Relevant career coaching is about career identity and adaptability

November 16, 2015

 

For quite some time now, career coaching is not solely about helping someone to make career choices. Career coaches who are doing a relevant job in the current employability reality in which their coachees find themselves, focus on the development of career identity and adaptability. 

The blog below is inspired by the Mark Savickas keynote on the Larios Conference in 2013, which is just as relevant today as it was back then.

Why coachees are served by the development of career meta skills

In general, people are gradually getting more aware that the labor market is complex, filled with opportunities and risk. In such circumstances, having a long-term career vision is paramount, because such a vision can serve as an internal guide for directing oneself in the career.

This is easier said than done. Building a personal career story takes reflection, experience, and often other people who serve as a sounding board for this story. But that is not all. What is true in careers is also true in life itself. People must construct their own stories. What is it they want to do in life and how are they going to organize work, family life, and friends? There are no more clear scripts. Today we have all sorts of stories that were unthinkable a couple of decades ago: divorcees that share the bringing up of children, single parents, reconstituted families, and so on. In terms of work, the stories are equally diverse: part time labor, sabbaticals, independent workers ... How can we facilitate people to bring their story about life and work together and make it work for them?

I think that the more successful career coaches will be working on the more profound layers of career coaching: career values and career attitudes. Career values are about career identity: who are you in terms of your vocation? Do you know your story and do you know when to change it? Career attitudes are about adaptability: do you know how you can get what you want out of your career? Do you know how to change? Identity and adaptability are what Mark Savickas calls meta skills for the career. 

By working on these deeper levels, career coaches have a real impact on coachees’ behavior and this, in the end, benefits coachees, organizations, and society as a whole.

I see the following reasons:

  1. More and more people find themselves in a position where they have to profoundly think about their career and life: some of them have been made redundant after dedicating themselves to long careers within the same organization, job, and industry. Additionally, well-educated young adults with high expectations of life and work are confronted with unprecedented choices. It is unsurprising for some of those people to simply sense that the job they currently hold is not fulfilling. Since there are no more clear scripts they need professionals who can help them voice their own stories loud and clear.
  2.  Because of their link with intrinsically motivated behavior, these meta-skills also help organizations adapt to the diversity of stories too. The more an organization succeeds into merging the story of its individual employees with the story of the organization, the more this organization will become a great place to work. Career coaches can help them in this process.
  3. Which examples do we wish to set for future generations? The more we are collectively conscious of the importance of our personal story, the better our examples will be picked up by future generations. Career coaches are the sounding boards for these stories.
     

If you are a career coach some of these tips might be interesting to you:

  1. Encourage people to listen to the stories of others, especially the people in their family. Research shows that the more people are aware of the larger story, of their ancestors, the better they do in life.
  2. Make the concepts of identity and adaptability clear to your coachees. Both of these concepts can be measured and made tangible to coachees.
  3. Think about how life coaching techniques can be applied in career coaching. Work and life are not separated. Impactful career coaching will be less about helping people make clear cut choices (This job or that job? What training should I take to achieve my goals?) and more about the deeper layers of life that touch people on the level of their identity.
     

In conclusion, I would like to point out that career coaches who manage to work on the level of identity and adaptability with their coachees will be more successful in their practice. On top of that, these coaches do important and highly relevant work, for individual people and for society as a whole.

Lesley Vanleke

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