Career genograms are a specific type of genogram, which have been used extensively in family system therapy. The purpose of a career genogram is to look at established career patterns, or lack thereof, in a family unit (as it is defined by the client). The basic construction of a career genogram starts with the individual, then extends out to include significant members of the same generation. This may include biological and non-biological extended family members and close friends.
The career genogram then extends to the parents’ generation, including extended family, close contacts in the community, mentors, advocates and others with whom the individual has had a meaningful association. (template.net) This method helps the career counsellor understand the environmental and generational influences pertinent to the individual.
Once constructed, the client then adds in occupational detail for each person: what they do/did for a living, whether that was in flux and what the perception of the individual was toward their work history.
Career genograms can be used in the counselling process when the client is undecided, appears to have early difficulties with foreclosure or is balking at the prospects of working at change. This can be evident in early client sessions, after intake and assessment has occurred.
The counsellor may then proceed with thoughtful questions designed to illuminate the world of the client.
- What were you supposed to be when you grew up?
- Were you told that you could be anything or were you told which occupation to choose?
- Were you expected to “do better” than your parents and how was that defined?
- Were there “myths” or “legends” in your family that served to propel or hold you back?
- Were you expected to take on a role that your parent(s) could not pursue?
- Did your family tell you that some occupations were “better” or more “acceptable” than others?
- Was higher education a means to itself without a connection to the working world?
- Were you told that a job is just to “put bread on the table”?
- Were you told that a “stable and secure” job was better than chasing a dream?
- Does the family fit around the job or does the job fit around the family?
These questions are designed to illicit a conversation helpful to the client in any stage of career management, but the counsellor needs to proceed with caution.
There may be holes or gaps in the career genogram, which may be unintentional due to the client’s lack of knowledge or intentional to protect the client’s memories. There may have been trauma in the client’s past; therefore, the examination of the career genogram may bring up mental-health issues. The counsellor should be prepared to refer the client to a trained medical professional, if they are not equipped to help the individual themselves. This may include issues related to abuse, dislocation as experienced by recent immigrants, homelessness, disease, anxiety, depression, etc. These are important issues affecting the client’s ability to move forward in the career management process.
Once the career genogram has been examined, clients may then look at their own decision-making style while processing new information about the world of work.
Suggested links for further exploration of the use of career genograms with adults:
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