Career Coaching and Existentialism


 Published in Coaching & Life December 2020

As any seasoned Career Coach is aware, careers coaching is not just about finding a job or a career. Inevitably, in a session with a client, deeper concepts can emerge through the conversation., such as, what is most important to me at this stage in my life and career? How do I make the right choices?  What can and can’t I change? What do I want to do with my life? Some career coaches can shy away from such deep and intimate questions, however, I have found, on the whole, when one introduces such existential questions into a session with a client; it can be the most transformative for the client and for you, as a coach. 

Existential Careers Coaching in practice

In a session with one of my clients, Michael, (not his real name) he presented a dilemma in his working life. He had recently been through a frightening and life changing experience where he had lost a friend to cancer and on the day after his friend’s funeral, he had found out that he had an aggressive form of cancer and he needed treatment immediately. His career, suddenly became not the most important part of his life. He had gone through extensive Chemotherapy, and emerged miraculously after a long period of recuperation and invasive treatments. This experience on a very deep level had changed the way he wanted to live the remaining years of his life. This self-awareness in Michael was made known to him, by our session together. The dilemma he was in, was whether to stay in his current role where he had been for over 10 years and if he stayed until his retirement, he would be guaranteed a reasonable retirement package. However, in his current job he wasn’t growing anymore. He felt stifled and disengaged.  He had been offered another job, where there wasn’t the security of a pension, but this opportunity enabled him to work 4 days a week instead of 5. I asked Michael, “are your values the same as they were 10 years ago?” He said “no”, my values then were all about progressing in my job and now I realise, I missed out so much on my children’s life as I was working so much. Now, I am a grandfather and this extra day I would have to myself, would enable me to spend time with my grand- children.” So, I asked, “what is most valuable to you now in your life and what decision would align with that value?” He paused and thought, he replied, “time is my value now, it’s not about a pension as I may never even get to that age. I want to have time to spend with my family”.

This session with Michael, is a simple example of how delving deeper in a careers session can help your client get to the heart of the matter. Michael the next day, handed in his notice at his current workplace and accepted the other opportunity. This decision was made with his awareness and experience that tomorrow is not guaranteed and his values changed as he had.

As a Career Coach, have you ever taken this approach with some of your clients? What has been the response? 

If what I have written here has resonated with you and you would like to explore concepts such as these, please do not hesitate to get in touch by leaving a comment in the box below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *