Taking Time Out to Calm a Frazzled Client

Deborah L. Knox and Sandra S. Butzel

Life Work Putting Your Spirit Online

How many times have you had clients come to you engaged “full-time”
in every aspect of their lives and simply too exhausted to carry
out an effective job search? It is important that we acknowledge
this state in our clients and help them protect themselves. After
all, we live in a high-speed society which values working full-time,
parenting full-time, participating in professional associations,
developing a home, caring for parents, being a good friend, being
significant for a significant other, taking an interest in our
community, building a fund for retirement and now acquiring competency
to adjust to a constantly changing workplace.

It is important to give our clients permission to take some
time out to assess their lives and figure out how to have more
control of their time before they take on a job search. As you
know committing to a shift or change in a career is an enormous addition
to ones life. It can be a renewing and exhilarating period of
significant personal growth. It also takes time and a great deal
of physical and emotional energy. If a client is in”full-time”
mode, something has to be modified or the job search and career
counseling experience will not be successful.

You might even ask your client if they agree with the old adage,
“If you add something to your life, you should drop something
from your life.” Point out that this is a good time to consider
life/work balance with a serious look at how the “life”
part of you is going to fare with the “work” part of

In addition, some of your clients may be facing career shifts
or changes that are not of their choice. This may have been forced
because of a company reorganization, loss of a job, a change in
marital status, illness, family crisis, a geographical move, or
an empty nest. Any of these losses are create an enormous amount
of stress in and of themselves and should not be shoved aside.
Recommend reading William Bridges, Transitions , Hyatt
and Gottlieb’s chapter on “The Stages of Loss from Losing
Your Job” from When Smart People Fail. A summary can
be found here.

Bob Ginn, former director of Harvard’s Career Services has
said, “In the process of setting goals, we come to know ourselves.
Virtually every cultural tradition holds among its central principles,
know thyself. Knowing ourselves, the capacity for reflective self
awareness, is perhaps our greatest personal achievement, at least
the one that is important to career success.”

One of the classic books in goal setting is Alan Lakien’s How
to Get in Control of Your Time and Your Life
. As the title
suggests, time management is an integral part of goal setting,
and goal setting will help your clients get in charge of their
lives. Goal setting will help them project into the future, maintain
a better balance in life, and increase effective use of time.
It is also a grounding activity and will help over-engaged clients
evaluate their lives as a whole so that “life/work balance”
can be a reality.

The three goal exercises found here can walk your clients through a goal setting process. In “Goal
Setting by Area of Life,” they will be looking at their lives,
at this point in time, in general categories with work/career
being only one of them . They will be asked to write their thoughts
about work/career, money, lifestyle/possessions, relationships,
creative self expression, fun and recreation, personal growth,

The second exercise is a visual representation, a Wheel of
Life, with each category from the Goal Setting by Life exercise
represented in pie shaped wedges. The purpose of this exercise
is for clients to assess the current level of satisfaction with
each area. They should also indicate the amount of time spent
on each area. When completing these exercises, your client will
see which areas of life need more attention and which ones can
take less time enabling time for a job search.

The third exercise helps clients prioritize what they have
learned, focus on the changes needed, and state these changes
in the form of goal statements. This exercise, “Goal Setting:
Lifetime Goals,” was created by Alan Lakien. To help get
to the core of how to spend your life, he asks questions related
to time periods of life. Lakien and every other goals expert stresses
the importance of writing down goals. In addition, he feels you
can tap into your intuitive side by writing within a limited time
period, perhaps only two minutes on each section. The last step
is to determine the most important goals and put them in rank

Share these tips for writing goals with your clients.

  1. Write goals down on paper as specifically as possible. A goal
    committed to paper becomes a concrete expression of your intentions.
  2. State goals in the positive, something you want, not something
    you want to leave behind.
  3. Make your goals realistic, challenging but not discouraging.
    Goal setting is not supposed to put you on a guilt trip or make
    you depressed.
  4. Goals should be measurable so that progress can be noted. Make
    realistic deadlines so you can anticipate closure.
  5. Keep a long-term focus so that you may learn from the setbacks
    rather than being discouraged.
  6. Review your goals regularly; goals are a work in progress and
    will naturally need modifications
  7. Prioritize your goals, over and over
  8. Celebrate Your Successes

The next step in your clients goal setting process is to compose
action steps which will make goals a reality and increase lifework
balance. Action steps are concrete things that can be accomplished.
They prevent setting goals that are too lofty and only lead to
discouragement. Writing down action steps provides a wonderful
check list leading for success.

Encourage clients to keep a notebook in which to write goals
in the form of a working draft. Goal statements, if they are any
good, are always an on-going process. They will change as a client
gathers more information and as major changes occur in any area
of their lives and in the lives of people close to them. If a
goal is not serving your client, give them permission to give
it up. Make sure your clients reward themselves each time they
accomplish an action step. They deserve it!

When your clients finishes these exercises, they will have
an overall working plan for their lives focusing on the changes
they want to make. The plan will result in easier decision making
and consequently better time management allowing time to engage
in a career change or job search.

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