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CareerWise Canada: Working with Mature Clients


This article covers several challenges mature workers face and how career pros can address them.

Career professionals have a broad range of tools for success when working with mature clients who have been in full-time management or administrative roles for 10+ years with the same employer.

Many of these workers are dedicated professionals who were known and respected in their recent workplace for their strong knowledge of the organization and its processes. Often you can hear them say, “I don’t know how to put this on the resume, but I just get things done. I’m very reliable.”

Mature workers who have not had to look for work in several years need help understanding ATS, networking, follow-up and ways of articulating their professional differentiators. The added challenges of post-COVID hiring may include higher competition, more agile businesses and more reliance on technology. In the current climate, mature workers may also need some assistance with highlighting their technical skills and their ability to work remotely.

Understanding the Agile, Contingent Workforce of Today

Competition is high, many roles are temporary, and businesses are trying to be agile and save resources. COVID-19 is introducing new remote ways to do business, use more technologies and delegate tasks to workers (in any location) who can be productive in a remote setting.

If your client was used to stability and long-term employment in their previous organization, they may first consider acknowledging the current situation to position themselves as a candidate who offers both stability and adaptability.

To support mature workers:

  • Prepare them to leverage their experience and years of dedication to previous employers while expressing their adaptability to most recent changes in hiring.
    • They can speed up their hiring process by being highly articulate about their measurable results, technical skills and soft skills – the combination that makes them stand out.
  • Train them to highlight their hard skills as well as demonstrate confidence, competence, resilience and strong communication. A candidate with a calm, executive presence is seen as a reliable employee able to handle challenges.
  • Articulate their value for them: focus on their ability to build consensus at all levels of the organization while listening to employer’s needs and solving problems.
  • Help your client identify their top 3-5 differentiators that make them competitive.
    • You may recommend that they write down a list of their top 10-15 strengths and pick 3-5 from this list when applying for a specific role.
    • You can help them adopt a positive attitude of sharing, in concise terms, their unique professional value with a focus on employer’s needs.
    • You can emphasize the necessity to research a target company, follow up, reach the hiring manager and build their LinkedIn network.

Understanding the Achievement-Based Resume Structure

As with all other applicants, mature workers may focus too much on job duties in their resumes.

To support your clients:

  • Explain how the resume logic evolved with a focus on readability (documents must be easy to skim) and measurable results (‘problem – action – result’ format).
  • Train mature workers to think in terms of how they solve problems and what outcomes they deliver (vs. process and experience).
  • Ask specific questions or develop questionnaires to help them articulate results.
  • Encourage them to prepare for interviews following the same achievement-based approach and think in terms of how they can help employers save money, make money, improve operations or address difficulties.

Understanding Current Job Application Cycles

Submitting a resume alone is not enough. Many mature workers may favour a resume spray approach where they send applications to 50+ open positions online, without prior knowledge of companies. Help them understand a job search strategy as a more focused, yet varied effort.

To support your clients:

  • Help them inform their immediate network (service providers, community organizations, extended family, former colleagues or clients, religious, sports or recreational affiliations, etc.) that they are looking for a new role.
  • Encourage your clients to create a list of 20 target employers and research them, follow them on social media, identify decision-makers and connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Provide your clients with examples of networking messages that are brief, clear and authentic.
  • Help your clients understand the full cycle of the job application process:
    • customizing the application for each specific role
    • following up
    • networking online
    • building relationships while interviewing (for future opportunities)
    • “closing the sale” after in-person interviews with some form of 30-60-90-day plan or a list of their action items for the first month if they were to be hired.
  • Inspire your clients to be proactive at every stage of the application vs. waiting for a response. Help them understand that an online job application puts them in the pool of 100-200 other applicants and an interview invitation puts them in a pool of 2-6 other competitions. What will they do to keep standing out?

Throughout the process of working with mature workers, remind yourself of where they are coming from and how this informs their current motivation, approaches or challenges. By showing your understanding and acknowledgement of their current state, you can help them adopt new ways of looking for work faster, while finding the best approach for each individual.


Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a resume writer with a background in university teaching and IT staffing. She is a member of Editors Canada and Career Professionals of Canada.

ViewPoint: Careers Advisers – Are We Ready for the New Normal?
August 26, 2020

By Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Advisors, Leicester College

Since March 2020, the vast majority of career services, and providers such as schools, colleges and universities transferred all their services to providing a service remotely.

