Saturday, March 23, 2019
Tips & Training

Walk it out, talk it out: How walking sessions help millennials get unstuck

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Have you ever taken your career practice for a walk?

It’s widely known that our sedentary lives are hard on us – we’re sitting too much. Countless studies have also demonstrated that walking boosts creativity, optimism, focus and productivity. Walking meetings have been touted by big thinkers, from Steve Jobs to Freud.

So, if walking meetings are so beneficial, why not try a walking career session?

Career Serendipity walks

When I decided to try integrating walking sessions into my services, a narrative intervention called Career Serendipity fit perfectly with this idea. This intervention, which is based on Planned Happenstance theory (Mitchell, Al Levin, & Krumboltz, 1999), was first introduced to me by Mark Franklin with OneLifeTools.

Essentially, this theory states that you can improve your chances of having unplanned events and serendipitous moments occur in your career and life, and that building proactive habits can help you take advantage of these events.

To increase your Career Serendipity, you can develop five traits: curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism and risk-taking. The intervention invites clients to self-reflect on these traits and on the role serendipity has already played in their past. This is my-go to walking activity.

Double-dose for millennials

I’m often questioned about drawing broad-stroke assumptions about an entire generation of people. It’s true, of course, that not all millennials are the same, but there are social values that do emerge often in my work. Many millennials prioritize wellness and self-care, productivity, flexibility and curiosity. (The latter two are among the traits outlined in Career Serendipity.)

By simply saying yes to a walking session, clients are already developing their proactive serendipity strategies through experiential learning. They also get a double-dose of self-care. They are investing in their career management and, at the same time, in their physical and mental health by stepping outside with me. I tend to work with people in their 20s and 30s who are employed and unhappy. They are usually highly scheduled, so anything that feels productive and time-saving is a win.

Common challenges I’ve observed among my millennial clients include a lack of focus, apathy toward future possibilities and feeling blocked about the way to move forward, even in small steps. Research shows changing our environment and moving physically helps our brains move, too. Walking sessions help with generating ideas and possibilities and have become a key component in my practice.

Watch your step

If you’re ready to try, here are a few things to consider before walking it out.

  1. Accessibility issues: This can apply to both the neighbourhood you wish to walk in (think construction, ice, traffic hazards, etc.) and your client’s abilities. Ensure you have a route mapped out that is safe and that your client feels safe, too.
  2. Time management: It’s easy to lose track of time in a walking session. Try planning out your walk on Google maps, and identify a few landmarks that you expect to encounter at the 15-, 30- and 45-minute marks in your walk. Consider a shortcut that you can use if you are falling behind.
  3. Capturing the session: Instead of taking notes as you walk, you could take photos. Have clients repeat out loud anything you consider to be an ‘aha’ I often book time directly after to write out my observations and notes.
  4. Stop walking: This may seem counter-intuitive, but research shows that meandering, free walking gives a stronger boost to creativity than a power walk. Stop and reflect on what you are seeing, from wildlife to cracks in the sidewalk.
  5. Weather: I once did a Career Serendipity walk in a bookstore because of torrential rains. You may not be able to leave your centre because of liability issues. The idea is to move. If you can’t get outside, get creative.
Your first step

Career Serendipity fits with my practice, but I encourage you to consider an activity you typically get great feedback on and see if it can be adapted to a walking session. I’d love to hear your stories about your own walking sessions, and any questions you have about incorporating walking into your day-to-day services. Step to it!

Ali Breen
Ali Breen Author
Millennials Career Coach Ali Breen believes that your career can and should be a reflection of who you are and how you want to be in the world. She uses story-based, narrative approaches and experiential learning in her Halifax private practice. As a past corporate recruiter and bilingual career practitioner in non-profit employment centres, Breen has spent a decade on both the demand & supply sides of the Career Management table. She also draws from her experiences as Community Growth Manager for OneLifeTools and as a member of 3CD's Outreach and Advocacy Working Group.
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Ali Breen
Ali Breen Author
Millennials Career Coach Ali Breen believes that your career can and should be a reflection of who you are and how you want to be in the world. She uses story-based, narrative approaches and experiential learning in her Halifax private practice. As a past corporate recruiter and bilingual career practitioner in non-profit employment centres, Breen has spent a decade on both the demand & supply sides of the Career Management table. She also draws from her experiences as Community Growth Manager for OneLifeTools and as a member of 3CD's Outreach and Advocacy Working Group.
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