thereby facilitating their personal information processing. This interactive process not only empowers clients to clarify and interpret their experiences but also equips career development professionals with essential insights (p. 17). There is an art to the process of asking questions. Close-ended questions can be used for quick clarifications and specific yes or no responses, but the true benefit of communicating comes from exploring open-ended questions, in specific, powerful questions. Unlike simple close-ended factual questions, powerful questions challenge individuals to explore their thoughts, feelings, motivations, and aspirations more profoundly. Andrew Sobel labeled these "Power Questions," choosing this term because the "questions we select have the power to give new life to your conversations in unexpected and delightful ways. They are powerful tools to get directly to the heart of the matter. They are keys to opening locked doors" (Panas & Sobel, 2012, p. 2).

For career development professionals, power questions are crucial as they encourage self-reflection, helping individuals identify and express their strengths, passions, and objectives for tailored and effective career decision making. These questions help individuals discover their own answers, rather than relying solely on the advice or opinions of others. In addition, power questions are helpful for building relationships between the professional and the client.

Using power questions effectively increases the professional’s helping skills and requires active listening, empathy, and the ability to adapt the approach based on the individual’s response. The goal is to create a supportive environment, where individuals feel comfortable exploring their thoughts and feelings, thereby enabling them to uncover insights and solutions. The key is to craft powerful questions.

Istock 1262889205 Credit Fizkes

Crafting Power Questions
To develop power questions, career development professionals should start with defining the objective of the question. Take time to think about what is to be achieved with the question, for example, if the question is to determine motivations, identify obstacles or solutions, or even explore feelings. In his post, Designing Powerful Questions, Gurteen added to the discussion of objective by highlighting the importance of reflecting on the purpose of the question and considering what is in it for the individual who is being asked (Gurteen, n.d.). Career development professionals should ask themselves, what is the individual to understand or gain from answering the question? Understanding the objective of the question will help shape what is asked and how it is asked. When the objective becomes clear, a question can be constructed accordingly.

In the article 'The Art of Powerful Questions,” Vogt et al. (2003) identified a basic architecture for formulating powerful questions, which comprises three dimensions: construction, scope, and assumptions.

Construction - how the question is phrased

Scope - the breadth and depth of the question

Assumptions – identify and challenge limitations

These dimensions work together to create powerful questions that can unlock insights, foster deep understanding, and stimulate action. With this foundation in crafting power questions, the next step is to explore the practical application of these questions within career services.

Strategic Questions for Every Career Stage: Exploration, Transition, and Growth
Career development professionals can effectively implement power questions at every phase of an individual's career journey, including initial exploration, job searching, interview preparation, and ongoing career growth and development. Career development professionals can add sample power questions to their toolbox that can be used in practice. Below are a few examples of the power questions that could be used to stimulate thought and reflection and improve interactions with clients. Take notice that each question is open-ended, encourages reflection, and is simple and clear.

Power Questions for Career Exploration

Power Questions for Job Search and Interview

Power Questions for Career Development and Growth

Empowering Growth and Building Trust
Power questions can help individuals gain more insight and make lasting changes, as well as enhance their growth. These questions deepen the connection between the career development professional and the person they support. Career development professionals should know how to create and use power questions and apply them to their everyday work in career services. Having a list of power questions that help achieve the goals of their client sessions may make the career development professional better able to foster client relationships and growth.



Gurteen, D. (n.d.). Designing powerful questions: Questions open the door to dialogue and discovery. Conversational Leadership. https://conversational-leadership.net/powerful-questions/

Maietta, H. N. (2022). Career coaching: Fundamentals, applications, and future directions. National Career Development Association.

Sobel, A., & Panas, J. (2012). Power questions: Build relationships, win new business, and influence others. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Vogt, E. E., Brown, J., & Isaacs, D. (2003). The art of powerful questions: Catalyzing insight, innovation, and action. Whole Systems Associates. https://www.scribd.com/document/18675626/Art-of-Powerful-Questions




Candina Janicki 2023Candina Janicki is a Global Career Development Facilitator, Certified Master of Career Services, Certified Career Services Provider, and Certified Professional Resume Writer with a passion for serving others and helping individuals achieve their goals. She is committed to making a positive impact through job readiness services. Specializing in military communities, she offers comprehensive support with a focus on maintaining program success and staying abreast of industry trends. She embodies a commitment to excellence and continuous professional development, never forgetting the importance of "why" in every endeavor. Candina currently works for the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA), where she is a member of the Military Affairs team developing and conducting Professional Development Training. She volunteers as an associate editor with Career Convergence. Candina can be reached at candinajanicki@outlook.com or on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/candinajanicki/


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1 Comment

Linda Sollars   on Sunday 06/02/2024 at 12:05 AM

These power questions are so critical when developing a connection with a client as well as the client's ability to frame out and talk about their focus, strengths, needs, and desires. Love the way you packaged this for the career professional! I am going to use these with future clients!

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