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Today we feature a guest post by O. Deborah Pratt, a gifted career professional whose work in higher education, the federal government, and the private sector has helped thousands of clients achieve their career goals.

For over twenty years, I have given myself over to the career development of others.  Connecting folks to their career passions and values; helping them answer the question, “What should I do with my life?”; giving people the networking, resume writing, and job interviewing skills to help them earn better bread and butter for themselves and their families; and coaching folks to navigate better in their multi-tiered, bureaucratic, and political landscapes — these have been the main occupations of my psyche, and for me have been immensely and richly satisfying.

I do not want to leave you with the impression, because I have enjoyed my career so much, that performing any of the above with the thousands of clients I have worked with over the last twenty years has been easy.  In fact, it has been incredibly hard work, despite my accumulation of significant subject-matter expertise in the field of career counseling.  Every time I counsel or train a client, I am required by my trade to do an individual assessment of that person’s career needs, and career needs are as unique as DNA.  For me, that is the richness in the process.  The intriguing mystery in a client’s unexplored career values engages me totally, and it is a delight when even just one career value is revealed in the career counseling process to the client, and thus to me.

Therein lies my challenge as a career professional: helping clients to navigate through the labyrinth.  While many career professionals glorify simplicity and ease in finding oneself – e.g., “five easy steps to career happiness” – I have experienced only the complexity of each individual’s career journey.  The clients I have sat with weren’t experiencing “easy” in their career quests.  They experienced arduous and grueling journeys of inner and outer career growth that would have put Ulysses’ ten-year adventure to shame.

The search for career authentic self is a nitty-gritty life-long journey fraught with difficulties that must be surmounted.  To come home, one must take the journey.  All the while, you will be striving and risking your goals, but hopefully also learning how to weather the storms, when to tie yourself to the mast, when to seek out mentors, and, yes, even occasionally when to read motivational career books – which may still contain useful tidbits of advice, even when they unrealistically profess to tell all the secrets to career success for all.