Karen Lomas
October 26, 2020

How to be Positive, for Students and Young Job Seekers

How can parents, friends and family members stay positive for their year 12 child; year 11 child; their job-seeking sibling? How can they stay positive themselves, when Covid-19 is still out here?

Covid-19, an Iceberg of Sorts

I’m not saying this is easy. There is no quick fix to anxiety, or lack of optimism. We might all have been struggling to a lesser or greater extent. In Victoria it has been especially tough. There has been a big wall up against physical movement and interaction between friends and even family.

The planet has not seen a global pandemic like this in most of our lifetimes. If we have parents who survived wars, theirs are stories that we did not directly experience. Amongst our population, of course, we have migrants and asylum-seekers who have fled terrible conflicts, droughts, etc. Now Covid-19 is hitting many, many of us quite closely. For some, it has been overwhelming.

Anxiety and Depression – Medical Conditions in the time of Covid-19

A Career Coach can only provide support to the extent of their training. Many of us come from a background in education or business. A psychologist, in turn, may or may not be trained and qualified in Career Development Practice. So it is important to check the credentialing of professionals.

If your child is extremely anxious, or you are concerned about ongoing unusual behaviours, I recommend that you obtain a referral for your child to see an adolescent psychologist. This can be arranged through your doctor, or your young person’s medical practitioner.

Some of my clients are already in the care of a medical professional, from whom they are receiving the necessary therapeutic support. My support is then designed to provide practical career coaching, based on an established objective. It is in having hope for a clear pathway that a teenager might then feel motivated to re-engage with education and/or training. The combination of therapeutic and practical career coaching support is really fruitful, resulting in great outcomes for my most vulnerable clients.

I have included some useful links below if you are worried about the well-being of your child or adolescent.

Isolation & Loneliness

Several of my clients have been directly impacted by Covid-19. Some have lost grandparents. Others have not being able to attend significant family and social events. Some are on their own at home while their parents must continue their work in difficult front-line roles.

Just as hard for adolescents is not being able to come together with friends, either in school, or at home. Australian Government statistics reveal the extent of loneliness, that is, a “subjective state of negative feelings about having a lower level of social contact than desired“. This is concerning due to the “significant health and well-being issues…because of the impact (it has) on peoples’ lives”.

Positive Psychology supporting Career Development Practice

In the study of Positive Psychology, Dr Martin Seligman, of Penn State University, talks about the discipline of psychology in the 1950s. The general view was that well-being and happiness made no sense. This applied whether you were a Psychoanalyst, or a Behaviourist. According to Seligman, here’s what premises those two schools of thought both shared:

  • The focus for the human mind is upon misery and conflict and the reduction of both.
  • The past determines your future. So your life is predetermined.
  • There is no such thing as virtue, happiness – well-being and happiness made no sense.
  • Choice, free-will, preferences, and decision-making are non-existent.
  • Consciousness was excluded – therefore, no psychology of thought.
  • Notions of human virtue, good character and looking forward made no sense.

Career Development Practitioners do not subscribe to these outdated notions. Coaches, all coaches, draw to the surface, highlight and enhance an individual’s potential. Career coaches use conversation, carry out activities and potentially also use psychometric assessment tools. These provide the student or young adult with clarity; enable the client to practice new ways of thinking and acting and to find momentum.

Bad Weather Animals

This why I called Covid-19 an iceberg ,and why I’ve included an image of a glacier in this post. I am indeed a Geography geek, but again, as Seligman points out, we are hard-wired for the anticipation of catastrophe. Early humans may have looked at the sky, and seen a blue-sky day and felt good. But ice ages put paid to all that! Therefore, as “bad weather animals“, ice-flows negated optimism.

So, how might I help to prevent an Ice Age Mentality in your child or young adult?

What Positive Psychology does is work to, in Seligman’s words; “break the hammer-lock of the negative“.

How Career Coaching Helps

As part of my postgraduate study in Positive Psychology, I am exploring the concept of self-determination. This refers to resilience,autonomy, and intrinsic motivation. These theories underpin my career coaching methods. I do not simply talk to a year 9 student about their aptitudes and from there draw conclusions. There is so much more to explore, such as:

  • Back-Story, or Narrative.
  • Values.
  • Interests.
  • Learning Preferences.
  • Personality Preferences.

Career Coaching is a process. The process can only be successful if I listen well to clues about how the young person is feeling in terms of self-efficacy and well-being. If a year 10, year 11, year 12, apprentice, employed/unemployed young person, undergraduate, or graduate has lost momentum and motivation, my first task is to work upon this fundamental issue first. If I neglect to do this and simply launch into a discussion about which subject or university course they might be interested in, the session will not be effective.

A Career Coach uses theories, many of which are psychological theories, to underpin their work. This is what distinguishes Career Coaching from Life Coaching, or a Human Resources, or Recruitment focused approach (Please read more about this in a previous blog post). In turn, Positive Psychology is the angle, if you will, of approach, of case-based, progressive and effective career coaching relationships.

I’m Listening

In another earlier blog I wrote about the extent to which Career Coaching adheres to psychoanalytical approaches and so what I’m learning about is not a shift in approach, by any means.

Secondary school and further/higher education students, as well as job-seekers may be experiencing quite understandable feelings that the Covid-19 pandemic has created. Some have told me that, “It’s hard to stay focused“, or, “I’m not as motivated“. This year in particular, their words are my starting point, because there is an Ice Flow called Covid-19 and we need to remind our young ones that humans survived and flourished before and we can and will do so again. So, whilst Seligman explains that humans do have a tendency to catastrophise, (it’s those ice-bergs), in career coaching I work to help a young person to see a future that is in fact fair-weather, indeed sunny. Looking forward DOES make sense!

Contact me at www.karenyourcareercoach.com.au/contact/ if you would like to discuss yours or your child’s career development needs and please refer to the links below should you be concerned about a youth, young adult in your life.


Important Notes on safety, code of ethical conduct & disclosure

  •  If a client says something to me that concerns me, I am obliged, under the ethical code of conduct of my profession, to divulge this to the appropriate channels.
  • This is the only cause or justification for me to share anything that a client divulges to me in the course of our discussions.
  • This disclaimer is detailed in my bookings process and documentation.

Web Links

  • Headspace – https://headspace.org.au
  • Lifeline Crisis Support – https://www.lifeline.org.au/131114/
  • Beyond Blue – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
  • The Butterfly Foundation (supporting individuals with eating disorders) – https://butterfly.org.au/get-support/helpline/
  • Black Dog Institute – ‘An evidence-based approach to Suicide Prevention’ – http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/an-evidence-based-systems-approach-to-suicide-prevention.pdf?sfvrsn=0

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