The Seasonal Rhythm of Career Decision-Making
By Sally Gelardin
As summer winds down and we prepare for fall activities, it is a good time to take stock of where we are in our career development. Career decision-making has a seasonal rhythm - make plans in fall, implement them in winter and spring, bring projects to closure in late spring, and evaluate them at the end of summer. Schedules don't always work out in this way (i.e., the beginning of September is often very busy for college career centers and counselor educators), but the flow is important. At some point in the year, it is helpful to reflect upon where one is in one's career development. The beginning of September is an appropriate time of year for many career professionals.
If you are like me, projects are completed before the NCDA conference in early July. At the conference, we share what we have been doing and learning all year. NCDA leaders, such as Incoming NCDA president Darrell Luzzo, share their priorities (for Darrell, political advocacy is at the top of his list). As part of the seasonal career decision-making process, following are seven seasonal activities to stimulate end-of-the-summer reflections and to prepare for the rest of the year, highlighted with examples of my seasonal life/work reflections and experiences of others in transition.
1. Annual Business or Career Check-Up
How does one go about evaluating one's year and preparing for the future? Martha Russell created an exercise to evaluate what more you need to do to reach your goals. In NCDA's first monograph, Starting and Growing a Business in the New Economy (2007), Martha created an activity in which career entrepreneurs can conduct an annual business check-up and focus on the following four points: (a) desired segment of the market, (b) yourself, (c) your goals, (d) evaluation. In her "Dental Model," Jane Goodman (1992) advises everyone to conduct an annual career check-up, just like an annual dental check-up.
2. Seven Year Cycle
The number "7" can be a cyclical point in life. Is there a pattern in your life around the number seven? For example, are you a university faculty member who takes a yearlong sabbatical every seven years? Do you change jobs every seven years? A wonderful film documentary to view on seven-year cycles is the "7-Up Series," directed by Paul Almond. The director followed the lives of 14 children from various economic backgrounds. Every seven years he films new material from as many of the fourteen as are willing to participate. Try this activity based on seven-year cycles.
3. Expected and Unexpected Major Event
Another life transition marker is experiencing a major life event, such as birth, death, marriage, or move. Schlossberg (1981) writes, "A transition can be said to occur if an event or non-event results in change in assumptions about oneself and the world and thus requires a corresponding change in one's behavior and relationships" (Evans et al., 1998, pg 111, in Winkler, 2002). My family recently experienced loss . These events affected me so deeply that I chose to learn about and share with others self-care and caregiving techniques.
4. Family Influences
During periods of transition, it can be helpful to reflect upon earlier periods of your life and your sources of support. Sherri Babtiste, a yoga teacher whose father invented breath-based yoga, dreamed about writing a book. Her father had been a weight-lifting champion before he started yoga on the West Coast in the 1950s. With the encouragement of students and friends, Sherri combined her love of yoga with her family heritage and created "Yoga with Weights for Dummies" (Babtiste, S. and Scott, M. , 2006).
5. Creating Your Ideal Environment - Now!
Whatever work you do is most effective when you are in your environment of choice. My environment of choice is a special garden where I counsel clients, write, and visit with friends. We can run around in circles trying to be successful in our work and personal lives, but if we want to be "human beings," rather than "human doings," then we need to slow down and reflect upon what is really important to us. Life is too short and frustrating or too long and boring for us to ignore our unconscious yearnings. Here is an activity for "Creating Your Ideal Environment NOW!"
6. Take stock of your career development in a way that is best for you.
Everyone has a preferred way of learning and being. The Tightrope Model image employs multiple ways of learning. To maintain her balance, a tightrope walker needs to pay attention to multiple sensations in the present.
7. Don't run out of breath by running in the fast lane (to fulfill past expectations or make up for past regrets) or hold your breath, waiting to earn your fortune and retire (to prepare for future happiness). Your brain will work best if you breathe long breaths at each moment. Inhale deeply as you reflect upon the past and exhale deeply as you prepare for the future.
As summer winds down, take a few moments to experience one or two of the exercises described above. The yoga tradition says that everyone is allotted a certain number of breaths, and after you exceed this number, your time on earth is finished. People who breathe hurriedly and shallowly use up their allotment of breaths quickly, but if you breathe slowly and consciously, your breath allotment lasts for many years. Not everyone has the ability to breathe deeply. If you are among the fortunate to be have this facility, or can develop this skill with practice, then take advantage of it. September is a good time to reflect upon your career development. As you reflect, practice breathing deeply.
Dr. Sally Gelardin, Ed.D. International and Multicultural Education, NCC, DCC, CDF eLearning Instructor, started the first job club for seniors in Marin County, California, where her oldest client (in her 80s) was the first person to secure a job. A year later, as Paralegal Career Counselor (University of San Francisco), she placed her oldest client (also in his 80s) as a paralegal in the Office of the Mayor of San Francisco. She was a founding member of the Spiritual Eldering movement in San Francisco, was interviewed on the topic of "Coping with Caregiving" on wsradio.com and wrote the introduction to "Aging-In-Place" (Christner-Lile, 2006). She is author of The "Mother-Daughter Relationship" and "Starting and Growing a Business in the New Economy" (NCDA, 2007).
Almond, P. 7-Up Series. Retrieved July 25, 2007: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Up!
Babtiste, S. and Scott, M. (2006). Yoga with Weights for Dummies. Wiley. Retrieved July 25, 2007: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471749370.html .
Gelardin, S. (2007). Personal Profile. Retrieved July 25, 2007: http://www.lifeworkps.com/sallyg
Gelardin, S. (2007). Seven-Year Cycle Activity. Retrieved July 25, 2007: http://lifeworkps.com/agingworks/weblog/2492.html .
Gelardin, S. (2007). Self-care and care giving techniques. Retrieved July 25, 2007:http://www.lifeworkps.com/caregiver.
Gelardin, S. (2007). Starting and Growing a Business in the New Economy. (NCDA). Retrieved July 25, 2007: http://www.jobjuggler.net/MonoContributors.pdf
Gelardin, S. (2007). Tightrope Model of career decision-making. Retrieved July 25, 2007: http://lifeworkps.com/entrepreneur/weblog/818.html .
Goodman, J. (1992). The key to pain prevention: the dental model for counseling. American Counselor, 1(3), 27-29.
Schlossberg, N. (1981). Retrieved July 25, 2007: http://www.cheyennewinkler.com/overview/classes/NancyKSchlossberg.pdf