© Sarfraz Ahmed, August 2020 - Member of the Careers Writers Association

For our own health and safety, the vast majority of us worked from home.

Through the combination use of:

  • Telephone Guidance
  • Video Chat
  • Live Streams
  • E-guidance
  • Social Media

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of us have had to rethink the way we work and engage with our customers, Although this has meant a shift in the way that we engage with our customers, it has been a positive in the sense that many of us have had to embrace technology such as using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, using Streamyard for Live Streams.

Personally, whilst in lockdown, I’ve had the opportunity to record my first podcast and been a guest on local radio in Leicester and nationally as well. Telephone guidance has been successful for providing advice especially to support Educational, Healthcare Plans (EHCP) reviews, and has allowed the College Careers Team to effectively support the work of Additional Support Managers to effectively provide progression for students from their current course.

Live streaming has taken Careers Advisers and placed them in front of a ‘live’ audience albeit through a variety of social media platforms. This has for many taken away from the traditional method of delivery and has taken them out of their comfort zones. Live streaming can be daunting, as not only are you seeing yourself on a screen for the first time, but your advice and the way that you give that advice is immortalised online, and available on a variety of platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube. Live stream content can be readily accessed time and time again, locally, nationally and internationally, as with any careers activity, preparation and practise is essential something that is crucial for a success live stream.

Another activity that careers advisers have engaged in is blogging, whether its physically writing articles or ‘blogs’ or creating ‘video blogs’ or podcasts. I personally find these a fun way to engage with an audience, and often practitioners point of view will provide real life context that may support an academic piece of research. Lockdown and working from home has given rise to engaging in webinars, within a week I could be engaging in at least four or five webinars a week. These were provided by universities, colleges, careers publications and websites.

I particular found the webinars from Youth Employment UK, Career Pilot, Amazing Apprenticeships, DMH Associates and EMSI particular useful and informative. Engaging with other professionals can make you feel that you are part of wider collective, especially we are all in the ‘same boat’, and a lot of the issues and concerns we had were similar. Often these webinars led to further debate and discussion on sites such as LinkedIn, as shared our thoughts, articles and findings and collectively we supported each other online.

Now three months on, the ideas of going back to work in the office can appear to be a very daunting thought to say the least

Talking to career professionals there are many areas of concern. First and foremost safety and protection for both themselves and those that they serve, whether or the use of screens and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and hand sanitisers will be enough to adequate protection. Will social distancing be feasible within a careers setting such as in interview rooms and in offices where we provide 1:1 careers guidance, interview rooms will have to ventilated and not crowded and be able to provide adequate protection, this includes spaces such as classrooms and group work settings. Large assemblies and events will have to take account health and safety issues and in many cases will have to be re-thought.

There clearly needs to be a more flexible approach to working, as the last few months have shown that many career services can be run successfully remotely. This could include a more staggered return to the office allowing some staff to work from home, so that staff is not in the office at the same time, ensuring that social distancing guidelines are met.

In the past few months many of us have embraced technology, especially the use of Microsoft Teams to have meetings with colleagues, to contact students, to conduct video interviews, and deliver group work sessions online. This shift for many has been challenging and a huge learning curve as prior to the lockdown very few of us used Microsoft Teams or any other similar technology.

I feel a ‘blended approach’ is crucial for a safe return to going back to work, although working from home can still be maintained to a certain extent. Travelling to and from work and to other venues are also issues for many career advisers as safety could be also be an issue on public transport. For those working in schools, colleges and universities, there is still a concern of potential risk of having large number people gathered in one place and how this will be managed and maintained.

The recent upsurge of interest in career guidance as well as the government’s commitment has meant that the government will be looking to increase the number of advisers to help address issues of unemployment and misplacement as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As such we do not know how this will be tackled and indeed if there enough advisers to meet the demand, we will have to wait and see.

Many careers professionals have been concerned about the level of pay and its inconsistency across the board. Career advisers in schools and colleges are yet to be paid a wage that is reflects their level 6 minimum level of qualification, (equivalent to degree Level) and many have additional postgraduate qualifications and higher as well as the constant research and training necessary to keep up to date, especially in times of change, this has been evident in the recent pandemic crisis.

In recent times due a shift in policy which has led to a downsizing of services such as Connexions, meant many Careers Advisers have had to refocus and retrain and as such the profession has lost a lot of talented and dedicated advisers, through a barrage of pay cuts, redundancies and a loss of opportunity to progress in their own careers. Clearly these underlying issues will still need to be addressed if the is a demand for careers advisers in the future.

