By Catharine Craig, M.Ed., CPRW
Iowa Career Services
Every semester I stand up in front of a fresh faced group of new college students and I ask a question.
“Who are you?”
As you can imagine, a question like this always elicits a lot of blank stares, a few nervous shifts in the seat, and one or two “spirited” remarks depending on the engagement level of the audience. Regardless of the actual response in words or actions however, the essence of their answer is nearly universal every time. They have absolutely no idea what this question means, or where to begin when constructing an answer.
How can we help clients develop a personal brand if they have no way to open the conversation about who they are and what makes them unique? I’ve tried a variety of strategies to address this challenge. We’ve talked about values and principles. We’ve done activities designed to get them talking about their strengths, talents, goals, and vision. We’ve spent time looking at the journey of others and how others have defined passion. We have done all the old fashioned career and personality styles assessments. We have journaled, watched inspirational movies, read great self-help books and articles, done informational interviews, and talked at length about a personal definition of success.
Although all of these aforementioned strategies are helpful in their own way, they are very much based on a model that requires the client to be able to use words to explain their intuitive hits. Many students struggle with this and I’m sure there are a variety of reasons why.
What if we could remove this barrier to clients by providing a tool they could use that didn’t require the use of the written or spoken word? Of course we need to help clients use words to interpret their uniqueness after the fact, but we could all benefit from having another trick to help a struggling client access those very raw feelings and thoughts in a way that didn’t frighten or intimidate.
Many months ago while on Pinterest I found a picture of Fred Rogers and wanted to pin it. The photo struck a chord with me and something resonated in the pit of my stomach. It was the sort of photo that gave me goose bumps, got me misty eyed, and made me excited at the same time. I believe that the physiological response I had to this photo was a tremendous indicator that I had found something that spoke to me about the nature of my soul, and about what I value. I created a new board just to collect pictures like this and named it, “What I Aspire to be”.
Clients that are uncomfortable with communicating with words can be coached to create a board that represents a visual display of their strengths, values and aspirations using Pinterest. This is a perfect assignment for the client who is feeling unremarkable, lost, or for whatever reason just doesn’t respond to all of our open ended questions well. It is an activity that they can engage in privately without the need to depend on anything other than intuition, emotional response, and the goosebumps factor.
After a client has begun to assemble a “What I Aspire to Be” board then we, as strategists and word smiths, can partner with them in interpretation. We can act as collaborators after they have defined visually what is important to them.
To see my board as an example please visit: