ACA Blog

Jackie Torres
Aug 29, 2011

An Alternative to the Scantron

Sometimes clients say that they have no idea what career to focus on. Although the reasons for feeling this way are varied, perhaps clients have not yet had the chance to recognize and create a language for their skills, interests, and ideal work environment. Instead of reaching for an assessment right away, there are a lot of great questions we can ask clients that will spark new career ideas or even reunite clients with old ideas that were never pursued. I wanted to share some of my favorite questions you can use with your clients to brainstorm skills, interests, and ideal work environments.

Clients should go into these brainstorming sessions with an open mind, and a strategy for documenting their findings. Also, career counselors would serve clients greatly by taking into consideration the learning style of the client (visual, kinesthetic, audible) and fine-tuning the question accordingly.

1)What do people come to you for help with?
This question will help generate ideas about the skills a client already possesses. Perhaps people come to them for help with organization or for assistance with solving a problem. I love this question because it gets people immediately talking about their strengths and areas they excel in. It reminds clients that they do have a good foundation for building a career.
2)When you feel most energized, what are you doing? Hearing? Seeing?
This question can be a great homework assignment. By documenting when they feel the most energized, clients will learn to practice self-awareness, an important skill for ongoing career management. I also like adding the part about what a client is “hearing” and “seeing” because it can elicit a more vivid imagery of an ideal work environment.
3)What career do people you trust see you in?
This question also can be a great homework assignment to generate a list of occupations to research. I ran a career group and this activity was what stood out to participants the most. They were fascinated to hear all the career ideas that family and friends provided to them. Some ideas reinforced what occupation the client was feeling drawn towards and some ideas were very random for the client. Even though the careers provided may not be something they were interested in pursuing, it led to great discussions about what made a certain career work for them or not work for them. Also, it led to discussions about what characteristics the family or friend saw in the client that led them to believe they would be successful in a certain career.
4)What kind of shoes and attire do you want to wear to work?
Choosing a career is in some ways, choosing a lifestyle. Would the client want to wear steel toe boots? Or perhaps sandals? Different work environments come with different required attire. I also think this question is not as threatening as it may be to create a list of occupational titles. It’s a more fun way of generating a picture of an ideal work environment.
5)What would your ideal work setting smell like? Sound like?
This question gets more of the senses going. Instead of just asking what tasks clients are completing in their ideal work environment, it gets more ideas generated when we also start to involve the other senses.

The process of brainstorming career and interest ideas can take time, effort and research. However, clients will soon find that personal themes will emerge and paths will start to show.

What questions have you asked your clients to spark new ideas or rekindle old dreams?



Jackie Torres is a counselor in Colorado with a particular interest in the world of work. She enjoys helping people find what makes them feel strong and energized at work. She is also learning to play the guitar.

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