Why careers guidance is more important than ever

Interesting enough Sir John Holman’s recent blog entitled “Why careers guidance is more important than ever”, published on the Association of Colleges (AoC) website (10 July 2020), highlighting the need for good careers guidance, especially in the current climate.

He also emphasised that careers guidance needs to be a priority in schools and colleges, and that careers guidance needs to be taken seriously and that commitment needs to come from the top through Career Leads, ensuring that “careers is being embedded across the curriculum”.

He felt that “Colleges are critical for protecting those vulnerable students in their community who have most to lose as the jobs market goes through turbulent change. As job opportunities disappear, new ones will appear, and good career guidance can steer students towards them.

Recent governments guidelines in terms of the Gatsby Benchmarks (2014), and the Careers Strategy (2017), will still have to be adhered to, however Careers Services and Advisers may need to rethink the way there guidance is delivered in a post Covid world.

As careers resources may need to be adapted traditional guidance techniques for a new generation, using new technology to deliver to groups, and to perhaps adopt a more ‘blended’ approach, through the use of live streams, and uploading content onto readily accessible platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube.

In preparing for the new normal, our services and our practises will need to be flexible and adapts to ensure that we operate in a safe environment that helps to meet the needs of our customers more than ever.

10 Principles for Effectively Leading Group Career Counselling Online

During the pandemic, many career practitioners have been asked to provide the same services to groups, but online.

This has been the new normal for some career professionals and jobseekers, but it has also brought challenges. The biggest struggle is that there are few resources they can take advantage of in order to effectively transition from leading groups in person to online.

Here are 10 basic principles career practitioners should be aware of when transitioning to leading a group online from in-person facilitation to create well-designed and smooth sessions.

1. Be authentic

Leading groups online is not entirely different from facilitating in person. Take a breath, and remind yourself what skills you can bring to the table: compassion, patience, resiliency, sense of humour, mastery of the content. Whether you are familiar with the group nor not, what you know about group dynamics from in-person experiences is still true. There might be tensions within a group or people might have different learning styles and motivations. Just be yourself and try to make a connection with group members as much as possible.

2. Learn and practise the technology

Test whichever technology you are using in advance. The simplest tool should be chosen based on the size of your group. You should offer your help to group members in case of any technical difficulties. As you gain experience, new tools can be added to your toolbox.

3. Mitigate group members’ multitasking

Group members on screens may jump from window to window to search the web, play music or respond to messages. The temptation and likelihood of participants getting distracted or multitasking is significantly higher than when you are in person. Set expectations about minimizing distractions before your session through emails or reminder posts. You can sometimes use the distractions to engage participants, for instance by having group members text answers or giving them time to do online research during a discussion.

4. Engage frequently and in varied ways

Prioritizing engagement is crucial when you lead a group online. The best way to keep people engaged is to ask questions, switch up activities apart from discussions and have people journal. Adding elements of fun may encourage people to focus more. Secondly, group leaders should be mindful of varying how they prompt discussion. For example, don’t always ask yes/no chat questions. For best results, use a variety of engagement types that work for different communication styles and learning styles, and give people options.

5. Manage the energy of group members

The duration of group sessions should be scheduled for not more than two hours. Otherwise, it will be exhausting for both leaders and participants. Break for 10-15 minutes after one hour so people can get fresh air or attend to any pressing needs.

6. Honour people’s emotional state during a crisis time

You may find people in your sessions tired, angry, impatient or stressed over life challenges. Every group member usually brings their emotional state into their sessions. Even if group leaders don’t feel well-equipped to handle strong emotions, they can:

  • Create space for people to acknowledge emotions they have
  • Create a culture of checking in
  • Model grace and patience
  • Provide frequent breaks
7. Track participation

A common challenge in leading online is that we end up in a one-way conversation. Reading people online is more challenging than in person but it is not impossible. Thankfully, there are some strategies:

  • Include polls or spectrums to gauge responses
  • Ask general check-in questions
  • Review activity between sections
  • Check in with people on the phone before or after sessions (especially for tech difficulties)
8. Let people know you “see” them

The more seen people feel, the more they are likely to engage. They are also more likely to send you clear non-verbal signals when they know that someone is looking back through their screen. Here are a few examples for prompts that can let participants know that you see them:

  • “It looks like only about half the group has shared ideas in the chat box. If anyone is having trouble with the chat, let us know, or you can share out loud.”
  • “I see a lot of heads down on the web cameras, so I’m going to give you a little more time to journal.”
  • “Everyone has shared except [name] and [name], who are joining by phone. Would you like to share, too?”
9. Be aware of technology challenges

Marginalized groups often tend to participate less frequently. This can become compounded by technology. Technological challenges may hamper their confidence. They may be afraid of being shamed by other groups members or revealing a lack of knowledge or resources. Group leaders should make sure all people – no matter their technological difficulty – can participate fully. Facilitators should try to always provide alternative options for participation to help group members engage in the session.

