Taming the Stress: Addressing Client Challenges with a Response Platform
By Karen Sherfick
Kate is a marketing director who has developed corporate marketing campaigns and led and mentored a team for the last four years, while also building digital marketing skills. Kate wants to advance and is interested in opportunities overseeing an entire company strategy and delivery of content marketing. She feels ready to apply leadership and technical skills for a promotion but gets overwhelmed by the prospect of looking for a job. The resulting stress causes Kate to put off her search.
Many clients express feelings of stress as they contemplate making a move. This may be particularly true in the case of clients like Kate who are attempting to job search while still working. The Stress in America (2017) report from the American Psychological Association found that work was the third most common source of stress in respondents. This, added to the emotional ups and downs and time commitment of a job search, is likely to increase stress.
The question is how to respond. A response platform serves as a springboard for clients’ career development, allowing them to practice ways of taking individualized action to address challenges. Explored in the following paragraphs, the elements of the platform are trusting the process, time management, self-care, and revisiting.
Trusting the Process
When we listen, aim to understand, and validate our clients’ present challenges, they begin to believe there can be success with the career development process. By having these productive conversations, clients become aware that a plan is possible and is emerging, which gives confidence in the process. Stephen Covey (2012) explains that some conversations are “crucial” because the stakes are high and emotions are strong. Client conversations can be decisive and defining moments because they influence the decisions clients make, each of which can lead to an entirely different solution or outcome.
These prompts can be used for crucial conversations:
- I hear you saying….
- It appears as though….
- It sounds like…
Kate became aware that uncertainty and fear around not being knowledgeable of the job search process could be addressed with an action plan. By focusing on what could be controlled, her belief grew that success was possible.
Most of us already know that effective use of time involves setting priorities, planning, scheduling, blocking off time for identified activities, focusing on what is not only urgent but important, and other similar techniques. But knowledge itself is not the answer. Looking at and discussing with clients how time is spent can help them discover available time they did not know was there.
Clients can learn to arrange their tasks within the time they have. They can learn to determine what to accomplish, which components of career development to work on, and how much time to spend on each task. These reflection prompts can help:
- What am I doing and am I spending my time acting or reacting?
- When am I doing it?
- Am I running on a schedule or running to catch up?
Kate saw where her time was going, which gave her more control over finding the time needed to get the right things done at the right time.
Self-care is an intentional activity that can build self-efficacy and confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own reasons for their behavior. It can help clients take an active role in protecting their well-being and addressing challenges. The result of self-care is energy, which helps clients sustain activity, have capacity to work more effectively, and be inspired to higher-level performance.
Clients go through a journey of discovery with assessment, exploring strengths, and seeing personal capabilities as they progress through the process. This information can be used to personalize their self-care. Helpful cues:
- Are there areas in my life where I am already practicing self-care?
- What am I putting off that makes me happy?
- Activities that would be meaningful to me include...
In addition to personalizing self-care techniques to one’s own strengths and preferences, a consideration of time is important as well. Through guidance, Kate began deliberately scheduling self-care regularly and within time frames that were realistic, which helped to reduce stress rather than adding to it.
The career development and job search processes are dynamic. Clients work on various activities as a process moves forward. By periodically revisiting the elements of the process, they can see if what is being done is still working and adapt as needed. Revisiting can revitalize the search by indicating necessary adjustments that will get clients where they would like to be. Here are useful contemplations for the revisiting stage:
- Am I accomplishing what I set out to do?
- If I keep doing it this way, am I aiming for the result I am intending to achieve?
- Is my aim still the desired outcome?
Kate used her strengths from self-discovery to revisit the self-care element. This was the breakthrough action that re-energized her search, allowing her to move past the stress and take action. That action led to the role of vice-president of marketing and communications at a Fortune 500 company.
Action and Control Replace Stress
The response platform elements support clients in taking action and control to replace stress by awareness, arrangement, and adaptation. Trusting the process, conversations with clients create awareness which allows for taking action and control by creating a plan. With time management and self-care, the arrangement of time and carving out a strategy and schedule that includes self-care allows clients to feel more in control of what to do, when they do it, and why. Revisiting these elements allows adaptation that promotes control by adjusting for changing priorities.
How might your clients use the skills gained going through the elements of the platform as a call to action?
American Psychological Association. (2017). Stress in America: The State of our nation. Stress in America™ Survey.
Covey, S. (2012). Foreword. In K. Patterson, J. Grenny, R. McMillan, & A. Switzler, Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. McGraw Hill.
Karen Sherfick, M.A, M.Ed., is an experienced executive career management coach with a background in counseling and college administration. She is known for inspiring people to succeed, thrive, stay current, and expect the unexpected in the constantly changing job market. Her focus is on the human side of the future of work, supporting individuals’ desire to belong, contribute, and make a difference in the workplace. Karen recently completed the NCDA Facilitating Career Development training program to incorporate comprehensive career development counseling. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Linkedin www.linkedin.com/in/karensherfick