Promises, Palaces, and the Process

Jennifer Fonseca – Assistant Director | Career Development

“From the promise on your life to the palace is the process.” This is how I start just about every workshop, prospective student presentation, and parent panel. It is a reference to a sacred text where an ordinary man was given a glimpse of his future dream. What he failed to realize is that his promise and dream possessed a requisite process to reach its destination—a literal palace, where he would have great influence.

As professionals in career development we have great influence over the lives of our students. They come looking for answers, magic wands, and reassurance. We never promise these things, as they are not helpful to the process. Muscles are built through work, not miracles.

This past week I met with a distraught psychology major whose abulia tainted her ability to clearly identify career steps. With fluttering eye lashes, wide arm gestures and slumped shoulders she iterated her confusion about her major and what career to pursue. What was curious is that after going through her Strong Interest Inventory report, she shared with me her palace: a multi-acre property with buildings for various medical services, a school, a ranch for hypnotherapy, and more. She actually created a map of the property she envisioned, which would help orphans and those coming out of sex trafficking. Danielle’s vision of her palace was clear; the process to get there was not, and neither was her ability to articulate that. Our discussion shifted from assessment results to action steps.

Often students, and even ourselves, are unaware of or want to skip the process. Below outlines a few areas both students and working professionals may want to consider to better navigate and even enjoy the winding distance between promise and palace.

Character—what qualities define the type of person who not only holds the position wanted, but also does it well? What is it about his/her leadership style that is admired? After identifying these, determine strategies for developing them.

Find Mentors—who does what you or your student wants to do? A colleague of mine took a risk and asked a presidentially nominated and Non Profit Times top 50 leader, if she would be willing to meet with her once a month. My colleague agreed to travel to wherever her mentor was, and pay for all expenses. The risk paid off; she is off to D.C. this month. One of our international student not only has an alumni he meets with from our mentoring program, but his other mentors he finds in books, TED talks, and biographies. Currently he is reading Richard Branson’s Loosing My Virginity, and it is feeding his entrepreneurial spirit. In fact Allan just sold his crepe stand and launched another one. Let me know if you need a wine cooler.

Embrace the Lessons and Journey—even if it is painful, it wanders off course or steps backwards. Reflect on your career. Was it linear? I didn’t realize how winding a path I would take on the way to my palace: coffee barista, grad student, higher education administrator for 10 years, intentional unemployment, foundation director for professional athlete, resume writer, professional speaker, and circle back to higher education. (You Majored in What by Katherine Brooks, Ed.D. is an excellent resource explaining how chaos theory plays out in career development.) The corporate ladder does not always lead individuals to the pinnacle of their success. Falling off the ladder, switching ladders or getting off altogether may be the course and instructor needed.

As a strong NF on the MBTI, I admit, that my ST colleagues view this approach as idealistic, nonetheless I still see my role as more of a destiny activator than job match maker. The term career development implies a process, not a destination. Let us remember to empower and equip our students to navigate the process. Sometimes that means helping them find a palace that is better suited to their unique design (interests, skills, personality, values), other times it is affirming that what they dream about is a possibility, and still others, assuring them that the process will be worth it when they reach their palace.