The Power of Metaphor in Career Journeys

Water travel as metaphor for career journey

CERIC, the Canadian charitable organization dedicated to advancing education and research in career counselling and development, helps us to make sense of career development through the lens of a canoe metaphor. In their Guiding Principles of Career Development, CERIC explains how the canoe represents our career, stating: “We use it on our journey, we stock it with the tools we need, and we proactively steer it to our destination; sometimes we face rapids, and as conditions change, so might our course.” Personally, I’ve discovered that powerful revelations — “aha moments” — manifest themselves during a journey by water and on the stops along the way. When I portage between waterways, I never fail to learn important lessons to import into my vessel. One of those lessons is that the power of metaphor can help our clients fully engage in taking control of their career journeys.

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I gravitated towards CERIC’s Guiding Principles of Career Development after participating in the annual Cannexus Conference in 2017. It was during my attendance at this conference, surrounded by a brilliant opportunity to refresh my perspective, that a new “chart” for my own career journey began.

In Canada, we are privileged to have large and small bodies of water; oceans flank our beautiful country to the west, north, and east. Gifted with the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic Oceans, Labrador Sea, and Hudson Bay, thousands of tributaries, lakes, rivers, and creeks; all provided a means for pioneers to explore and settle in our country in the 15th century. Today, our water is deemed to be one of our most powerful energy resources. I offer this little history lesson to underscore my personal and deep connection to the power of water. Water is an essential element for my preferred travel mode during reflective practice. Water is the metaphor for my journey in life, including my career journey. It has informed and continues to contribute to my development and value system.

I came across the song “Better Boat” in August of 2018 and was captivated by the feeling of calmness that prevailed while listening to it. It was the summer of that year that I was in the midst of realigning my career direction and goals.

Kenny Chesney, the singer of Better Boat, shares the thoughtful and compassionate “story behind the song” in this YouTube video. The video ends with the song itself. Written by Travis Meadows and Liz Rose, Chesney found inspiration from those recovering from 2017’s Hurricane Irma. The singer makes a number of insightful comments in the video — one being that the symbolism is about more than recovery from a natural disaster — it’s about a personal journey and moving forward.

Symbolically, this song has accompanied me on my paddle board adventures. It also informs an approach I use in my coaching practice. I integrate CERIC’s Principles of Career Development with mindful movement, musical inspiration, and what I like to call “rewirement” for individuals who have left — or plan to move on from —  their current workplace situation due to workplace trauma.

During my first session with participants, whether in a group setting, or one-to-one, I utilize CERIC’s comprehensive and aesthetically eye-catching poster illustrating the eight principles of career development. We launch our discussions talking about the metaphor of the canoe — however, I’m more interested to learn of each individuals’ metaphorical career transportation mode.

Although mine is one embedded in the power of a journey by water, for others there are many unique mediums by which they express themselves. In essence, I’m curious to learn their mode of transport — that which converts time to right now, where there is a compelling opportunity to live in the present. Some of the wide variety of answers I’ve received: skateboarding, kayaking, biking, “scooting,” paddle boating, parachuting, or, operating a boat, truck, car, van, grain truck, airplane, helicopter, gravel truck, excavator, delivery truck. My goal: this is a values assessment, essentially to determine what inspires a client, what values they live by, and how we might integrate their mode of travel into their holistic career development journey. 

On one of my last adventures on the Manitoba waters this fall, I returned to my vehicle to load my 12-foot paddle board. I came across a couple sitting on collapsible lawn chairs beside their van. I noticed that this van had a makeshift mattress and I approached them — curious about their Quebec license plates — to ask about their journey. The couple — one from France, one from Quebec, along with their dog — shared that they were travelling across Canada, having converted their van into a travelling oasis to transport them on their adventure.

This article is the “launch” of more to follow. I’d like to share some of the exercises and assessments that I empower my clients with — tools they use for exploration and discovery, self-reflection, and motivation as they embark on the next steps in their career journeys.

If you’re a career development professional who helps clients create sustainable and resilient careers, while also helping them manage work-life integration and personal wellness, you may be interested in CPC’s newest course offering which launches in February 2021. In the Work-Life Coaching Certificate Course (CDP-102), you’ll learn to address the emerging needs of your clients by deepening your competence in areas related to mental health and wellness, foundational life-skills, and career management.

“As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.” – Katharine Hepburn

Kimberley Halwas is Founder, Career Coach & Consultant at Infinity Career & Development Consulting and an Associate with Diversity World. She brings with her 15 years of combined coaching, consulting, and training experience, with specialties including career counselling, employment and retirement coaching, and workforce skills development. With a passion to empower others in recognizing their life and work goals, Kimberley embraces the spirit of mindfulness, self-discovery, and strength-based decision-making while incorporating creative solutions for individual and workforce goal setting. She is a member of Career Professionals of Canada, completed a Career / Employment Coach Certificate from University of Winnipeg, and became a certified Retirement Options Coach in 2019. Kimberley engages in a daily mindfulness practice and is a paddle board, yoga, and surf enthusiast. She embraces opportunities to travel and spend time with family and friends. 

Photo by Infinity Career & Development Consulting

 

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