Combining Mindfulness with Career Counseling

Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Combining Mindfulness with Career Counseling

Recently maybe you or one someone you know has experienced a long spell of unemployment. Over the past three decades as I have helped individuals with career transitions and taught Life Work Planning courses using a holistic approach, I have sensed something missing in the process. I understood what it might be in 2010 when I took Mindful Experiential Therapy Approaches (M.E.T.A.) training from Jon Eisman. The training focused on the Re-Creation of the Self (R-CS). Before explaining the missing piece, I will share a little about career counseling.

When you consult with a career professional, you learn that a key to success is to be able to identify your skills, accomplishments, and end results, and then be able to communicate them concisely, verbally and in writing to prospective employers. You need to translate what you are capable of doing in to the language of the employer’s industry. It is important to make it very clear to employers how your experiences would be valuable in their organizations. In order to do this, you must also have learned as much as possible about their businesses.

Many career clients have a tough time identifying their strengths and accomplishments. They think I am asking them for a list of awards and achievements, or that they are expected to boast. No. We all have many more skills than we give ourselves credit for, and we take for granted what we do well. My clients often say to me, “I was just doing my job,”and “Any one could have done what I did.” When people are out of work, no matter how they lost the last job, over time they may also lose their sense of identity and self esteem. From the R-CS perspective, they have lost touch with their innate Organic Self. The missing piece in the career process is how to reconnect with it.

You may be operating from a fragmented state, for example from a Hurt Self that perceives that they have been wronged, wounded or somehow inadequate. According to Jon Eisman, other fragmented states might be the Strategic Self, one that protects you from further wounding; the Survivor State that pursues your original Organic essence and experiences; or from the Spirit in Exile that holds the longing to come home to your Organic Self. Many of my clients, often the most bright and accomplished, report feeling like a phony, a fake, and I suspect that in R-CS terms, they are operating from their “Assumed Adult”, chronologically an adult, but operating from a much younger self.

In order to help career clients re-experience the Organic Self, I offer them an exercise in authenticity. They begin by identifying three to five successfully completed events in the realms of school or work experiences, volunteer activities, other involvements (clubs, sports, political, religious, community, etc.), leisure time, creative expression, projects and life events. Then I ask them to pick two to elaborate in short paragraphs, one involving taking a risk, and one involving work. The key is to choose things that pleased and satisfied them, not whether it was a big deal to anyone else. With prompting from lists of skill words and phrases, including interpersonal and self-management skills and qualities, they are instructed to list which ones were used to make the event a success. Rather than reading what happened, I invite them to tell me their story. I ask what would someone need to do well to have pulled this off? As they talk, I take notes on the skills I heard utilized. As they listen to their own words and then to my list, it delights me to watch clients change from a visibly diminished state to an energized, more expansive one. Before we start incorporating this new information into their job search or career transition, we stop here for a mindfulness moment.

I ask clients to sit comfortably and invite them to close their eyes, notice their breathing, and bring their attention inside, and I do this as well. I ask what body sensations, thoughts, feelings or memories are coming up for them, and we stay with the quality of their experience. The question shifts from what they did to who was it who made all that happen? Whatever answers come, they are encouraged to notice what’s happening without judgement and just stay in the moment. We sit together as time slows, long enough so that clients can connect with a more true sense of themselves. At later sessions before they report on their week’s activities, I invite them to start with a few minutes to go inside and be in the moment, so that they can re-connect with that Organic Self who goes forth with real confidence based on real experiences.

, , ,

2 Comments on “Combining Mindfulness with Career Counseling”

  1. educational advocate Says:

    Really very informative one. will follow this blog.


    • Anne Bryant Says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am furthering my studies in Hakomi approaches with Jon Eisman and Donna Roy, and I hope to find more ways to incorporate these methods in career counseling.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: