#TBT…Career Counselors Orchestrating Insight

Tom Broussard, Ph.D.

Insight (what some call the “Aha!” moment) comes to people in many ways, and not necessarily when they learn something new as much as when they see something that they know (or thought they knew) in a new way.  SO, what we try to do is create the conditions under which the individual (in even the smallest of ways) can be led to actually “see” something differently.

Of course, in order to do this the conversation must start with a discussion of seeing and how one learns “to see” anything…especially, how one learns to see things that they have never seen before but which have been right before their eyes all along.

As a precept of (much of) adult learning, adults already know what they need to know.  So effective adult education depends on creating the conditions under which the adult learner is led to see things in a new light.

The parable of the three stone masons is always a useful story:  three masons are approached by a  visitor while they are out cutting stone in the heat of the day.  They each are using a hammer and a  chisel and to all intents and purposes, they are performing identical tasks.  When the first stone mason is asked what he is doing, he replies, “You fool…can’t you see what I am doing?  I am slaving away in the hot sun cutting rocks!”

The second one answers the same question, “I am a stone cutter and this is what I do.  I cut rocks.”  The third one answers, “Why, I am building a cathedral!”  Nothing is different between the stone masons except what they see in their mind’s eye.

We all see things which we take for granted (and have taken for granted for so long) that often we can no longer see them in different (and exciting) ways.  Similar to the masons, work (the act of working) for many people has become narrowly described and discussed simply in terms of “what they do,” not “what they see.”

In today’s globally connected and service-dominated marketplace, more and more of work is defined by how people see a thing and less by the thing itself.   Successful builders of any edifice in this new world are the ones with the vision to see in different ways and help create the conditions under which others may share that new vision—that new way of seeing.

21st century career development (most of which must be self-directed—an even more challenging task!) must focus first on the act of seeing (and our capacity to change how we see things) as a necessary precursor to raising the cathedrals demanded in every modern organizational realm.  While we may all be stone cutters, the “Aha!” moment graces those who learn to see what others are late (or loath) to consider as part of their reality.

In a similar way, career counselors are (or try to be) adept at creating the conditions under which the “Aha!”  moment will be a more likely outcome of the encounter because they focus first on how their client sees anything–the world, themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, etc. before turning to what they might do in the future.

These “castles in the clouds” rise from our experience, our education and the inner nature of things that construct knowledge as well as constructing cathedrals.  Great career counselors are particularly good at orchestrating what they have seen in the past and integrating it with the future.