10. Release yourself and your group from the standard of perfection

Group leaders should be wary of the challenges of leading group online. They should prepare themselves for bumps on the road. The most important thing is to be calm and do your best when faced with challenges. The second-most important thing is to stay connected with group members in a sincere and compassionate way. Let’s model patience and caring with wisdom and intention.

AYDOLU SIMSEK is a post-graduate student in the Career Development Practitioner Program at George Brown College. She previously had 10 years of HR background in her home country. She has a strong desire to learn the intricacies of helping individuals navigate through career exploration and the world of work. Aydolu is a graduate of sociology and has a master’s in business administration.

dmhassociates: LiveCareerChat@Lockdown No 5
Title: The Career Development Landscape: Evidence and Impact Assessment
7th September 2020
2.15pm – 3.15pm (UK time)


Chris Percy (Senior Associate)
Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE (Director, dmh associates)
This free webinar session:
-examines key concepts, challenges and opportunities in relation to evidence and impact assessment in careers work;
-introduces a brief ‘how to approach’ for impact assessment with some examples from youth and adult evaluations;
-explores contemporary developments within the UK, European and international career development landscape; and
-provides an opportunity to identify new and emerging approaches to evidence and impact assessment within a Covid-19 context.

The webinar is limited to 500 delegates, so register your place quickly so you do not miss out.  Places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Hope you are able to join us!
Any queries: email ADMN@dmhassociates.org
Register for the webinar
AbilityNet: Free Webinar: Accessibility Insights with Atos – 11 August 2020
AbilityNet is delighted to be welcoming accessibility royalty, Neil Milliken of Atos, as the second guest in our new Accessibility Insights bitesize webinar series.
Neil will be interviewed by Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet.

Neil is Global Head of Accessibility for Atos. His role is to deliver better technology for customers and employees, embedding inclusive practice into the processes of the organisation, which has thousands of employees and an annual turnover of billions.

In addition, Neil is the Atos representative on the Business Disability Forum Technology Task Force, and an expert for the W3C Cognitive Accessibility Taskforce. And there’s more…Neil is co-founder of AXSChat, Europe’s largest twitter chat with a focus on Accessibility & Inclusion.

Neil was also named in the top ten of the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list in 2018, and Disability & Inclusion practitioner of the year in the 2019 Disability Smart Awards.

They hope you’ll be able to join tham on 11 August for this 30 minute webinar on all things accessibility, starting at 1pm BST.
Register now for our Accessibility Insights webinar with Neil Milliken
6 Ways to Get Your Job Search Back on Track

An article by Elaine Mead and published by the Australian Careers Service.

After a few months stuck at home, half the world is either just beginning to return to normal (and the office) or they’ve been left wondering what comes next after experiencing job losses. 

Losing a job or part of your professional identity can be a shock to the system. Know you are not alone in this experience. When you’re ready to take the next step forward, there’s plenty of ways to do so. 

It’s going to take a while for recruitment to pick up again and we’re certainly going to face a few more challenges as we deal with the impact of COVID-19. Making a plan for finding work might seem like a mammoth task. 

The small things can quickly become the building blocks of bigger changes and help you feel empowered rather than trapped during this time. Aside from updating your resume and cover letter, here are six to get you started: 

1. Update your LinkedIn profile 

If it’s been a while since you looked at your LinkedIn profile, now is the perfect time for some updates. You can set your profile to ‘actively seeking opportunities’ to indicate to potential employers and recruiters you’re looking for work and follow companies for job openings as soon as they happen. Spend some time making sure all your job titles are up to date, remove anything outdated and include links to projects or resources that align with your work or professional identity.  

2. Expand your knowledge 

Learning professional skills is a lifelong hobby and a great way to kick start your own development journey if it’s been a while since you studied. If you’re seeking ways to feel in-control and proactive about your career, an online course or workshop could be just the thing you need. Whether you want something to help you in your current industry or you’re seeking to strike out in a new direction entirely, there’s something for everyone. 

