In career counselling, our clients come to us needing to make a big life change -to become employed or improve their employment situation. There can be obvious substantive benefits to succeeding in this challenge, including improved work life, home life, sense of personal accomplishment and/or improved financial well being. Given such rewards, our clients should be coming to us highly motivated to succeed. Wouldn’t your job be so much easier if that was the case?
Making change is difficult. Think, for example, about how we as a society struggle to lead a healthy lifestyle. The consequences of not making healthy choices are severe: chronic health problems such as poor cardio vascular health and chronic-pain, greater risk of disease, mood and mental health problems, and shortened life expectancy. The benefits are tremendous and far reaching. We have all experienced a situation where critically important consequences and benefits are not sufficient catalysts for change. There is no shortage of information on the importance of physical activity and healthy eating – this information comes through every medium imaginable: endless news segments, magazine articles, mountains of books, thousands of websites, and schools, etc. It seems a logical conclusion that endless information and public awareness does not create the necessary motivation to make changes to lifestyles choices related to societal health problems.
We are in the business of helping clients make big life changes. Yet, as I have argued above, making change is hard. So, how do we ensure that we are successful with our clients?
Be an empathic listener: Remember that losing employment and/or being in difficult financial circumstances has a profound emotional impact. While we work under real time constraints, we need to let our clients know that we understand and empathize with the struggles they are experiencing. Giving space for our clients to tell their story can take only five or so minutes. The relationship we build with our clients has a 30% correlation with successful outcomes. If we fail to take the time to let our clients tell their story or are insufficiently empathic, our clients may not engage in our services or their motivation may be severely impaired.
Fuel your client’s self confidence: Clients frequently come to us feeling like they have failed or worse yet that they are a failure. Ask your clients about their past employment history then explore with them how s/he secured the position and then retained it. By focusing on our client’s past successes we are communicating our respect for his/her strengths and we are also fueling his/her confidence. Research has demonstrated that expectation of success is strongly correlated with successful outcomes. Additionally, strategies that have worked for that individual are likely to work again. However, clients frequently need us to reconnect them with past successes through our skillful interviewing- especially when their spirits are low.
Respect you client’s expertise: Our clients come to us with a myriad of life factors that affect their vocational functioning and prospects. Ask open ended questions such as; “What do you think has been making your job seeking difficult?” Such open ended questions can provide vital information such as skill deficits (resume writing, interviewing skills, etc.), or lifestyle obstacles (sleep patterns, substance abuse, etc). Gleaning this information from our client rather than from a form, we are able to gauge what your client is truly willing to work on. By asking our client “When was the last time you were more on track with your job seeking?” we communicate your belief that s/he is trying to succeed and his/her response will identify strategies that uniquely fits the client.
We all struggle making difficult improvements in our life. By expressing our understanding of how difficult vocational challenges are and by using effective interviewing strategies, we can ignite the motivation within our clients to succeed.