Using Natural Curiosity to Guide Clients Through Career Transition

By Brian Hogan

Career transition has been well studied, allowing practitioners to support clients using robust theoretical frameworks and evidence-based interventions. Involuntary career transition, on the other hand, has not been well-studied (Masdonati et al., 2022)., This creates a theory and treatment gap for practitioners when they encounter clients who have been fired, demoted, laid off, or have been forced to transition due to health related or other extenuating circumstances. Involuntary career transitions come with a unique set of challenges including loneliness and the negative stigma with job loss (Masdonati et al., 2022). By employing our own natural curiosity, and fostering the innate curiosity in our clients, career practitioners optimally position themselves to help clients find greater meaning and satisfaction in their next chapter. 

The well documented relationship between career success and happiness (Walsh et al., 2018) suggests that finding a reliable method for determining what will make a person happy long-term could also help clients find a suitable career, especially if they have been fired or have survived a pandemic and realized their job no longer feels meaningful. First, however, it may be necessary for clients to process the shock related to involuntary career transition that can show up as fear or anger, among other strong emotions. After assisting the client with grieving, the search for a meaningful next chapter can begin. Career practitioners who model curiosity about their client’s values, interests and goals can help foster that curiosity in their clients. Ultimately this can leading to a more exciting search that can help the client find a more fulfilling career. 

The Science and Research on Curiosity and Its Benefits

Fostering a state of curiosity is beneficial for clients, especially those who have just been thrust, unexpectedly, into a career transition they did not plan and might not initially want. Curiosity is not an emotional state but a rather a disposition with four distinct dimensions: Joyful Exploration, Deprivation Sensitivity, Stress Tolerance, and Openness to People’s Ideas (Kashdan, 2018). Cultivating this multidimensional disposition of curiosity has many benefits including reducing anxiety and making it easier to get focused and concentrate (Barber et al., 2021), deepening intimacy in relationships (Kashdan & Roberts, 2004), sustaining one’s interest long-term (Tang et al., 2020), improving memory in those with already declining memory (Padulo et al., 2022), and fostering self-insight and greater emotional intelligence (Fayn et al., 2017).  

Istock 184313912 Credit Tom Merton

Because curiosity is so powerful in shifting mood states and improving client outcomes, it is important for career service providers to demonstrate the use of curiosity in their work with clients. Curiosity is a state of being where one wonders instead of knowing, yearns for understanding instead of resting in certainty, and is bewitched by fascination instead of beset with boredom. It is also central to effective practice. If our curiosity can be so powerful in the therapeutic alliance, how much more powerful will the client’s own innate curiosity be? Albert Einstein is credited as once saying “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” His curiosity led him to change the course of history, so perhaps we can help clients use their own curiosity to change the course of their lives. 

How to Help Clients Tap into Curiosity 

When engaging in a process of fostering curiosity in our clients we have two main allies: questions and genuineness. Some of our clients will be naturally curious, and some will tell us they are not curious about anything at all and perhaps never have been. The good news is that there are reliable interventions that have been shown to increase state-curiosity among participants through mystery-creation, game-play and mindfulness exercises (Schutte & Malouff, 2022). When clients are looking for their next chapter, a search guided by their natural curiosity rather than one guided by duty, culture, finances, obligation or fear, is more likely to lead to greater happiness and long-term career success. Some interventions that can help foster this curiosity include: 

  • Expansive Choices - Ask your client to give you a long list of possibilities for their next career, including anything that was a fleeting idea once, or things that are impractical and improbable. This should be done using a time limit and a rule is that no idea is to be rejected. Keep the atmosphere playful as you record their ideas. This type of innovation has been shown to increase a client’s sense of curiosity about what is possible and increase autonomy. This intervention can trigger an adaptive response that can last for months and guide decision making (Van der Horst & Klehe, 2019). 
  • Seek Novelty and Challenges - Research shows that experiences of novelty and minor challenge can excite and encourage curiosity (Gallagher & Lopez, 2007). This might be something as simple as suggesting that the client take a different route to work because they have always wondered what is down that other road, or something as complex as encouraging the client to try learning a new skill, like digital photography, because it intrigues them. The key is to notice and honor the seeds of curiosity, until curiosity itself becomes a big sturdy oak. 
  • Explore Values - Values are something more intrinsic than goals and can be tricky to uncover. Discovering them can be as simple as asking a client what they used to love as a child or what they currently engage in that causes them to lose track of time. Timelessness when engaged in an activity is a hallmark of curiosity. According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Founder Stephen Hayes, a values driven life leads to more fulfillment and less suffering (Hayes, 2019), and an awareness of values fosters curiosity about how to help clients incorporate those values in their career search. 

How Curiosity Benefits Career Service Providers

Clients give us a mountain of information as they try to explain their situations. Career service providers can improve our active listening skills and increase the quality of our questions by first engaging our own innate curiosity. What the counselor is most wondering about is often what the client most wants or needs to talk about. When providers are guided by their curiosity, they are able to ask more powerful and liberating questions, rather than feel pressure to offer solutions. Curiosity is a powerful creative force which can remove the barriers created by the pressure to be an expert or have answers and instead unleashes the freedom to ask the most genuine, specific, and potent questions imaginable. By fostering curiosity, the process of asking skillful questions becomes almost automatic, because better questions come naturally when the person asking them really wants to know the answer. When career service providers foster curiosity in their clients, they can help them shift from a state of anxious, unrelenting worry to one of more expansive and invigorating wonder. 



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Brian HoganBrian Hogan, MA, MFA, LPCa, ICF-ACC is a practicing life coach holding a certification with the International Coaching Federation and a Master Coach certification through Martha Beck (Oprah’s Life Coach). Brian holds an MFA in storytelling and officially received his second master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling on May 7, 2024 making him ideally suited to help clients uncover their limiting inner narratives and create a new life story. Brian understands that trauma is stored in the body and mind so he utilizes a blend of somatic modalities, narrative therapy and a humanistic approach that addresses the body/mind connection. Brian is certified in Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), a gentle guided shaking that engages neurogenic tremors which are a natural process in the body designed to reduce tension and process and release stored trauma. Brian is also certified in Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as Clinical EFT, which is a cutting edge combination of acupressure, CBT and exposure therapy designed to move blocked energy and resolve long-standing trauma. Recently Brian has become fascinated by parts psychology and is a Level 1 trained Internal Family Systems practitioner as well. Brian is also an indie filmmaker and university professor. In his spare time he enjoys studying Tai Kwon Do and watching superhero movies. Brian can be reached at his website www.LifeStoryHacking.com

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