Why are you working?

Now, think about the last three clients that you saw and imagine how they would answer the same question.  Are you able to imagine their responses? How accurate do you think your guess would be? Is there a group of most typical responses we might expect across groups of people?

Thank you for choosing to take this course, Uncenter Work to Recenter Life, which is part of the Reframe Your Career Game Curriculum. Encouraging career services professionals to diminish work and enhance the focus on life within their practice at first seems counterintuitive for many. If you dig a little deeper in your mind, I think you will quickly realize that this shift of focus is the only thing that can make sense in the 21st Century world-of-work.

Read the following article.

Dr. Carstensen, the author, ends the article with, “Longer lives present us with an opportunity to redesign the way we live. The greatest risk of failure is setting the bar too low.”

This is a BIG idea. When I look around the career services professions, I fear that we are calling new things big ideas that are in fact small ideas set within the same framework that we have operated for the past 110+ years. How can we as career services professionals understand the current challenges of life and work and then adapt our practice to this new understanding?

Beginning to ask this question is the purpose of this course.

My goal for this class is to give you a different on-line course experience. One that encourages you to ask questions that have remained unasked, to think deeply about your own experiences of work, and to shift your career services practice to better incorporate ideas that are foundational to human flourishing and happiness as they relate using the fact of work to build a better life.

The primary audience for this course is any career services professional (e.g., coaches, facilitators, human resource professionals, counselors, psychologists). The principles forming the foundation of this course call upon the fields of career development, human development, and neuroscience research.

At the conclusion of the course, you will be able to:

  • Consider the role that living life plays in career development and vice versa.
  • Incorporate client-centered versus employer centered conversations into your practice.
  • Move from high tech to high (human) touch practices.

This course has three lessons. In each you may be asked to read text or documents, view web links videos, internalize what you are learning when you write in your course journal, and answer questions about the course content on a worksheet. When you are asked to perform any of these activities, this will be listed in red. As you move through the course, you will track your progress by answering questions on a worksheet. This worksheet will be submitted to the instructor at the end of the course to verify your earned continuing education units.

Download the worksheet and save it to your computer.


Consider Living

I want us to really think about living in this lesson. Why are we living the way we do? and How is it that we are living? are two questions I have spent hundreds of hours contemplating.

Commenting on the current state of the world, the Norwegian philosopher Guttorm Floistad observed:

If you want to hang on, you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change.

The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love!

This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection, and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.

I have thought a lot about the three stanzas in this quote. I realize that I too have “bought in” to the faster pace, trying to convince clients that the 4th Industrial Revolution is an opportunity or that they can be excited about the gig economy. Yes, these types of reframes are necessary in our work but NOT at the expense of our client’s humanity. One gift I can give them, each and every client, is the gift of going slow in session with me. This course helps us learn how to do this.

The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love!

This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection, and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.

Chaos, Artificial Intelligence, Precarity, Robotics, Uncertainty, Technological disruption, Globalization, Gig Economy…

These are the buzzwords currently on our lips. They are ubiquitous, found at every professional conference and workshops; every magazine and journal issue; and throughout popular press media across the spectrum. Staying “in front” of these current descriptions of the world-of-work feels like a responsibility for career services professionals; talking about these things with students and clients makes us seem to be useful experts; and continuing this discourse puts just the right amount of discomfort into clients to keep them needing us more.

That last part of the sentence is a bit controversial. Are we career services professionals benefiting from promoting scary ideas like those listed above?


If we do convince clients that they must be concerned with those scary ideas, have we developed the new age services in response to them that ensures we are helping clients during this new age of new problems? My review of current career practices finds that a vast majority of career interventions today are still based on theory and research derived from a time before the current career crisis often promoted in the media.

I am aware that the previous paragraph of text will not be well received by many in the field. You might benefit from taking a moment and collecting your own thoughts.

I want you to keep a journal throughout this course. It can be an existing journal, a document you keep on your computer desktop, or a sketchbook you choose to doodle in throughout this course. The important thing is that your journal works for you AND that you use it!

Please re-read the quote from Guttorm Floistad at the beginning of this lesson. Write down your thoughts in your journal for 10 minutes. You do not have to agree with me at all, but I do hope that you allow my thesis to sit in your mind as you deeply consider how important centering career services work into a broader concept of life design.

