We are in a constant state of career development. Sometimes this is at a subconscious level – i.e. not knowing that our action or inaction is affecting our career; other times we take purposeful action to move toward career goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of career development through its impact on the economy and workforce, shutting down some sectors completely and changing others. It is important to help your clients see career development as a lifelong process that requires constant nurturing, discovery and cultivation of self-awareness and self-exploration. With this approach, your client can learn to take control of their career no matter what the external circumstances may be.
This article focuses on self-exploration as a fundamental component of career development. As a life coach with training in career development, I wanted to share one of many techniques I use with clients: asking questions.
Below, I have shared questions you can use to help your clients through the process of self-exploration. No matter where your clients are in their career development journey – from exploring opportunities to upgrading skills, from recently terminated to taking on a new job – guiding them through these questions can help clients become more aware of their values, motivators, strengths and more.
Questions for Self-Exploration
These questions can help evoke further self-awareness, uncover blind spots and gain clarity into the client’s situation.
- What is going well for you right now?
- What is one new thing you have learned about yourself since the start of the pandemic?
- If the economic downturn and pandemic never happened, where would you be today?
Life coach tip: These questions focus on internal-self-awareness building. External self-awareness is also important as it can help uncover blind spots.
Tapping into your client’s motivators can better help them (and you) understand what goals they want to work towards and why.
- If you did not have to work for pay, what would get you out of bed for in the morning?
- Why is (insert goal or action) important to you? And why is that important? (Keep digging further with your client)
- What is motivating you to pursue career coaching (or counselling)? Why now?
- What is one activity where your level of motivation is so high that you feel nothing could get in your way?
Tip: Help your client self-asses their level of motivation toward a goal on a scale of 0-10. You can then explore what could help them increase or maintain their rating.
“It is important to help your clients see career development as a lifelong process that requires constant nurturing, discovery and cultivation of self-awareness and self-exploration.”
This is a fun one, as some people have found new interests and others have developed creative ways to keep former ones during the pandemic.
- What is one new area of interest that you have discovered?
- How have your interests changed since the pandemic?
- What is a new interest that has been on your mind lately that you are considering pursuing?
- If you could try something new (such as a hobby or job) knowing you would not fail, what would that be?
Tip: It can help to have a wide list of activities/subject areas of interest for your client to look at as this may help with brainstorming.
Values are a guide to how we choose to live our lives. If your client’s goals do not align with their values, it can be very challenging – if not impossible – to live a life of fulfilment, meaning and purpose.
- In the “new normal,” what are some things that you will go back to doing and what are some things that you may do differently going forward?
- What do you miss the most from your pre-pandemic life? What do you not miss?
- When you think about your career, what are three non-negotiables for you? Why are these important?
Tip: One question can go a long way and you may end up spending an entire session from delving in deeper to the client’s response.
*Note: Strengths and skills are often confused as being synonymous when they are not. In general, a strength refers to a natural talent that you did not have to learn (but that can be further nurtured and developed), whereas a skill refers to something you can learn (and excel in with hard work).
- What would you say is the No. 1 strength that has gotten you through since the start of the pandemic and economic downturn?
- What is a strength that you feel is necessary to get through these tough times?
- What are three strengths you would like to develop and use?
- What is a strength do you have that others may not know about?
Skills are commonly divided into soft skills (people and interpersonal skills) and hard skills (teachable skills, easy to measure). Both groups of skills can be transferable.
- What have been the three most valuable skills you have used during this pandemic and economic downturn?
- If you could wake up tomorrow having learned a skill magically overnight, what would you want it to be?
- What are three skills you feel are essential for any career?
4.. What skills did you have prior to the pandemic that have been the most helpful to you? How can you develop these further?
Tip: You can help your client by first acknowledging the skills they already have (particularly soft skills, which are harder to identify).
A time for reflection
As we live through another set of lockdowns and restrictions, with an ambiguous future ahead, now is the time to look inward. Who are you? Are you who you want to be? And how can you use this awareness to identify what it is you want and pave a way forward?
In addition to exploring the questions above, you can encourage clients to engage in exercises such as journaling, mindfulness and meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, asking others for feedback, counselling and coaching, and taking career assessments.
Self-exploration is the first step in moving forward. When you can’t find what you are looking for out there, the only place left to look is within. Once your client has had time to get to know themselves better, they can take steps to align their self-knowledge with action.
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