3. Check-in with your network 

Networking might seem like a foreign concept in our current climates, but it’s not completely off the table. Are you involved with any professional associations for your industry? Many are offering free professional development workshops, as well as regular Zoom meetings simply giving members a chance to chat and discuss how COVID has been impacting their industry and day-to-day jobs. It’s a great way to feel less alone but also connect with some new faces. 

4. Set up a professional website 

If unemployment is on the books, setting up a digital space that contains your resume, write-ups of any projects and programs you’ve helped on, as well as a weekly blog on your own thoughts about your industry could be what sets you apart when job hunting. Consider this a portfolio where you get to showcase your in-depth knowledge and understanding of your work and include the link to your site on your resume. It’s a great way to invite employers to get to know you better. 

5. Create some ‘how-to’ guides 

Lots of people every day are looking for ways to simplify their workday or understand how to do something quickly and easily. If you’ve got some niche knowledge, creating a how-to guide is a great way to boost your professional identity. Identify common question-points in your day-to-day job or industry and do a write-up — you might even visit a few of your own gaps and write about those! Share online (either LinkedIn or your website) and invite others to share their input. 

6. Start a business book club 

There are books for every single industry imaginable, or you could pick a broader topic such as leadership, workplace culture, or emotional intelligence in the office. You can read alone or rope in a few other colleagues or industry peers to read along with you. It’s a different way of adding to your personal knowledge and growing as a professional. 

Elaine Mead  is a Careers and Work-Integrated Learning Educator based in Tasmania. 

FREE WEBINAR ​​​​​The Career Development Landscape: Evidence and Impact Assessment


  • Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Research Director, dmh associates – Webinar Host
  • Chris Percy, Senior Associate, dmh associates- Webinar Presenter

When: Monday, 7 Sep 2020, 2:15 PM

What: This free webinar session:

  • examines key concepts, challenges and opportunities in relation to evidence and impact assessment in careers work;
  • introduces a brief ‘how to approach’ for impact assessment with some examples from youth and adult evaluations; 
  • explores contemporary developments within the UK, European and international career development landscape; and
  • provides an opportunity to identify new and emerging approaches to evidence and impact assessment within a Covid-19 context.​​​​​​​

​​​​​​Register: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/18/pyv32f2

Virtual International Conference – Evolving Education and Careers

The Virtual Conference

The world has experienced major economic, social and technology impacts. Societies everywhere are undergoing deep transformation. Climate change, an ageing workforce and skills gaps are major issues that governments need to address. Only time will tell what the impact of the current health crisis will have in the medium and long-term. As a consequence, careers will evolve in response to a dynamically changing environment. How will this affect jobs, training, employment, the gig economy and/or unemployment in the future? We will be exploring forward-thinking approaches to careers support systems drawing on international good and interesting policies and practices.

For leaders, educators, career development, HR and employment specialists a fundamental question is: – how best can individuals be better prepared to adapt and prosper through lifelong learning and work? Individuals’ must be well equipped with the mindsets and tools they need to find and benefit from purposeful learning and work opportunities. Organisations working with young people and/or adults in differing contexts will need agile responses to meet citizens’ needs.

With all this in mind, time away to network with experts and like-minded colleagues is just what the doctor ordered. This year’s theme is Evolving Careers. Delegates will learn from experts and peers whilst sharing experiences, research and best practise to take back to the day job of helping to transform people’s lives.

Conference Content

  • International keynote speakers
  • Breakout sessions hosted by leading experts and contributors

Session topics include;

  • Career-related learning in primary schools
  • An evolving curriculum in secondary, tertiary, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education settings
  • Future scoping careers
  • Digital innovations
  • Building Partnerships
  • How to Make a Difference to Those That Need Support Most
  • Youth Transitions: Creating Pathways to Success
  • Adults in the workplace
  • Labour markets: where next?
  • Tackling unemployment
  • Lifelong guidance
  • Social inclusion

*these are subject to change

  • Interactive Q&A panel debates
  • Digital delegate toolkit packed with valuable resources

Why Attend?

Our conference last year was a great success with delegates rating it 4.4 out of 5 in terms of value, content and relevance to their needs.

