“It is very loving to see how my parents ‘being’ has continued in the world through me.” – a friend who completed the Career Genealogy Process
Being successful in work and life is a bold process that looks different for each individual. Whether coaching a real estate agent, a lawyer, a stay-at-home dad or a young business woman there are some common components that can bring clarity and focus to career decisions.
One component is to reflect upon the attributes that you’ve inherited from your ancestors using the four steps to your Career Genealogy. This process provides a a way to identify key themes that shape and inform your own choices. Upon using this process to make your strengths conscious, you may join the many individuals who report that they feel better equipped to face the uncertain complexities of their careers.
One woman who used this process did not at first see any connection between her dad’s work as a plumber and her work as a nurse. Trusting the process of these steps, she began to focus less on what separated her from the previous generation and more on what connected her to them. She had a moment of realization that clarified the next step she was to take in life.
After ten years of conversations with many people completing the Career Genealogy process, we have discovered many things. To make this process concrete, I will share the example of one friend who is willing to make her story public.
Step One of Your Career Genealogy
First identify the name of your two primary caregivers who shaped your life while growing up. Who are the two individuals you experienced as your primary caregivers? Trust your common sense to identify two names that work for you. (Note: This process works for non-traditional families in case you were adopted, in foster care or if you have been a member of blended families with more than one parent, stepparents, grandparents or other adults who raised you. In this case you get to choose two adults from your village that make the most sense to you.)
A Friend’s Example
On a sheet of paper or in your journal can you see your own example?
Step Two of Your Career Genealogy
Now that you have identified two individuals, research their career story. Under each name can you identify the major roles that they contributed to society? Even if they did not think of their work as a career or they didn’t get paid, make sure to honor their unique contributions as volunteers or as caregivers to the family. You may even consider hobbies that help you see their strengths.
A Friend’s Example
Vincent: Engineer (ships during WW II, then bridges and highways), manage a power plant, community leader (PTA, Board of Education and Knights of Columbus).
Elena: Mother, brownie and scout leader ,vocalist (church choir, weddings and funerals), LPN, a nurse, community volunteer (meals on wheels, hospice, crisis line, food pantry).
You may pause again and build on the two names you identified and briefly outline the “resume” of roles that describe their work or volunteer experiences.
Step Three of Your Career Genealogy
What were the intended outcomes and fruits of these efforts? Now, pause and come up with some key words to characterize the key themes of their life’s work. You may want to take a walk, listen to music or just sit in silence and contemplate how to best briefly summarize the contribution of their lives.
It can be interesting and fun to synthesize someone’s life work into a few key words. If any part of this process feels confusing at first, many clients report coming up with some new perspectives after they pause and lean into the confusion. Find your own way to ponder the question, “What were the intended outcomes and fruits of their efforts?” Beyond this temporary feeling of confusion is often a break through where clients start to see something new about two people who they haven’t always observed through an objective lens.
At times we are so busy analyzing our family tree for psychological issues that we focus on the negative. We rarely pause and see the intended contribution of our ancestors. In some cases their intentions were realized and they felt successful. In other seasons of life, they may have felt frustrated and their strengths were not always fully demonstrated. Whatever the case, we are here to see the intended contribution and strengths that they made or hoped to make to the world. Seeing these attributes can be akin to identifying your own emotional and spiritual DNA.
In the example of this friend, she paused and listened to music before the key words occurred to her. Others may find it helpful to speak with someone in order to gain a more objective view of these two individuals. Unlike other conversations we may have about these two parental figures, this a positive inquiry into their strengths and not their weaknesses.
A Friend’s Example:
Vincent: Design and Create Elena: Protect and Love
Are there key themes you can identify?
Step Four of Your Career Genealogy
Finally, this is where you turn these statements inward and look at your own contribution to life. Ask yourself the question, “How have I built upon this emotional and spiritual inheritance?” Begin exploring on paper how you have applied these strengths to your own life’s work. Again, you might find it helpful to also speak with another person who is skilled at being a good listener. What is your own unique synthesis of these themes?
A Friends Example
Today, this friend sees that the unique educational programs she has created are all extensions of strengths from both of her parents. Her life’s work is a unique combination of her dad’s focus as an engineer and her mom’s focus as a caregiver. She has spent her life ENGINEERING EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES FOR CAREGIVERS! The qualities that her parents demonstrated in these two different professions are ones that she has integrated in a unique way. In her own words she says:
“What I saw within myself was the capacity to Design + Create (from my father) and to Protect + Love (from my mother). All together this is the work I have done in creating a college of healing arts.”
She goes on to say, “It is very loving to see how my parents ‘being’ can continue in the world for others through me.”
The woman in this example is Paulette Genthon. Since 1994, I have had the privilege of supporting and guiding her toward realizing her dreams. Recently, we’ve been designing a creative student engagement and retention program for her college.
Paulette is the founder of the Universal College of Healing Arts where she has used the Career Genealogy process to empower herself and her students to celebrate their strengths. With the foundation her programs offer professionals, she has empowered hundreds of individuals to realize successful careers in the healing arts.
Paulette’s unique program makes education accessible to busy adults. If you are interested in joining her weekend intensives you may want to speak with her. She may be reached at: (402) 555-4456. Or, you may e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whatever you see about your own career inheritance, I’m interested in hearing about your experience via e-mail, phone or Skype as well.
By your side,
Patrick Davis, MA, PCC
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