Let take one more global view on the need for an attitude adjustment towards life planning. The article below calls for a new social contract, one in which career services professionals will play a role, being needed as soon as possible. Read this article. 

Given the ground we have covered thus far, it only makes sense to turn to a technology/humanist futurist in Gerd Leonhard. Watch his 6:02 video below.

Finally, I would like to guide you through the first dialogue for the course. I use the term dialogue versus lecture or presentation because I hope to engage you in a dynamic process of personal exploration and learning.

As a reminder, please have a writing utensil and paper (at least one blank) with you before you begin. Please view the first dialogue using the link below.

Now that you have finished with Lesson 1, answer questions 1-5 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Lesson 2!

On Client-centerdness

How are you working?

 We began Lesson 1 with the question “Why are you working?” but this second lesson turns to our own career services practice and how we are helping our clients find their best lives through their career.

 I am going to ask you to watch a video titled What really matters at the end of life where BJ Miller, a palliative care doctor who has certainly embraced positive VUCA (Velocity, unorthodoxy, creativity, and awesomeness) in his career life.

View his 19:07 minute video here.

If you are like me, this video deeply impacted you. I want to use BJ’s call to redesign his profession to make the same call to us as professional career service providers – to relieve as much career suffering as we can instead of “adding to the pile.”

Take out your journal and write for 15 minutes, exploring the questions, “What aspects of career work is necessary suffering and what can I effect?”, “What can I reframe in my practice to alleviate suffering?”, and “If career services were designed for employers, how can it be redesigned to be more for workers?” Write in your journal for 15 minutes.

My thesis in this lesson is that career services might be redesigned for the clients more so than it was initially designed. If you might agree with my thesis from Lesson 1, that work must take a backseat to life in our work with clients, then now is our chance to begin to consider what this redesign for life might look like in our own practices.

To begin, I want to share research on the longest study on happiness in history. Please forgive me for offering another TED Talk video but it is simply the best source I can find on sharing this research from its 4th Director.View the 12:46 video below:

Relationships are certainly one scientifically supported aspect of living well. The second scientifically supported aspect of living well that I point to in this course is experiences. More so, how we create meaning in life through storytelling about our experiences. Please read this article on his research.   

Deep meaningful relationships AND deep meaningful experiences are the two primary components of our lives. Storytelling is how we make meaning of each of these components. Stories are NOT a retelling of past events, they are a statement about our current needs (relationship and experience needs).

A redesign of career services practice (or a reframe of our own individual practices) then would put these two basic human needs for a good life at the forefront:

Relationships and Experiences

Hopefully, we can begin to think about redesigning or reframing our career services practice from the user experience.  Let’s dig a little deeper at this process as you view the dialogue video for this lesson lasting 14 minutes.

In this Lesson 2 we learned about redesigning our career practice to operate from a more client-centered framework. In Class 3 we will tie this directly into practice, making our work higher touch than high tech.

Now that you have finished with Lesson 2, answer questions 6-10 on your worksheet. Once finished with that, you can go to Lesson 3!

On High Touch Practice

Are you ready for your future shock? This is a question being asked by digital ethicists around the globe and one that helps us think about how technological revolution might interact with our clients’ lives.

 View the following 3:02 video from futurist Gerd Leonhard where he asked these types of questions in a compelling way.

My beloved skeptics might need to dig a bit deeper into this possible, almost assured, future. Let’s check out a TEDx Talk by Dr. Jordan Nguyen who uses human technology interface to help persons with disabilities. View the video below:

Dr. Nguyen references an important element in determining our future with technology: general artificial intelligence. Current artificial intelligence far exceeds the process capacity of humans but ONLY in domain specific areas. Playing chess is a good example. No human, even the best chess player in history, can beat a computer at chess. Every human alive can beat that same computer at almost any other cognitive task because the computer’s super intelligence is domain specific to chess. We don’t know when artificial general intelligence will be achieved but is unfathomable to think it will not given the current pace of progress towards this goal.

Back one last time to Gerd Leonhard who makes the case for digital ethics to ensure that humans can continue to flourish in the environment of expanding technology. View his 2:37 video here:

It seems that our goal moving forward is not only to uncenter work but also to uncenter technology so that our clients can thrive in the 21st Century world-of-work. Let’s look at three key areas where career development and technology overlap thus providing an opportunity to do career work and life work at the same time.