This year we have mixed our successful formula with some great new features and benefits but don’t just take our word for it, this is what our delegates had to say after the 2019 conference;

“It was inspirational to share so many elements of practice and research in one place. The calibre of speakers and content (including the toolkit) was exceptional.”

“Inspiring, positive, brilliantly organised. A day well spent.”

“The conference blended the worlds of academia research with great examples of careers work from around the world. We want more!”

“A wonderful conference, full of insight. Can’t wait for the next one.”

“The conference offered a great opportunity to interact with thought leaders on important topics relating to career development. Excellent venue and well organised.”

Book Your Place

Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis and conference is free to attend for a limited number of earlybird registrations.

Please book your tickets from our Eventbrite booking page.

For all conference queries contact our event organiser Nina Hurst-jones nina@theeventorganiser.co.uk . Book your place

Watch the success of last years conference

The Edge Foundation is an independent foundation working to inspire the education system to give all young people across the UK the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to flourish in their future life and work. Longtime advocates of high quality careers education and guidance, they are delighted to be supporting this event.

Could Appreciative Inquiry Improve Your Career Coaching?

An article by Michelle Etheve who specialises in enabling people to create purposeful, strengths-based change and to thrive as they design, learn, and experiment together. As co-founder of The Change Lab, she helps to create cultures of curiosity by teaching people how to craft and ask better questions. Michelle has designed and delivered Appreciative Inquiry summits, positive change experiences, career development games, and coaching development programs in workplaces, schools, and communities around the world.

It’s not surprising that when people seek advice and support with regards to their career they’re more often than not hoping to fix career ‘problems’, work through where they may have taken ‘wrong’ turns, discuss where they’re ‘stuck’ and not moving forward, amongst a host of other issues. Our brains are wired with a negativity bias, which is a natural pull to focus on what’s not working, what’s missing, what we’ve lost, and what might be of threat to us.

Whilst this wonderful survival mechanism has served us well at times and kept us alive as a species, this can often leave us stuck and only seeing half of the picture, especially when it comes to complex matters like our careers. We learn very little about what we’re capable of, what’s possible, and where our strengths lie by investing the majority of our energy into exploring our failures and perceived weaknesses.

So, it’s important to ask: Do the approaches we reach for to support career conversations place our energy in exploring problems or do they help people to uncover, tap into, and build on their strengths to grow greater confidence, clarity, and spark new possibilities?

One such strengths-based approach worth exploring for career conversations is Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Developed by Professor David Cooperrider and his colleagues, this approach has been used to generate positive change for individuals, teams, and whole human systems. One of the most common ways AI is used is to bring entire organisations, schools, or communities together for large scale change summits, achieving phenomenal and transformational results.

Much like its name indicates, the approach is ‘appreciative’, meaning it sheds light on the best of what is and what has been, and taps into what strengths, resources, and life-giving factors are available to be built upon.

It is also an ‘inquiry’, holding true that change begins not with the action we take, but with the questions that proceed them. It is those questions that shape the direction in which we focus our energy, change, act, and grow. So, by guiding people through an inquiry with questions that are appreciative – they look for the good, the true, and the possible – positive change and action is primed to emerge.

For example, schools have tackled the question: ‘How can we reduce bullying?’ only to find they get real traction and positive change when they flip their question and ask: ‘How do students grow great friendships?’

We grow in the direction in which we ask questions. What questions are shaping and guiding your conversations? Do they help clarify and prioritise what you want to grow?

So, how can we apply AI to career coaching conversations? Give the following five steps at try:

Define an appreciative career topic

The first, and arguably most important, step in an AI conversation is to define the topic of the inquiry. You will shape your questions around this topic, so the aim is to make it magnetic, positive, and for it to get to the heart of what people truly want to be moving towards. We have a natural tendency to move in the direction of what is life-giving and positive, rather than negative and depleting, this is called the heliotropic effect, so it’s essential to begin by shaping a topic that supports this.

A great way to create an appreciative topic is by using Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres’ ‘name it, flip it, and frame it’ steps. Here’s an example:

Name it – Name the strategic problem, complaint, or what you want to remove/reduce.

Example 1:  Feeling very drained by my work.
Example 2:  Don’t know what I want to do for a career.

Flip it – Flip this by asking: “What would the positive opposite of this be? What is it that you do want or want more of?”

Example 1:  Feel like I get some energy from the work I do.
Example 2:  Have some career ideas.

Frame it – Frame this in a way that is magnetic and energising by asking: “What would be the positive impact if the flip occurred? What is the desired outcome?”

