Wow, where did the time go? It only seemed like yesterday when I was sitting awkwardly and eagerly in front of my very first client, an older man who had been unemployed for a while (thankfully the session wasn’t a train-wreck!).
10 years ago in April, I began my first official role in the careers industry as a Career Consultant with the Government Agency Career Services (later to become Careers NZ, then the Tertiary Education Commission). Previously I had worked in a variety of corporate and public sector settings, but it was an absolute thrill when I got this role and I remember jumping up and down when the job was offered to me. It felt exciting because I finally realised I was pursuing something I felt quietly confident about. My gut instinct was saying “DO IT! DO IT!”
A year earlier I was in the career doldrums, feeling inadequate about my perceived lack of progress and growth at work. I couldn’t help but compare myself to my uni mates who were ‘succeeding’ in their mid-twenties. Quarter life crisis much? Yup, I was my own worst enemy.
So it got to the point where I decided to be courageous and take a chance on doing things differently. Firstly I enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Career Development programme at AUT (I had been researching this for several years) and I also volunteered as a Telephone Counsellor for Lifeline. Oh my goodness, boy, did my life change forever. The penny dropped and I felt I was where I needed to be – the class learnings resonated, I discovered a lot about myself (the good, the bad and the ugly) and I absolutely cherished the development of my counselling skills. I guess the nurturer in me was being realised. Thank you to my wonderful AUT lecturers, Dr Dale Furblish, Dr Lynette Reid, Robyn Bailey and the late Don Gooder for guiding me!
Photos from the last 10 years (grateful for the memories!)
So with those early beginnings, here are 10 key learnings and highlights from the past 10 years in the careers industry.
- There are lots of caring, empathetic people in the industry. I have had the opportunity to meet amazing practitioners from across New Zealand, many of whom I keep in regular contact with. There are simply too many people to mention, but a BIG thank you to my early mentor Frances Fuamatu who was instrumental in shaping my philosophy of practice. I also acknowledge Mark Sames who thoughtfully challenged me to embrace my talents during my supervision sessions.
- I can be creative as a careers practitioner. One of the best things about the role is that I can create resources, tools, events and possibilities for clients. Back in the Career Services days we always brainstormed new ways to engage with clients (I recall having a blast creating the Dress for Success mentoring programme with Brigette Shutkowski) and at Unitec we tested out so many new ideas! I’ll never forget exploring the idea of creating ‘career dolls’ with Di Bluck so we could use ‘play’ as a form of engagement.
- Social media changed my world. 10 years ago, I remember discussing with the team about the merits of using social media to assist clients. At that stage many said it was simply a passing fad, but I was so excited about its capabilities. Over the years I’ve managed FB and LinkedIn pages, posted careers content and stories, developed videos and written many blog posts. I also carried out some research with Grant Verhoeven where we found that students are tech savvy, but struggle to make meaningful connections in a careers context. Definitely a topical issue.
- The careers industry is morphing and evolving. When I joined the industry, it felt vibrant and strong with a clear sense of purpose. It was common to deliver career services typically in person, and usually through 1-1 or in groups. But over time, it was morphed to a one –to-many model where there is focus around having greater reach with clients, and making greater use of technology. Professionally I have gone through the waves of apprehension, denial, acceptance, and excitement, but fundamentally I do accept that we must adapt to this changing world – things can’t always stay the same.
- ‘Careers’ is a western construct and can denote privilege and a perceived sense of agency. Issues around equity, accessibility and inherent biases can also influence the extent to which people experience career development. As a New Zealand born practitioner of Samoan-Chinese descent, I am very mindful of context and believe that there needs to be more leadership and involvement from those voices which may not necessarily be heard. I am blessed to have met many passionate Māori and Pasifika practitioners over the years and they really make me feel proud of my heritage and the community I serve.
- I LOVE facilitating. I was a very timid facilitator before I joined Career Services, but absolutely flourished when I gained the tools to work effectively with groups. I guess I love the energy that comes with every group being different and unique. Huge thanks to Blake Wong-Ling, Sarah Moyne and Navaz Smith for their support!
- Messaging for young people still needs to change. It still staggers me that many young people cite traditional jobs and careers for their future. It was awesome to work at my old high school for a year, but I noticed that many students relied on their parents and guardians for information and advice on careers. In fact, few wanted to pursue IT or tech related pathways. Eeeek! The need for a careers system that informs and supports ALL New Zealanders is needed more than ever.
- Working in careers is an act of service. If I wanted to earn mega bucks and collect accolades I would’ve chosen another profession, but the great sense of satisfaction I get from creating ‘aha’ moments with clients is pure bliss. We don’t always hear back from our clients, but it’s so wonderful when they come back and tell you what they’re doing now. You can read about one of my memorable client’s here. Yes, we do and can make a positive difference in the lives of others.
- There is a big difference between providing ‘advice’ and providing ‘guidance’. The industry is not regulated, so technically anyone can deliver career services. However, belonging to the Career Development Association of New Zealand (CDANZ) encourages me to deliver best practice in a professional and ethical manner. To clarify, a career development professional’s job is NOT to tell people what to do. How disempowering would that be. Rather, we walk alongside you to make sense of information, help you to learn more about yourself, guide you to explore options, and help you to make decisions. So if come across a careers person who outwardly instructs you what to do, only asks closed questions, or puts you in a box, then sorry, they are not taking the right approach to guide you.
- I have had A LOT of fun. The ability to flex my skills has kept my work interesting and stimulating. It works well for me, especially as I love and crave social interaction. At Unitec we wore costumes to showcase different jobs (I dressed as a policeman, coach, and pilot, and don’t get me started on the clown outfit!). I was privileged to represent my organisation at career expos and conferences, I took part in fantastic initiatives including the high school programme PILOT (Pacific Island Leaders of Tomorrow), I delivered career development workshops to over 200 guidance counsellors in Indonesia (thanks for the great memories Andrea Thumath), I formed a networking group with fantastic Maori and Pasifika career practitioners, I helped organise networking events featuring industry guests…. the list goes on.
With careers and jobs changing at a rate of knots, I do ponder and reflect on where my career may go next. There are parts of my work I find repetitive and monotonous ( I swear I can conduct CV and job search workshops in my sleep), but the excitement comes when I can capture new ‘future of work’ trends and convert them into an innovative service offering. I also have interests in social and community wellbeing, content creation, and social media.
In the age of COVID-19, we have all experienced a shift in our attitude, embraced a new way of approaching work and continue to acknowledge the challenges that come with it. Whatever happens next, I am happy to go along for the ride!