This weekend, my nephew’s soccer season got started and I was able to watch a few games while listening to a lot of advice.
Parent 1: “You have to be more aggressive honey!”
Parent 2: “Great hustle!”
Coach 1: “Communicate out there guys! Help each other out!”
Coach 2: “It’s not over yet!”
I recall a soccer player coming to an abrupt stop during a play and looking first at his coach and then his dad. He did not get a chance to make a move because he did not know who to listen to. The ball rolled past him and the play continued up field. Similar to soccer players, I wonder how clients make sense of all the career advice and tips out there, and if all the noise and advice-giving prevents movement.
From acting on the unconscious view of careers that start at a young age, to the way work is portrayed in the media, it’s not surprising to find confusion involved in career decision making. As a career counselor, I want my clients to avoid coming to a standstill because they are unable to push through all the noise (both internal talks they may have with themselves and the often conflicting external messages they hear).
Even career counselors can give out seemingly contradictory advice:
Career Counselor 1: “Remember to create a resume in a combined functional format to hide job hopping.”
Career Counselor 2: “Remember to create a resume in chronological format because employers are wary of the functional format.”
And let’s not forget the suggestions from family/friends:
Family/Friend 1: “You have to go on to college because that’s what comes next after high school.”
Family/Friend 2: “Don’t go to college. Bob has his own company and he dropped out of high school!”
I “googled” sideline guidelines for soccer parents and found three common rules that can also be helpful for family and friends supporting a client as they go through a career decision.
1)“Please do not shout instructions to players because it may contradict the coach’s game plan.”
This is definitely true in career counseling. In the past, clients started to develop a career plan, but their plan changed at the next meeting because they had been persuaded by a parent or friend to go another route. It’s not wrong to change game plans, but the constant mind changing can create a situation where the client becomes stagnant. The client does not get a chance to succeed or fail at a goal because the action part never comes to be.
2)“Please do not run up and down the sideline.”
It’s hard to make a decision when there is little breathing room to experiment, celebrate success, or process failure. It’s not easy for clients to come a decision when most of their energy is going towards considering how family and friends will react. Although it is important, and safe in certain circumstances, to consider the reactions of others in career decision making, it should be a part of the puzzle to work with and not the guiding force.
3)“Please help the team by bringing refreshments.”
Family and friends can be allies in the career decision process when they give clients space to make their decisions and directly ask the client how they can be helpful.
When working with a career counselor, clients have a chance to give a strong voice to their true passions, interests, and strengths. In essence, career counselors amplify the voice of the client, and bring it to the foreground.
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.