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Andrea Fruhling: ‘We’re in a field that has so much potential’

How many times have you asked a client to be courageous? To try something new? Suddenly, as career professionals, we too find ourselves in a place of uncertainty. We’re working in new places. Maybe our go-to interventions don’t translate well to a virtual space. It’s not easy, but it’s also generating empathy by helping us better understand the client experience.

Whether you’ve been in the career development field for six months or several decades, now is the time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going. How have you been working with clients? What has worked – and what hasn’t? Regardless of whether you’ll be back in the office soon, or working from home long-term, current challenges present an opportunity to re-evaluate your approach. To borrow from Hemingway’s iceberg analogy, the career development intervention is what we can see above the water. We need to look under the surface to investigate the “why” behind what we do.

In the video interview below, Doubleknot Works Founder Andrea Fruhling speaks to CareerWise Editor Lindsay Purchase about career development in a time of COVID and where the field is going in Canada. Andrea will be presenting at CERIC’s Virtual Cannexus21 conference on “Pivoting in Times of Uncertainty,” alongside UBC Emeritus Professor Norman Amundson, and on “Career Recovery: Creating Careers with Hope” with Norman Amundson and Spencer Niles, Dean and Professor, College of Willam & Mary. Learn more about Cannexus, taking place Jan. 25 & 27 and Feb. 1 & 3, 2021, at cannexus.ceric.ca

Video transcription follows. 

Video transcription:

Lindsay Purchase: Hi, Andrea. Thanks so much for meeting with me to chat about career development.

Andrea Fruhling: Hi, Lindsay. Thanks for inviting me. I appreciate it.

Lindsay: So you’re out in BC right now and I’m curious about how the pandemic has affected how you do your work.

Andrea: Yeah, it’s been a really interesting season in career development, I think in general. For me specifically, I’ve been quite busy. I have a private career coaching business. And so I’ve been connecting with quite a few clients these days and have been really working on adapting and moving online and thinking about what that looks like from a number of different perspectives, including the training that we do as well as working with clients.

It’s also interesting. I have three kids and my husband and I both also are working from home at the same time and so we share an office. And so we’re in a very practical sense. We’re negotiating, “When do you have a meeting? I get the office today.” And so we’re kind of… There’s always a bit of negotiation that happens around workspace and quiet space that didn’t use to happen. So it’s different. Not all bad, but just different.

Lindsay: Yeah, for sure. And that juggling for a lot of people, that can bring on some mental health challenges. We’re seeing for the results from our CERIC Pulse Survey that went out later in the summer that career practitioners are seeing some declines in their mental health. They’re also seeing it with clients. So how does the field navigate those mental health challenges?

Andrea: As a career practitioner, we’re supposed to be … And we are supporting clients. And they’re navigating and managing emotions and going through this time of uncertainty. So are we. And so we have almost this parallel experience that’s happening between the two of us that is really kind of interesting where we don’t know the answer. We don’t know necessarily what the right thing is. We’re really in this together with everybody. And so there is a bit of a shared experience that happens in that. In some ways, we have to re-imagine the way that we work. It can be really easy to get stuck and to be doing the same thing over and over again. And that really, I think impacts your mental health and the way that you think about the time that we’re in.

And especially, if you can’t do what you’re used to doing, whether you think about clients, clients are maybe used to being at work and being in a job and going to work and doing certain things and then suddenly that has to end. And for us, we’re used to being in an office, working with clients and maybe meeting them face to face. And maybe we have some favorite interventions that are maybe on paper, are a bit more interactive, that suddenly we can’t use anymore. We’re both having to enter into the space of uncertainty and really sort of find our way through it together, but in different ways. And in that, that’s an act of empathy where we then are beginning to move into and understand what that client experiences.

How many times do we ask our clients to be courageous or to try something new or to navigate a challenge? Well, now it’s our turn. And now we get to making… We get to try it too. It’s tiring and it’s exhausting living in this space of uncertainty so much. But if we can counteract that with creativity and start imagining what are the new ways that we can engage with the people around us, then I think there’s great opportunity for growth and really for revitalizing the career development field. And what a great opportunity to go to a conference like Cannexus and to go and hear what other people are doing and start engaging in that creative practice of re-imagining the way that you’re working with clients, maybe in more of a virtual way or just in a different way. It’s a different time and this different time calls for a different type of response.

Lindsay: We are seeing creativity and innovation come out of this, which is quite exciting. So I’m interested to know in your work, how are you finding working remotely with clients and what are some of the benefits or advantages that you found in that?

Andrea: Yeah, I think that, in terms of the benefits of working remotely, it really does in many ways create an opportunity to partner with my clients in stronger ways. So I sort of … I have two different worlds that I’m working in. I’m in the. .. I do individual coaching, but also training and teaching. And when I think about in terms of individual conversations that I have, especially with clients in that space, there really is a lot more trust and partnership that has to happen with clients when you’re working remotely.

I connect with most of my clients over the phone and we still do interactive activities and we connect in and I’ll bring in different interventions you probably have… If anyone has been in Norm Amundson’s, any of his workshops, you’ve maybe walked to the room or done some different interventions that way. And we do those. We do those virtually. And part of that is really trusting your client to talk through an activity in a way that you both understand and really you almost share the designing of how you’re going to be working together in a way that works for both of you. And so I don’t need to… I’ll say, I don’t need to see them for it to be impactful. I just can trust in our conversation that what’s happening needs to be happening.

Lindsay: I think a lot of this conversation kind of speaks to the idea of reflection. And I think for a lot of people in the field, this has been a time to reflect on their work, on their practices, maybe on their own career trajectory. And so I’m wondering, when you think about the career development field, what are some of the broader learnings that you hope we will take forward from this time?

Andrea: I really think that we’re in a field that has so much potential. We’re so… There’s just, there’s so much that we are capable of, that we are able to do and to learn. And even if you look at just even the last year or so, how much change have we already gone through and have we experienced? And there’s … I think we’re just capable of so much and sometimes we forget that. And we get stuck in or we just keep doing the same thing over and over again.

And we work with clients who are stuck and we work with clients who get stuck in ruts and aren’t able to get out and we’re doing it. We’re doing the hard work of learning how to adapt. And this really will only serve clients better if we also are willing to just put in that work and learn and give ourselves a good foundation so we can adapt to support the people that we work with. And I think it’s an opportunity to choose well and to just reflect on what we want to choose and how we want to step into that great potential of what’s, yeah, what we can do.

Lindsay: I think that’s a really inspiring takeaway from this time. And certainly, we’re seeing CareerWise readers engaged in that kind of thinking. So that’s great. Well, thank you, Andrea for taking the time to chat with me today and take good care.

Andrea: Thanks Lindsay. You too. It was fun.

Andrea Fruhling is a certified organizational and career coach, facilitator and Doubleknot founder. Her work ranges from mentoring and teaching coaching (UBC) to delivering career development workshops and training globally. Andrea’s work is creative, practical and engaging.
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Andrea Fruhling is a certified organizational and career coach, facilitator and Doubleknot founder. Her work ranges from mentoring and teaching coaching (UBC) to delivering career development workshops and training globally. Andrea’s work is creative, practical and engaging.
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