 How are you different in person than on Instagram? How many friends do you have who will help you move a couch versus help you get to 100 “Likes” on Facebook? Where does your LinkedIn professional network stop and your list of people willing to give you a positive reference for a job begin?

There are volumes of surveys and initial studies suggesting that social media has heightened the very real human experiences of loneliness, envy, anxiety, and depression. While the science is not yet clear, there is enough evidence to strongly suggest that people are losing a sense of real human interaction and finding their virtual community to fail at the task of filling in the void. Social media and work both are important places where our sense of identity, community and self-worth can easily be negatively impacted. Please read this article and I will pick up on the other side.  

“It’s about being a good, wise, and generous human being” writes the author, Emily Esfahani Smith. She then uses the work of Erik Erikson to remind us that our tasks are to develop identity in adolescence, intimate bonds in early adulthood, and then generativity in adulthood. To help others accomplish their goals and reach their potential. Generativity is all about deep, meaningful relationships (those you are helping) and deep, meaningful experiences (the act of helping). If our identity (i.e., self-worth) is stunted (possibly through social media interaction throughout this lifespan), then we will be inhibited not only in the workplace but in our lives.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the idea of generativity and the conflicts that clients might encounter as they navigate generativity versus stagnation. Read the article. 


As we work with clients, it is super helpful to think about generativity concepts and how to address them. Inclusivity versus exclusivity, Pride versus embarrassment, Responsibility versus ambivalence, Productivity versus inadequacy, Parenthood versus self-absorption, and Honesty versus denial. In each case, a client expressing the former is being generative while a client expressing the latter is suffering from stagnation.

Focus (or the Here-and-Now)

Technology doesn’t only sap our real relationship time, it is designed to sap our focus. The algorithms built into most all social media are based on an engagement model whereby the goal is to cause users to select (i.e. click) and maintain (i.e., surf) engagement with the platform as often and long as possible. This is actually how advertising is analyzed and paid for on most platforms. We humans are being controlled by algorithms designed by behavioral psychologists on these platforms and there is nothing we can do to resist it (other than not use them).

Let’s think about this more in this excellent interview article from Tim Herrera. Please read it here.

Recall from Positive Psychology, that “flow experiences” are often reported as those in which humans feel that they are most flourishing. Deep work is the proving ground for work-based flow experiences and these must be intentionally planned for to happen in the modern world age. Clients whom I have worked with who intentionally make space for deep work (regardless of their field) certainly report more deep, meaningful experiences at work AND by my observation also find it easier to connect to others when not in deep work mode, providing more opportunities for deep, meaningful relationships at work.

There are ways to create flow at work. View the 8:17 video below to learn how to do this.

Changing Work

I have an entire course on the gig economy (Surfing the Gig Economy) so I am going to use the other technology trend, virtual work, in this section. Please read this article. 

Obviously, my focus for this lesson is the fourth benefit of virtual work: Work-Life Satisfaction. My experience in this area is at home with my spouse, a long-time virtual employee. It has been difficult in the past; difficult creating a pattern to the day, finding social connections, knowing when she was at work and not at work, dealing with me when I work from home (which I now do half time), etc. It took time and intentional effort to learn how virtual working could enhance our lives. I am happy to report that we have a deeper, more meaningful relationships and experiences now because of it!

Now, take 10 minutes and write in your journal. I am not going to provide specific prompts, I simply ask you to write about Self Worth, Focus, and Changing Work as you see it in your life and the lives of your clients.

Changing work seems to be the sticking point as our human need for predictability collides with the current reality of 21t Century work. The reality is that it is impossible to anticipate every roadblock on your career path, particularly today. In fact, this is so true that Dr. Jim Bright, the father of Chaos Theory of Careers, wrote a column by this name. Read this article. 

My hope is that you are feeling a deeper, more meaningful connection to your clients as you prepare for the final dialogue video in this course. View the video below.

Now that you have finished with Class 3, you are finished with Uncenter Work the course! Answer questions 10-15 on your worksheet and submit it to your instructor in order to verify your course completion.

Thank you for choosing this course, giving your time to consider the content, and investing in your development for the sake of your clients.

Please complete this evaluation.