Saturday, July 2, 2011

On Early Role Models, Favorites, and Career Story

 This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a fascinating session at a career conference on Mark Savickas’s Career Story Interview.   

According to Savickas, the role models that people admired growing up reveal key elements of their character and ways in reach they responded to challenges growing up; their favorite books, TV shows, and magazines reveal the stage or environment in which they want to act out their careers; the script of their current favorite book or movie reveals the key chapter of their life story that they are currently acting out; and their favorite saying or motto reveals the best advice they have for themselves – the direction for their life. 

For more details on Mark Savickas’s Career Story Interview and other key career development theories that he supports, here is the link to his most recent book on Amazon, Career Counseling (Theories of Psychotherapy).

In order to illustrate and learn this technique, I’m going to do my best to answer four or his Career Story Interview questions on this blog.  Please feel free to comment on what you think my answers might mean – or feel free to answer the questions for yourself – I encourage you to share your story!

1.    Who do you admire when you were growing up?  Tell me about her or him.  (3 key role models)

The first heroine that came to mind for me was She-Ra, Princess of Power – who had her own spinoff of the popular He-Man series.  

She-Ra, Princess of Power!
She-Ra  was born as He-man’s twin sister but was kidnapped as a child and raised in the homeworld of Etheria by that world’s evil ruler, Hordak.  He-man rescues her and eventually helps her remember her birthright as Princess Adora, and she works with a group of freedom fighters called the Great Rebellion to try and free her homework.   She-Ra, like He-Man, has a double identity, morphing from the more youthful and innocent Adora to the powerful and wise She-Ra by invoking the saying,”For the honor of Grayscull, I am She-Ra!”  

For some more background on She-Ra, see this article about the 25th anniversary release of the show on DVD.  Also, note this picture of She-Ra is courtesy of Kyra Smith /

What does this mean for me?   As an only child, I grew up in a more sheltered existence and didn’t have much opportunity to serve as a mentor or leader until later in life when I realized that I really enjoy guiding others.   Just as Adora had an alter ego full of wisdom and self-assured power, I am continuing to learn as I get older that I do as well.  By being such an early fan of She-Ra, I believe I was expressing an inner desire to cultivate my inner strength and insight and use it to help others and “save the day!”

Francis "Baby" Houseman
The second heroine that came to mind for me was Francis “Baby” Houseman from the classic 80’s film, Dirty Dancing.  I first saw that movie when I was about 5-6 years old, and my mom tells me I used to run around the house dressed just like her (as best I could) shouting, “I’m Baby, I’m Baby!” 

In the movie, Francis is 18 years old and has the “Time of her Life” at Kellerman’s resort in the upskill Catskill Mountains.  She comes from a fairly upper class family and a sheltered existence and has an idealistic heart and aspirations to join the Peace Corps and help others.  She finds herself drawn to the various staff members running the camp rather than her fellow camp patrons and saves the day by filling in to learn a dance with Johnny, the dancing instructor, when his partner Penny gets “knocked up” and has to have an abortion on the night of their performance.  (Picture courtesy of Flixster)

In summoning up her inner strength and creativity to learn the challenging dance and in getting to know Johnny and the other staff members, Francis taps into confidence, integrity, and courage that she had not previously accessed – and risks her relationship with her family in order to help her newfound circle of friends. 

What does this mean for me? 

In addition to highlighting my longstanding love of dance, I think the deeper message from this role model is similar to that from She-Ra – despite growing up in a more sheltered existence and being protected from more counter-culture influences, there is a key part of me that wants to help the underdog, sees all people as being equal, and wants to tap into my inner strength and wisdom to help those in need. 

I think this role model also points to my desire to help others not through cleaning their wounds directly or fixing their car but rather from using my performing ability to their advantage or using my network and access to resources to assist them (as Baby does at one point in the movie where she goes and gets her Dad the doctor to assist a staff member having medical difficulties).

Nancy Drew
Finally, the third role model who comes to mind from my youth is Nancy Drew, the female amateur detective.  She is wealthy, smart, attractive, and confident – and uses her prowess to solve mysteries and help people.  (Picture courtesy of University of Maryland Library).

What does this mean for me?

Once again, we have another role model who is both strong and feminine – so I’m seeing that there is a big theme there for me – wanting to use my intelligence, be assertive, and make a difference without having to take on a masculine demeanor or appearance.   I also think this love of Nancy Drew highlights my passion for synthesizing knowledge, using my intuition, asking questions / being inquisitive and seeing patterns – these are all skills that Nancy Drew uses to solve her cases and are skills that I enjoy using whenever I can.

As an academic advisor and coach, I really enjoy “peeling the onion” with clients to uncover the inner strengths and interests that are hiding just beneath the surface – when I’ve “solved the mystery” and figured out where their unique talents and contributions lie, I feel very excited.  The challenge for me is to channel that intuition into being a good listener and helping them through creative methods to discover those talents and contributions for themselves rather than giving my report and trying to push my conclusions onto them.   Seeing this role model leads me to wonder what other ways I could incorporate “solving the mystery” into my career path!

