Career Management Tips Page

The Future of Career Development

Dr Susie Linder-Pelz and Michelle Duval

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In today's world everyone is required to deal with constant change. They face constant uncertainty as to whether they will have too much work, too little or none at all. People are told to manage their own careers, keep learning and stay flexible; employability and career resilience are buzzwords. Career success now means enjoyment and fulfilment, not just income and status. Yet many don't enjoy the role or field of work they find themselves in, feel their talents have not been recognised or valued by their employer, feel they don't fit the culture of the organisation in which they work, struggle to balance work and non-work responsibilities, and experience high levels of stress and ill health as a result of bigger workloads and the constant need to upskill. No wonder so many people feel confused, frustrated and fearful!

And all of this is happening at a time when the ultimate imperative for companies and managers is performance.

Career management now has to be about the empowerment of people, not as a management technique but to enable them to be and do their best. The methodology for actualising potential in the 21st century is coaching.

More and more businesses now recognise the value of developing their people and keeping them (though not necessarily for life). For example, a manager of an insurance company personally experienced the benefits of career coaching—finding it a very productive experience—and offered career coaching to other staff. A department of the NSW state government recognised the value of career coaching for senior women and that offered them personal career coaching sessions. Reported bottom-line results of career coaching include reduced sick leave and absenteeism as well as increases in productivity, morale, job satisfaction, efficiency, revenue and staff retention. One company we worked with in the call centre industry offered personal and career coaching to employees reported an increased net profit by more than 120%.

The need for career coaching is felt not only in the corporate world, concerned as it is with productivity and performance, but also by the growing proportion of the workforce outside the corporate sector. The #1 reason people seek a career coach is to see, understand, expand or get feedback on their career options; the #2 reason is to deal with their confusion, fear or frustration and find more excitement, confidence and fulfilment in their working lives.

But, as managers and training and development professionals know all too well, even when people have clarified what they want and set goals, often they are held back by fears and other unhelpful beliefs and emotions. As psychologist Dr L. Michael Hall, who has developed many leading-edge change models based on the cognitive behaviour sciences of NLP and Neuro-Semantics, said recently,

“…  a quiet revolution is under way as companies and businesses have come to realise that training alone is not going to transform the people in the work field into creative, excited, passionate, responsible, and focused people who can work as a team and produce peak performances.”

What we now have is a coaching methodology that specifically facilitates people overcoming fears and beliefs that hold them back and that facilitates the changes they want to make in how they think, feel and act in relation to their work. This is developmental career coaching.

It is important to note that until now much of what is called career development is more accurately described as career planning and management; this involves assessing personal characteristics, researching appropriate occupations and preparing for job search or other career action steps. Insofar as career planning and management involves modifying existing skills and behaviours or learning new ones (such as writing resumes, improving interview skills, researching alternative occupations, learning small business skills, etc) career coaching involves 'skills and performance coaching'.

Developmental career coaching is, by contrast, more about assisting people to find better work/life solutions by assisting them to think, feel and act in ways that serve them better. No amount of vocational assessments, occupational research, action planning and job search skilling will enable a person to make changes if their beliefs and emotional states do not support them.

The focus of developmental coaching is showing clients how to modify their beliefs, values or identity; how to change how they think and feel about their self-worth, confidence and what ‘success’ means; how to achieve better work-life balance, become a better decision-maker, stop being a ‘procrastinator’, ‘fearing failure’, etc. Coaching can even be transformational when the change work enables the client to find a new direction, vocation or purpose.

The starting point of developmental and transformational coaching is self-reflexivity—the ability to step back and explore, notice, hear and think about one's thoughts, feelings and behaviours. In the field of cognitive behaviour psychology this is known as the “meta-cognitive skill of self-reflection”; the fostering of this skill is, as Dr Tony Grant of the coaching psychology unit at Sydney University says, central to the coaching process. Dr Bob Bodenhamer and Dr Michael Hall, who developed the Neuro-Semantic® models of personal change, call this the ‘step-back’ skill. They show clients how to become aware of how they create mental movies and scripts that directly affect how they feel and act. At the heart of the Neuro-Semantic coaching models is the systemic nature of mind and body, involving multiple layers of thinking and feeling. We have thoughts about thoughts, feelings about feelings, etc. Once we understand the structure or pattern to how we run our brains and behaviours it is surprisingly easy to change those patterns. Neuro-Semantic coaching models operates not only from a cognitive-behaviour framework but also from a systemic one that addresses the complexity of subjective experience in ways and to an extent that other frameworks do not. The effectiveness of coaching based on NLP and Neuro-Semantics—in terms of sustained changes in the ways people think, feel and act—are seen, heard and well documented in feedback from clients.

What is involved in developmental career coaching? It starts with the skills that all counsellors and coaches use: rapport-building, clarifying outcomes, active listening and supporting, questioning, giving and receiving feedback. Neuro-Semantic coaching skills also include detecting intricate and layered patterns of thinking and feeling, helping clients change their beliefs and emotional states, tasking clients to take actions to develop skills and holding clients accountable. The Neuro-Semantic coach is trained to identify and work with a person's language patterns, personality style and perceptual filters, emotional states and the mental movies they make of their experience. For more insight and understanding on Neuro-Semantic coaching see

© Susie Linder-Pelz and Michelle Duval 2004