For the past 10 years, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association, a nonprofit in Lexington, Ky., has offered alumni a variety of career services through its Alumni Career Services (ACS) program. Services are available in person, by phone, through e-mail and via Skype. Career counselors assist with all phases of a job search and career development including: administering career assessments and exploring career fields, identifying marketable skills, updating resumes, researching employers, preparing for an interview, customizing a job search campaign, and career management strategies. Additional career services include workshops, networking events, and webinars. Due to the depressed economy over the past few years, career counselors have seen an increased number of female clients with the need to return to the workforce or obtain better-paying positions.
These concerns primarily spurred the necessity for the Career Relaunch workshop. Career Relaunch: Workshop for Women was offered this past winter on four consecutive Wednesday evenings. The workshop served as a soul searching, career exploration group for women at a crossroads in their lives. A nominal registration fee was charged which provided a session workbook, assessments, and weekly dinner.
The workshop pulled together over 15 years of research in working with women on career issues. Participant notebooks included relevant articles and resources, as well as tabs for each week’s material and homework. Weekly journal questions were also assigned.
In session one, personal sharing occurred and introductions were made. Group rules and confidentiality were also stressed. Other topics included a career decision-making model, goal setting, Holland’s Hexagon explanation and self-assessment. Homework for the next session included a personal highlight sheet exercise, brainstorming list exercise, Career Exploration Inventory (JIST), interests exercise, career lifeline, and journal questions.
In session two, dinnertime table discussion questions included small group processing of homework (i.e., brainstorming list exercise, journal pages, and career lifeline). Facilitators reviewed the Career Exploration Inventory and conducted a group administration of the SkillScan Card Sort. A values PowerPoint was also shared. Homework for the next session included values check-off sheet, three life highs exercise, family occupational genogram, and journal exercises.
In session three, the majority of time was devoted to group sharing of family occupational genograms and three life highs exercise. It was especially noticeable that the group started to form a closer bond during this session and sharing occurred at a deeper level. PowerPoint training on informational interviewing took place. Homework for the next session included conducting at least one informational interview, completing a mystery career game poster board and journal exercises. Direction for the mystery career game included the use of a personal summary sheet, which was created throughout the workshop, to complete a poster board with descriptors of characteristics of participant’s ideal career. Characteristics included preferred work tasks, items from SkillScan, and important additional information.
In session four, participants shared their informational interview experiences. A PowerPoint on next steps and gaining family support was also discussed. Participants were encouraged to form small follow-up support groups. The workshop’s culminating event was to hang participants’ mystery career game posters around the room and have other attendees anonymously list careers they envisioned based on the descriptions. Graduation certificates were presented. At the close of the workshop, participants requested that a closed LinkedIn Career Relaunch group be formed to stay in touch. Ideally, as more Career Relaunch workshops are held, there will be combined follow-up programming, networking events, and support groups will form.
Program participants shared that they would highly recommend the workshop to other women. Unanimously, participants expressed their appreciation for meeting and hearing from other women who were experiencing similar situations. Some of the workshop’s most helpful topics were reported to be the SkillScan exercise and interpretation of results, journaling homework, career lifeline, Holland discussion, career genogram, and mystery career game.
A small sample of feedback from Career Relaunch workshop graduates includes:
“I was stuck getting started on positive activities that would help in my career advancement plan. This workshop has given me concrete steps to take. It has opened my mind to several avenues that I can pursue.”
“I feel like I have more tools to move forward. The workshop gave me more self-knowledge, which will help me focus my job search, and more self-confidence and motivation.”
“Because I am older, I gained a strong sense of my own work patterns and interest, and have a clearer understanding of the reasons my current job causes me so much internal stress – it’s not a good fit!”
Based on workshop evaluation responses, future Career Relaunch workshops will expand from four sessions to six. This will allow time to include in depth discussion and coaching on resume writing, job search strategies, and interview techniques.
Caroline Francis, Ed.S.,is a Nationally Certified Career Counselor (NCCC), Master Career Counselor (MCC), and Board Certified Coach (BCC) with over 19 years of experience working with adults and students in all stages of career transition. In her Alumni Career Services role with the University of Kentucky, she assists individual clients, develops career-related programming, and writes regular columns for the UK Alumni magazine, Career Cat blog, and monthly e-newsletter. Caroline has an Ed.S., M.S. and B.B.A. from the University of Kentucky. She can be reached at email@example.com
Kelly Higgins Allgeier, M.A., is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Board Certified Coach (BCC). She has experience working in career development with undergraduate, graduate students, and alumni in all phases of career transition. As an alumni career counselor, she works individually with clients, assists with career program development, and writes columns for the CareerCat Blog and UK Alumni Magazine. Kelly has a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Kentucky, and a M.A. in Mental Health Counseling from Eastern Kentucky University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org