Example 1:  Have an energising and engaging career.
Example 2:  Exploring and growing my career possibilities.

Once you have defined your topic of conversation you can craft questions that serve the needs of each stage of the process and help people move through it. You will need questions that do the following:

Discover the best of what’s been

This is the first step of your inquiry (the first of four steps in AI’s 4D framework), to facilitate your coachee through discovering the best of the past to discover stories of strengths, performance, confidence, and what made these moments possible.

Ask questions to get to the heart of ‘what’s been working well?’ Try starting with: “Tell me about your best…” and add words that would get to the heart of previous strengths and successes with regards to the inquiry topic.

Example 1: “Tell me about your best experience of feeling energised at work.”
Example 2: “Tell me about your best experience of exploring and creating new career* possibilities.”

Explore further with probing questions to surface more of the strengths, such as: What happened? What made that possible? What strengths were you tapping into at the time? Why is it so memorable?

*If the person is very early in their career drop ‘career’ from the question and have them explore when they’ve created any new possibilities for themselves.

Dream of what’s possible

The second step in your inquiry is to support your coachee to create rich, vivid, energising images of the future. These images should aim to generate optimism, hope, and act like a magnet pulling the coachee forward, motivating them to take action. These are a lot richer than simply setting a goal. They invite people to paint a picture of what they will be feeling, doing, seeing around them, this is as specific as you can make it.

Ask questions to generate these images of ‘what might be possible?’ Try: “Based on the strengths we’ve just discovered, if everything went as well as it could what would…?”.

Example 1: “If everything went as well as it could, what would feeling more energised and engaged at work make possible?”
Example 2: “If everything went as well as it could, what would exploring and creating new career possibilities look like?”

Explore further with probing questions to paint a rich, motivating picture, such as – What are all the different ways that might look like? What might you be doing? How would you be interacting with people? What would they be saying? What would you be most proud of? What difference would it make?

Design what might be

The third step of your inquiry aims to generate pathways to bring to life that picture of the future. The aim is to realise as many pathways as possible so to create a host of options to help people remain resilient and flexible in the face of barriers, in ways that align with their strengths and resources. Assist them to prioritise which pathways they want to put their energy and resources towards first.

Ask questions to generate multiple pathways for ‘how might we get there?’ Try: “What might it take to…?”

Example: “What might it take to move from where you are now, to the picture you just described?”

Explore further with probing questions to help generate many pathways, then prioritise them, such as: What are some other ways you might make this possible? Which of these pathways are you most motivated to try? What support might you need to draw on? What resources are available for you to tap into?

Realise your Destiny 

The final step in your inquiry aims to invite people to take action that they are motivated to and care enough about to take responsibility for. While the word ‘destiny’ may sound odd, it nicely highlights the unpredictable and emergent nature of our future. Far-reaching plans are unrealistic in our ever-changing lives and world. Once we take our next steps, we can repeat this 4D cycle continuously for more learning and positive change as new strengths are developed and new experiences generate new information to re-shape our dreams and create new pathways.

Ask questions that generate immediate next steps for ‘where will you start?’ Try: “If there was # step you could take…?”

Example: “If there was one small step you could take to move forward, where would you like to start?”

Explore further with probing questions to ensure they’re able to take immediate action, such as: What would you need to get started? What obstacles might you encounter and how might you overcome or bypass them? How will you celebrate taking this step?

Appreciative Inquiry is a wonderful and unique approach to creating positive change. There’s no ‘right’ way to apply it to careers coaching, so explore and experiment with these suggestions and find a way to make it your own. For example, you may prefer to move through all the steps in one conversation, or you may wish to have a separate conversation for each incorporating different measures, homework, and activities as part of the inquiry.

If you’d like to learn more about appreciative inquiry, feel free to reach out to us at The Change Lab: michelle.e@thechangelabs.com or connect via LinkedIn.

Helping Young Adults Spot a Narcissistic Boss: A 4-Step Plan
July 14, 2020

An article by Robyn Koslowitz Ph.D. first published in Psychology Today.

Neurodiverse young adults are vulnerable to narcissistic abuse. Teach them this.

“I came back into therapy because my ADHD is back,” Deena informed me. Deena had been a patient of mine when she was in high school. Her inattentive ADHD and mild autistic tendencies were interfering with her schoolwork and social skills. Through a combination of therapy, social skills training, medication, and parental education, Deena learned to successfully manage her ADHD and organize her time and developed the ability to socialize with like-minded peers. I pointed out that Deena’s ADHD is not “back”; it never left. She had learned to manage it in the school environment, and now she needed to learn to manage it in the working environment.

