Creativity & Career Counseling

Creativity seems to be a capacity that individuals possess in varying degrees. When creativity is broadly defined, we see that every person exercises creativity in their lives. Career counseling should help an individual identify the source and direction of his or her creativity.

Creative abilities tend to be signals for motivational areas. Most people exercise creativity in the direction of their strongest motivations, which can be only partially defined as interests (i.e., vocational interests a’ la Holland). Helping a person identify and examine the creativity in their lives unlocks the secret to the individual motivation and potential. Identifying a history of “creative moments” can point out a motivational pattern.

Somewhere, somehow creativity got a bad rap. Being “creative” has come to mean something like artistic or intuitive or both. In fact, creativity is that force or energy which compels people to do something different, to be something different, to change their lives, or to manage the change in their lives.

Unfortunately, people wrongly assume that creativity cannot be applied – that it dissipates in direct proportion to concentration. Well, as self-fulfilling prophecy would have it, most people seem to lose creativity when “applying themselves” to a particular life problem (such as career indecision). Career counselors can help such people rediscover and focus their creativity by systematically studying its history.

A great many career specialists in college settings simply hand their clients “creative” exercises, an act which suppresses creativity. Or these career counselors assume (consciously or unconsciously) that only highly verbal, extroverted, liberal arts majors have enough creativity (along with critical thinking and “interpersonal communication skills”) to warrant inspection and careful attention.

Surprise! Surprise! Students majoring in engineering and computer science exercise creativity. Political science, English and electronics technology majors exercise creativity. Obviously, I am saying that all students, and yes, Virginia, all people, exercise creativity in some way, shape, form, or direction.

I met a seemingly introverted student majoring in electronics technology. By outward behavior and speech, he was a classically uncreative guy. However, this student bubbled enthusiastically while describing the computer printer he built at home, how he accelerated its print speed, re-adjusted the ‘do whop’ and the ‘what not’ (my translations) and how he devised plans for some very unconventional, but fascinating home equipment. Had this fellow exercised his creativity in the direction of his career interest? Or had he somehow developed his career interest in the direction of his felt creativity? Either way, career counseling focused on creativity, as well as other characteristics, can help in the problem of choice.

Ultimately, two ways of working with people emerge:

1. Helping them to identify their creativity and to apply it to career interests/goals.
2. Helping them to develop career interests/goals based on knowledge of the conditions surrounding their creativity.

Career counselors need to be creative in the way they work with clients. Not all clients respond to the same exercises, counseling style, and language.

In my experience, describing an effective job search in terms of product knowledge, market research, and sales presentation is more helpful for marketing majors than “career counselor talk.” However, students of philosophy benefit from a discussion of the search for compatibility of values and objectives (better known as person-organization fit). Using related language can be a facilitator of understanding as easily as career buzz language can be a barrier to it.

Counselors need to be flexible in their approach to gathering client information. Some clients prefer intuitive means for generating and processing information and might benefit from fantasy techniques or those which are more Gestalt in nature. Other clients prefer concreteness and revel in detailed skill analysis, priority grids, or analytically-oriented paper and pencil exercises.

Clients vary with respect to the speed at which they can deal with movement relative to career planning. Counselors must develop a sensitivity to personal timetables – i.e. how quickly a client can accept the changes inherent in the process of career development, and how quickly he or she can assimilate career and self information.

You may notice, this is not an article promising the “how to” of discovering and utilizing creativity (Howard Figler does a much better job of that than I could). This is a “must do” article. I leave it to your own creativity to implement the concepts, thereby generating effective (and perhaps spontaneous) means for exploring your clients’ creative forces in the process of career decision-making.


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