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Spirituality and Career Counseling   
    Photo of Don Sutaria
September 2013   
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

We thank Rev. Richard Nelson Bolles for having the confidence to mention us in What Color is Your Parachute? for several years in a row. His writings have provided inspiration for this issue.

This issue has a very thought-provoking article: How To Bring Spirituality Into Career Counseling.

My friends and colleagues have already warned me that this is a very controversial issue. We are about to step into this hornet's nest together. Perhaps some of us can expect to get severely bitten, including me!

Keep your feedback coming. Please feel free to share these newsletters with your friends, remembering to give us the due credit.

Until we meet again through the magic of e-mail, we want to wish you and your loved ones, Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.)
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach

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  How To Bring Spirituality Into Career Counseling  
  by Don Sutaria

Have you looked recently into Appendix B (Career Counselors Guide: A Sampler), in What Color is Your Parachute, the best-selling job-hunting book in the world, by Richard Nelson Bolles?
They are anxious to know
what really matters in life.

There is an * (red asterisk) before the names of certain career counselors. Guess what that means! It means they offer not only regular job-search help, but also (when you wish) counseling from a spiritual point of view; i.e., they're not afraid to talk about God if you're looking for some help, in finding your mission in life. Although they are few and far between, the trend is real. I salute these counselors!

The Princeton Religious Research Index, which has tracked the strength of organized religion in America since World War II, reports a sharp increase in religious beliefs and practices since the mid-1990s. When the Gallup Poll asked Americans in 1999 if they felt the need to experience spiritual growth, 78% said yes, up from 20% in 1994; nearly half said they had occasion to talk about their faith in the workplace in the past 24 hours. This is remarkable.
A new interdisciplinary field called "spiritual capital" has also sprung into existence.

According to another Gallup Poll, 95% of Americans believe in God, 91% pray, 89% believe that God loves them, and 34% have had a life-changing religious experience. In contrast with this only 49% of Europeans believe in God. America is one of the world's most religiously observant nations.

Yes, the baby-boomers seem to be taking the lead. They brought us the 1960s youth culture and the greedy 1980s. But now they want their work to give them more than just a paycheck. They are anxious to know what really matters in life. Perhaps they have reached the top of the ladder and found that it's leaning against the wrong building!
Career counselors are often afraid to give help or guidance here for fear they will be perceived as trying to talk people into religious belief.
It is a groundless fear.

A new interdisciplinary field called "spiritual capital" has also sprung into existence. Economists and scholars are investigating the public effects of religion on larger society and the economy.

Mission in Life
Bolles has written a beautiful little book, How to Find Your Mission in Life. As appropriate, I use it with my clients during career counseling sessions. It is also mandatory reading in the courses in career development I teach at the Alliance Graduate School of Counseling.
"It is hardly surprising therefore, that so many of us are searching these days for some sense of mission. Career counselors are often afraid to give help or guidance here for fear they will be perceived as trying to talk people into religious belief. It is a groundless fear. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of U.S. job-hunters and career-changers already have their religious beliefs well in place."
-- Bolles

In my private practice of career counseling, I make it a point to introduce the topic of spirituality in a very sensitive and subtle way, after a good rapport has been established with the client. This may be usually during the third or fourth session, preferably even during the concluding session. I generally ask with a pleasant smile in a low key way, "How is your spiritual life?" or "What is your spiritual temperature?" or "Do you wish to talk about any job-related spiritual matters?" I have never been rebuffed on this issue.

Bolles goes on to say that the main obstacle in finding your mission in life is because job-hunting is compartmentalized from our religion or faith. Mission challenges us to see our job hunt in relationship to our faith in God, because Mission is a religious concept, from beginning to end, and the two major synonyms for it are Calling and Vocation. The substitute word for "Mission"—Enthusiasm —is derived from the Greek, 'en theos', and literally means "God in us."

Many internationally known leaders in the career field—Bernard Haldane, John Crystal, Richard Bolles, Kate Wendleton and Tom Jackson—have been people of great faith. You can see it in their writings. Dear reader, does that surprise you?

According to Bolles, the three stages of Mission which we need to learn are:
  1. To seek, to stand hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the One from whom your Mission is derived.
  2. To do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guiding of God's spirit within you and around you.
  3. To exercise that talent which you particularly came to earth to use -- your greatest gift, which you most delight to use, in the place or setting which God has caused to appeal to you the most, and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world. (This is where career counseling can really shine. Editorial comment.)
The Place of God in Career Counseling
Howard Figler and Richard Bolles have written another fabulous book, The Career Counselor's Handbook. Dick Bolles has written a separate chapter in this book, "The Place of God in Career Counseling."

The counselor's own faith sometimes comes into interplay with the client's. As Bolles puts it so aptly:
"What you must be prepared for, of course, is that the client may have a curiosity about your faith, and want to know about it, and even learn from it. Sometimes this is because your faith is stronger than theirs, and they can sense this, and want more faith in their own life. I do not think that kind of thirst or hunger should ever be dismissed. It is what counseling is, and conversation is, at its best; two human beings learning from each other's life and experiences.

There will be many counseling encounters with clients where none of this ever gets mentioned, from start to finish with their job-hunt, because the client has no interest at all in the subject. But we must be ready to ensure that there are no pink elephants in our counseling office which everyone notices but nobody mentions.

In that determination to be helpful, faith is one of our strategies; God is one of our allies. And always, and ever, we keep in mind: More things are wrought by prayer, than this world dreams of."

If a client tells a career counselor that he/she has not only helped him/her to get a new ideal job or career, but assisted in finding the Mission, found the true meaning of life, and found the reason why this person is on earth, we can label that as one of the highest forms of success in career counseling.


Don Sutaria, also known as "Career Doctor Don", is Founder and President of CareerQuest. He has been quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on radio and television and has taught at various colleges. He is the author of Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!).

Find me on LinkedIn Don Sutaria, M.S., I.E. (Prof.)   
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