A Holistic Approach to Career Development

By Conny Lee.

Holistic, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”  In considering this, it seems natural that we should approach our careers holistically as well.

There is more to our lives than our careers alone and more to our careers than earning a living.  There is the consideration of doing meaningful work, which feeds our soul, and being challenged and continuously learning, which feeds our minds.  Then there are external factors to consider that also affect or are affected by our careers, for example, our family and culture, the labour market, and our geographic location.

Studies are constantly proving the mind-body connection and how our thoughts can trigger biochemical reactions within our body, sometimes causing dis-ease.  Recognizing how one can affect the other in both positive and negative ways, we as career practitioners can help our clients to live and work more holistically.  A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review and the Energy Project surveyed over 12,000 employees and found that employees tend to be remarkably more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are met.  These core needs include: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, and the more that are met, the higher the engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction, and optimism.

Here are some holistic approaches we, as career practitioners, can use to help our clients:

  1. Encourage our clients to find meaningful work. Finding work that we are passionate about or that gives us meaning is good for our soul.  It gives us a sense of connection or purpose.
  2. Encourage our clients to participate in daily physical activity. The benefits of moderate exercise include: stress reduction, increased energy, disease management or prevention, and exercise also boosts your mood, just to name a few.
  3. Encourage professional development and continuous learning. Learning not only feeds the mind, but it also helps our clients develop and strengthen their skills.

Now that we have addressed the person as a whole, we also need to look at external factors that can affect our clients and their careers, and look for solutions to move past such obstacles.  For example, one client had been offered her dream job on a small, remote island; however, her children were young, and although their grandparents babysat them during the day, her husband was settled in his job and didn’t have any job prospects on the island.  The decision would affect the family as a whole, and geographic location and community were also factors.  While we should not, as career practitioners, steer a decision, we can empower our clients by giving them tools and resources to make their own decisions.

Holistic career development takes into account the whole person and ensuring that some, if not all, of our core needs are met, but also taking into consideration the external driving forces.

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