Thursday, February 24, 2011

Career Development Consultants

In searching for types of consultants I got a lengthy list – from management, media, and performance to lactation, magic, and theatre. While not a focus for this blog, I couldn’t help but look up the role of a magic consultant – someone who lends his/her expertise to film, television, and theatre around all aspects relating to magic and illusions. Sounds very cool!

Not surprisingly, Career Development Consultant wasn’t in the list. However, a Google search resulted in over 2 million hits, but the first link redirected to jobs for business consultants and the next several were specific to supporting individuals with disabilities. It seems as though the role of Career Development Consultant might be somewhat elusive.

In his book, Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, noted consultant and author, Peter Block defined a consultant as “a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, group, or an organization but who has no direct power to make changes or implement programs” (1999, p. 2).  Other authors extend this definition to note that consultants must be external to the organization - a contractor, perhaps, hired to do a specific task.

So, a Career Development Consultant might be someone who lends his/her expertise in career development to governments, agencies, educational institutions, and corporations across a wide range of industries. For those career practitioners experiencing career uncertainty, perhaps especially those in British Columbia who are seeing a complete re-design of their working environments, maybe it is time to consider a consulting career.

Here, at Life Strategies, we have been involved with some cool consulting projects – yes, even cooler than what a Magic Consultant might do. Recently, we’ve had the opportunity to
  • Design and implement the first career development initiative for a nuclear power plant in the US
  • Research the use of career assessments tools and models in Canada
  • Moderate the 2009 Pan-Canadian Symposium on Career Development
  • Develop a comprehensive set of career development resources for the Manitoba Government
Considering consulting? Join our Look Before You Leap course (another very cool project) coming up in early March. Follow news on the project at

Monday, February 14, 2011

Credentialing and Certification

Credentialing and certification is a timely topic in the career management sector. In BC, with the changes to government funding structure for labour market programs, career service centres are increasingly looking for employees with not only very specific training, but relevant certifications. Although not new concept (i.e., many sectors have required relevant certifications for years), there is some uncertainty when any new certification is launched. What does certification mean? If I took a certificate program in school, am I already certified? Do I need to be certified? What does the certification process look like?

What does certification mean?
Certification, and other similar terms including credential, designation, and qualification, is when an independent body vets your education and experience. You may have to adhere to a specific code of conduct / ethics, as well as commit to engaging in continuous learning to maintain your credential. Certification demonstrates an elevated level of professionalism and competence.

If I took a certificate program in school, am I already certified?
Certification is typically the next step after education. Although you may have a certificate from a college or university, this will most often represent completion of an educational program, not professional certification (i.e., meaning that you’re not “certified”). Certification often requires a mixture of specific training and relevant experience in the field; something that you may work towards in the first few years of employment.

Do I need to be certified?
Some certification is required in order to be employed, while other is optional. To find out, visit industry websites, talk to people already working in the field, and/or search the NOC listings at

What does the certification process look like?
Each procedure is different but will typically require a formal application, specific training, outline of competencies, references, and a fee. Before you apply, take the time to review the application form or documents outlining the requirements and the process so that you know you’re submitting the right information. If you’re not sure about the process, just ask the association responsible for the certification – they may have a quick answer or refer you to an information session or tutorial.

In summary, navigating the certification process will leave career practitioners not only better equipped to serve their clients but will also give them an inside look at professional certification, preparing them to support clients through their own certification.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Workplace Conflict

Conflict can be distressing in the workplace. A quick Google search for “workplace conflict 2011” revealed almost 59 million hits, including recent research from the UK, courses in Canada and Australia, blogs, headlines about workplace violence, and articles targeted to diverse industries and organizational structures. Workplace conflict is a hot topic!

In many cases the conflict is amongst co-workers or between employees and their managers and someone from the Human Resource department may be called in to intervene. Left to simmer too long, minor workplace conflicts can boil over, resulting in toxic workplaces, bullying, mobbing, or, in extreme cases, a violent counter-attack as in the Calgary story from just last month, where an employee, frustrated over a disagreement about expenses, rammed a semi-trailer into his employer’s truck. Witnesses reported, “He was distraught . . . he could have done anything!”

In other cases, however, conflict initiates with dissatisfied customers or disempowered clients. Regardless of the issue or who the players may be, de-escalating conflict is an important skill to have. We’ve recently uploaded 10 Tips for De-Escalating Conflict and it’s a key component of our customized workshop for case managers on “Dealing With Challenging Clients.” Tips focus primarily on managing yourself – the only person in the conflict that you really have any control over!

Join us online for our new online certificate program for Case Managers, beginning February 16th!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Leadership Lessons

The most recent edition of the Life Strategies News highlighted 10 Leadership Lessons for Transformational Times. Each of the lessons was adapted from our recent workbook of the same name and outlines such things as Ignite Employee Engagement, Make Time for Transformation, Embrace Diversity, and Show Appreciation.

During transformational times, organizations are likely to be shifting priorities, adjusting goals, and struggling to be responsive. The tendency, during these periods of uncertainty, might be for leaders to communicate less. After all, what can be said about a vision for the future when the future is uncertain? It is in these times, however, that open communication is most important.

Through a study conducted in 2004, the Hay Group found that “Trust and confidence in top leadership was the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organization" (Source: The report went on to note that effective communication regarding the company’s vision, and how each employee contributes to organizational success, are key components of earning the trust of employees. Going silent or waiting until there is something to announce should be avoided at all costs. Great leaders don’t shy away from difficult conversations; instead they communicate organizational challenges and what they feel the future might be.
John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”

It could be said that British Columbia’s career development sector (particularly the portion of the sector offering services via government funded programs) is currently going through a “major anxiety.” Now more than ever, organizational leaders must instil trust in their workforce by communicating plans, exploring other opportunities, and preparing employees for life beyond business transformation.