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Career Counselling: A Holistic Perspective

by Ellen Hicks

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Follow your dream! Live your passion! Be authentic!
How often we hear these phrases these days. What does it really mean for me?

As a professional counsellor who has a speciality in career counselling, it means many things.

It means that I serve as a guide to others who have lost their jobs; who feel their jobs no longer meet their needs or whose jobs bring little satisfaction. It means helping first time job seekers and those who feel and confused, afraid, are grieving or who feel their lives are purposeless due to job loss as a result of downsizing or injury.

How is holistic career counselling different from traditional career counselling that traditionally uses tests and checklists to help people find a good fit between themselves and jobs? For one thing, holistic career counsellors see the person as someone on a journey and begin where the person is at the time they begin to work with them. All life and work experience is validated since all teach valuable life skills.

The counselling process involves helping an individual see their options, understand the social contexts that may influence their decisions, helping them to seize the opportunities that bring them fulfillment and appreciating that people will make the best decision for themselves. It does not separate a job from emotions, or spirit or life struggles.

Instead it embraces change as part of life and helps individuals embrace all aspects of their lives as part of the decision–making process. It does not try to put people in boxes so that all they can see is the sides. It challenges, guides, and frees the person to look at all possibilities. It is not restricted to simply matching a person to a job based on their interests and education.

Helping people identify their unique talents and gifts is part of the journey. If we cannot see our uniqueness how can we find a job in which we are actively engaged and to which we feel we bring our own uniqueness and our own skills?

Many different techniques may be used to help someone discover what they truly want. Self-assessment tools may be a place to start helping people assess themselves in a concrete way. Discussion, accomplishment identification, and narratives are just some of the many techniques that can help people discover themselves and then decide what they want to use in their next job. After all most of us will hold at least 10- 15 different jobs in our lifetime.

In the era that we are now in where jobs are no longer secure, when job loss is common and contract work is prevalent, it is more important than ever for us to understand who we are at this point in our lives, what we have for work skills, and personal skills that will make us not only attractive to an employer, but also be life-giving to us.

In a spiritual sense we are trying to find a job that will allow us to be true to our own values while allowing us to live out our life purpose. No easy feat for most of us.

Life is a journey that is often fraught with unexpected challenges. Career counselling done from a holistic perspective assists people to look at what they have and where they have come from. It also involves assisting people to discover where there are potential job opportunities (including self-employment, part-time and contract work) and which companies might bring them the most satisfaction in what they do.

People who do what they love, love what they do. This makes all the difference!

If you decide that you would like career counselling and wonder how to recognize if a career counsellor does practice from a holistic perspective, here are some suggestions. Give the counsellor a call and ask what training they have and how they perceive their role as a career counsellor. Some may say that they follow a particular career counselling theory such as developmental or constructivist, for example. If they start to tell what to do, you may want to think again about seeing this counsellor.

You may want to ask if the counsellor uses assessments and whether there is a set process that is the same for every person. Listen for words or phrases like: I begin with where you are; I believe that each person can determine his/her own future; I will assist you to discover your passion or dream. Such statements are often indicators that the counsellor will counsel from a holistic perspective.

The journey of self-discovery is one of challenge and change. Take the chance!

Ellen Hicks is a counsellor, teacher and career development specialist.

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