As I began working with Deena, I realized she was managing her ADHD quite well. She showed me various time-management tricks she had learned, including a few apps that were new to me. The problem was, she felt that she was constantly letting her boss down, emphasizing the wrong details, or misunderstanding him. Worse, he kept reminding her that jobs in prestigious marketing firms like his are hard to come by, that she would need a good recommendation from him if she ever looked elsewhere, and that he is disappointed that she isn’t living up to his expectations.

One week, Deena came to therapy in tears. “I tried to use the feedback formula to ask him not to yell at me in front of the whole office. I told him that when he yells at me, it’s hard for me to concentrate on the details of what he is asking for, and I asked him to please tell me privately.” His response? “If you weren’t such an idiot, I wouldn’t need to criticize you at all.”

As Deena’s therapy continued, I watched a formerly self-confident young woman turn into an anxious shadow of herself. Deena would report how her friends and parents were pressuring her to “just quit,” but that she believed that working for this agency was the key to all of her dreams in her chosen field.

I don’t like to diagnose people in absentia, but I decided to help Deena learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Abuse. I wanted her to think about whether the behavior she was subject to from her boss could fit the criteria. I didn’t want to be another voice simply telling her to quit her job. The constant pressure from friends and family were just making her feel like a failure on another front, rather than helping her to see that her job was destabilizing her sense of self. 

Young adults like Deena, particularly young adults with ADHD, are used to being criticized and getting feedback. When they’ve just left the supportive environment of school, where feedback is mostly constructive, they may not see the difference between constructive criticism and the type of destructive environment Deena’s work had become.

 Darwis Batawi/123RF

Does your young adult child know about narcissistic abuse? Teach her to screen potential supervisors using this four-step plan.Source: Darwis Batawi/123RF

I like to use the acronym NARC to help young adults like Deena develop the ability to spot a healthy supervisor who is not narcissistic. Feedback from a person who has these four qualities is probably constructive, even if it feels harsh. On the other hand, if a person lacks these four qualities, the potential for narcissistic abuse is quite high:

Not focused on status

Accepts Feedback

Respects Boundaries

Compassionate, not contemptuous.

Not Focused on Status:

Deena thought about this. Her boss is constantly bragging about the high-profile clients his company pulls in, the cost of his car, the colleges he attended and where his children will go. He likes to talk about his IQ, and he has a wall in his office devoted to pictures of himself with famous business personalities. It sounds like he’s pretty focused on status.

Accepts Feedback:

This can be tricky because, in some fields, employees are not supposed to give supervisors feedback. In Deena’s case, though, her feedback was about certain types of communication styles. For example, she explained to her boss that when he gave her two tasks and told her both were immediate priority, she needed to know which one to tackle first, or when he says something like “I just hate everything about this design, redo it,” she does need to know what he hates, or she can’t design something that’s more in line with his aesthetic. By responding with comments like “if you wouldn’t be such an idiot, you could figure it out,” we can see that he doesn’t accept any feedback at all.

Respects Boundaries:

Other humans exist in an independent reality, outside of our own. A truly narcissistic person does not fully grasp that concept. For example, when Deena was sick, her boss seemed to take it as a personal attack on him: “You got sick the week I have a major project to complete? That’s unacceptable.” In addition, as we were exploring this topic, Deena realized that many of the comments her boss made about her overstepped boundaries. The state of her car, her exact relationship to the woman who dropped her off one day, her need to update her wardrobe or her diet – these are not his business. But her boss had a hard time grasping that.

Compassionate, Not Contemptuous:

Of the four, accepting feedback and not being contemptuous are the two that are the most salient. This one was a slam dunk – clearly, contempt was the lens through which this gentleman viewed everyone not immediately connected to him.

Deena is now working on her exit plan from this position. She has been interviewing at other firms, keeping her four-part checklist firmly in mind. Despite her boss claiming that the only special thing about her is working for him, she is finding that many firms appreciate her quirky aesthetic and are calling her back for second interviews. Until she finds another position, her new understanding of narcissism is helping her cope.  

About the Author

Robyn Koslowitz, Ph.D., is a licensed school psychologist and clinical psychologist and educational director of the Targeted Parenting Institute.Online:targetedparenting.comTwitterLinkedIn