2.    Do you read any magazines or watch any television shows regularly?  What do you like about these magazines or television shows?

Great Magazine!
First of all, as I think about the books and magazines and internet sites that I read most regularly, they often relate to Self-Help, Psychology, Career Development, Personal Development, and Spirituality / the Meaning of Life - e.g. Psychology Today) I am almost always reading Non-Fiction books directed towards a popular audience – or Personal Memoirs.   One of these days I am going to add in a reading list from Amazon and start sharing some of the many great books that I have encountered and am continuing to encounter.  (Picture courtesy of

The fact that I like these types of magazines, books, and internet sites confirms for me that I am acting in exactly the right stage as an Academic Advisor, Career Development Facilitator, and Student Advocate.  It does, however, continue to lead me to think that I should give more serious thought into becoming a Life Coach and/or incorporating my spiritual beliefs more consciously into my professional practice.

My Favorite Show!
The more revealing thing for me is thinking about why Grey’s Anatomy is hands down my favorite show – what is that?  What does that mean?

For one thing, my love of Grey’s Anatomy likely signals my desire to be part of a helping profession – to assist people on a daily basis as the doctors in the show do when they diagnose, treat, and heal their patients.  (Picture courtesy of this website).

I also really enjoy Grey’s Anatomy because the voiceovers and actors in the show convey a lot of wisdom – they live life to the fullest and are pursuing their dream careers.  I admire their hard work directed towards fulfilling their life goals – goals that are directed more at saving lives than making tons of money.

Grey's Anatomy also appeals to my love of learning - I've always enjoyed reading or watching shows about training programs - I enjoyed Ender's Game, a science fiction novel for that reason, I enjoyed reading a book about a girl named Cherry (Cherry Ames Student Nurse) as a little girl who was part of a Nursing residency program...throughout my life I been drawn towards accounts of people learning new skills and putting them to use - for that reason, working in higher education or some sort of training and development enterprise is and would be a good fit for me.
Finally - and most interesting to me – I also enjoy Grey’s Anatomy because I have a curiosity about medicine, health, and wellness.  Most people who’ve spent any significant amount of time around me will tell you that I am a hypochondriac.  When I have the slightest degree of illness, I am immediately Googling it, checking the symptoms on WebMD, and developing a treatment plan for myself – of both traditional and alternative means.  When I see my doctor, I am a highly informed patient - and I ask questions to better understand my condition.  In recent months, I've been intrigued by new modalities like acupuncture and Reiki and hypnotherapy and yoga that treat illnesses and injuries – particularly psychosomatic ones.   Whenever a co-worker or friend is sick, I love being able to help direct them to the right medical provider and suggest potential treatments to investigate.

What does that mean for me?   Who knows? – I’ve never considered working in a hospital or medical environment, but maybe I should add it to the list as a back-up option.  Perhaps I would be a good person to do career development or organizational development for a medical residency program?  Maybe I should become certified in an alternative mind-body therapy and work that into my practice?  Hard to say for sure – but some food for thought!

3.    What is your favorite book or movie?  Tell me the story.

Great Movie!
My current favorite scripted book or movie right now is Eat, Pray, Love – the movie version with Julia Roberts.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I just love her idea of the quest – of acknowledging uncomfortable truths about yourself and seeing each person as a teacher and each experience of your life journey as a clue.  (Picture courtesy of this website).

I believe that my love of this movie right now is encouraging me to continue on my own personal quest – to continue being mindful of each moment, keep growing and learning, bring more meditation into my life, and explore what it means to experience real joy.  

4.    Tell me your favorite saying or motto.

My most consistent saying is the quote that goes out beneath my signature line on every email that I send out at work:

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"
– Confucius

I believe this quote gives me direction or advice to continue staying true to my heart and searching for work that energizes my soul and brings joy and wellbeing into my life.  Luckily, there are many elements of my current job that I do really enjoy – which is one of the key reasons that I have stayed there for almost four years now. 

This quote challenges me to continue paying attention to how much or little I enjoy my  job and not be afraid to move on and try something new if things change and I no longer look forward to coming to work each day.  This quote challenges me to avoid becoming someone who dreads coming in on Monday morning and makes excuses about why I “have” to do my job.  It lets me off the hook from the idea that I need to stay in any position mainly due to a sense of obligation – because in the end, life is too short. 

There will always be aspects of a job that feels like “work” – this quote is a bit idealistic in saying that you will never have to work a day in your life.  Still, there is a noticeable difference in your professional living when you are doing something you love and value versus doing something just for a paycheck.  This quote encourages me to remember how important it is to enjoy what you do for a living – and encourage clients to find the careers that engage their passions, interests, and values – bringing them much-deserved joy and fulfillment!


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