Life Coaching Exercises Can Enhance Career Development
By Caitlin C. Williams
Assessments are plentiful in the world of career counseling and career coaching. NCDA’s A Comprehensive Guide to Career Assessment (Stoltz & Barclay, 2019) surveys more than one-hundred years of the rich foundation of assessments. These tools have had their validity, reliability, and efficacy tested through decades of research and practical use. The more contemporary assessments recognize the realities and diverse perspectives of 21stcentury life, making them critical elements of a career development practitioner’s toolkit. Career assessment currently lives in the “Life Design Period,” in which “… career problems are only a piece of much broader concerns about how to live a life in a postmodern world…” (Savickas, 2009, p. 241). It is here that career practitioners have an opportunity to integrate career assessments with life coaching exercises.
The profession of life coaching offers an array of creative, easily facilitated tools that utilize Visual/Auditory/Kinesthetic (VAK) approaches based on the Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Model (Dunn & Griggs, 2004). Many life coaching tools are self-directed and easy for clients to understand and may be completed independently, then reviewed with a coach or counselor to reveal additional insights.
Life coaching tools can enhance career assessments by:
- Expanding the range of personal goals, concerns, and challenges being assessed.
- Considering broader life roles and circumstances that may impact career development.
- Providing a creative approach to making career decisions and advancing professionally.
Exercises that Address the Whole Person
Life coaching tools can serve an important function—helping clients take the information and insights provided in career assessment tools and move forward to put that new awareness into action. Clients might absorb the information provided in their career assessment results reports and want to do something with it but become stuck. Life coaching exercises, such as 21 Questions for SMART goal setting, address the challenges of defining goals and getting unstuck to reach those goals.
In some cases, clients’ “gremlins” or inner critics get in the way. They might have experienced confidence or self-esteem issues all their lives, or perhaps negative events in their work lives, such as job loss or a demeaning boss have dealt a blow to their confidence. The Draw out your Gremlin exercise can help clients examine these concerns and begin to rebuild their self-confidence.
These and many other widely used tools—both free and for a reasonable fee—can be found on sites such as TheCoachingToolsCompany.com and LifeCoachontheGo.com. In addition to the concerns cited above, these sites’ tools cover such topics as time management, money management, motivation, perspective, habits, values, and brainstorming, just to name a few.
Exercises that Address all the Roles and Circumstances in a Client’s Life
Donald Super’s seminal work in career development theory includes the concept of life-space (1980), the idea that our lives consist of various roles we play and areas where we invest time and emotional energy. As clients aim to design their lives, which includes choosing and navigating careers and landing jobs or pursuing entrepreneurship, while living out all the other aspects of their lives, it is important that career practitioners employ tools and techniques that address clients’ lives holistically.
The “Wheel of Life” is a useful tool in this regard (Elsey, 2021). Also called a “Web of Life” or “Life Balance Wheel,” this is a visual worksheet with typically eight to ten categories considered important in a balanced life. Clients rate their satisfaction levels in each category and map those ratings onto the wheel worksheet. A life wheel offers a quick visual snapshot of potential gaps, enabling clients to quickly understand areas that need more attention, and where time or energy leaks may be occurring. It also provides a springboard for starting a dialogue about practical next steps in the development process and may help the counselor or coach understand if the client needs additional support beyond what the facilitator is qualified to offer.
The life wheel can also generate additional tools, such as an Ideal Day exercise, wherein clients journal about how they see their ideal day unfolding before them, from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep. They should be encouraged to avoid self-editing, and write down everything that energizes, excites, and motivates them, both in and outside of work.
Exercises that Interject Creativity into Career and Life Development
Although verbal processing comprises the bulk of most coaching meetings, there are additional types of tools that can be integrated as circumstances dictate. Some involve reflecting on, thinking about, and responding to prompts or questions by writing, coloring, or collaging. Others are kinesthetic tools that may, for example, invite clients to get up on their feet and “step into” a situation or future that they are visualizing for themselves. Note that kinesthetic tools are essentially collaborative and should be done with a career professional present. Both reflective and kinesthetic tools can be facilitated easily in either virtual or in-person sessions with clients.
Another creative option is a vision board (sometimes called a “Dream Board”), which offers a visual approach to generating a highly personalized and holistic daily reminder of elements that are important for clients to work towards, reflect on, and nurture, and the personal and professional goals that they would like to achieve (Davis, 2021).The images can be as targeted or as broad as clients desire, depending on where their current emphasis is. If a client has produced a more targeted vision board focusing on a specific occupation they are interested in, the counselor or coach can pivot and take the exercise a step further by having them get on their feet and actually “step into” being in the role they visualize for themselves. Using open-ended questions, the coach can walk them through the unfolding of their day. For kinesthetically inclined clients, this sort of exercise can be excellent for anchoring or embodying their personal vision.
Employing Goal-Oriented Tools
Career development professionals do not need a life coaching background or certification to employ coaching tools. Their skills at ethically assessing clients will aid them in the selection and use of appropriate tools. The exercises described in this article are only several examples from a broad array that can add an extra facet of depth, understanding, and purposefulness when working with clients in support of their professional and personal goals.
Davis, T. (2021, March 1). What is a vision board and why make one? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/202103/what-is-vision-board-and-why-make-one
Dunn, R., & Griggs, S. A. (Eds.). (2004). Synthesis of the Dunn and Dunn learning-style model research: Who, what, when, where, and so what? St. John’s University’s Center for the Study of Learning and Teaching Styles.
Elsey, E. L. (2021, January 19). The wheel of life: A complete guide for coaches! The Launchpad - The Coaching Tools Company Blog. https://www.thecoachingtoolscompany.com/wheel-of-life-complete-guide-everything-you-need-to-know
Savickas, M. L., Nota, L., Rossier, J., Dauwalder, J.P, Duarte, M. E., Guichard, J., Soresi, S., Van Esbroeck, R., & van Vianen, A. E. M. (2009). Life designing: A paradigm for career construction in the 21st century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79, 239-250.
Stoltz, K. B., & Barclay, S. R. (Eds.). (2019). A comprehensive guide to career assessment. National Career Development Association.
Super, D. E. (1980). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 16(3), 282-298.
Caitlin C. Williams, MFA, CCSP, CPC, is a certified professional Life & Career Coach currently living and working in Berkeley, CA. An agent for positive change, Caitlin uses creativity, empathy, and insight to help her clients sort through their brain clutter and simplify the complex, gain new perspectives, generate actionable steps, and rewrite the scripts of their professional lives. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lifecoachcaitlin/