The Power of Planting Seeds for Nurturing a Client’s Career Passion and Interests

By Juliana Parker

­­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:

  • Increasing client self-awareness via assessments
  • Enrolling in an extended education course to test out an occupation
  • Conducting an informational interview.

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.

  • As counselors, we must encourage our clients to adopt internal patience and resilience for the roots of their career identities to grow. Perhaps there are some rocks in the path of the root or the plant is accidentally dug up and needs to be replanted in a different location. Ways to encourage this include: Discussing the power of possessing a growth mindset when approaching a new or difficult challenge, task, or decision.
  • Encouraging our clients to maintain a commitment to resilience increases the likelihood that they will find the best major/career suited specifically to them despite any possible setbacks.
  • Ask the client to share stories from their past where they successfully overcame barriers and how they were able to “bounce-back.”

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:

  • what their surroundings look like
  • the type of clothes or uniform that they wear
  • how they emotionally and physically feel before and after their job.

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 ParkerJuliana 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  jparker8040@gmail.com

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Lisa Raufman   on Friday 06/01/2018 at 09:06 PM

Excellent metaphors for promoting "career development". I really enjoyed the emphasis on the process of growth and development.

Melissa Herrera   on Saturday 06/02/2018 at 12:30 PM

Thank you Juliana. What an incredible article filled with analogies, warmth, and hope. Perfect Saturday morning reading. Strong connections and strong relationships do keep the garden from verminous things.

Juliana Parker   on Saturday 06/02/2018 at 02:15 PM

Thank you for your kind words Lisa and Melissa.

Marianna Savoca   on Sunday 06/03/2018 at 05:16 PM

Terrific analogy - I'm going to share with my staff.

Markell Morris   on Sunday 06/03/2018 at 07:38 PM

Wonderful article, Juliana. So important to meet the client where they are. Great metaphors to break down the process of guiding clients to clarity.

Juliana Parker   on Monday 06/04/2018 at 01:14 AM

Thank you for kind comments Marianna and Markell. ?

Zach Gregory   on Monday 06/04/2018 at 02:22 AM

Wow! What an article. Very inspiring. I only wish all my teachers were so positive. It makes me not only want to find my niche in life but also take up gardening.

Deanna Gurrola   on Monday 06/04/2018 at 01:30 PM

This is so inspiring and I LOVE the metaphor. Your warm and caring personality shines through as well! Thank you for all you are and all you do!

Juliana Parker   on Tuesday 06/05/2018 at 12:42 AM

Thank you for your nice comments Deanna and Zach. I appreciate both taking the time to read my article.

Christina Fuller   on Wednesday 06/06/2018 at 12:05 PM

This was such a great article and very, very encouraging!

Titta Bland   on Wednesday 06/06/2018 at 03:53 PM

Wow, I just read something similar in my notes from a couple of years ago; however I love your description better. Great article, I am sharing with staff.

Albert E. Aubin   on Wednesday 06/06/2018 at 05:27 PM

The profession is in good hands! This article needs to be shared widely because it addresses the concerns of those beginning their career education/carrier search. It is to easy to say “follow your passions”. I particularly appreciate the garden analogy because it implies a process and growth. Proud of you, Juliana.

Christina Sandoval   on Thursday 06/07/2018 at 01:09 PM

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would love to see an artist put this together. Visuals/metaphors help to bring things to life and remember. I really enjoyed your article.

Stephany Crisantos Valencia   on Sunday 06/10/2018 at 03:21 PM

Insightful article. Thank you.

Juliana Parker   on Tuesday 06/12/2018 at 11:39 AM

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and feedback.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.