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Canvas Career Counselling – Exclusive Interview With Britt-Mari Sykes

Britt-Mari Sykes Ph.D., CDP is a career counsellor and founder of Canvas Career Counselling working remotely with clients across Canada. Britt-Mari offers a reflective and strategic process to clients, one that integrates their lived experiences, values, and aspirations. This experiential approach to career counselling helps clients gain greater clarity and perspective and design practical steps towards a more meaningful relationship with work and career.


Image photo of Britt Mari

Britt-Mari Sykes, Career Counsellor


What inspired you to create Canvas Career Counselling?


I have always been fascinated by the lifelong relationship we have with work and career. This relationship is shaped by our desire to explore, contribute, find personal expression, learn and grow, sustain our lives, and have a place in the world through our work and career opportunities.


I see Career Counselling as an important conversational, reflective, and strategic space to explore how we develop within this relationship, how we design and contribute to this relationship, how this relationship is impacted by the world around us, by the specific job markets we are accessing, and how we experience personal meaning and fulfillment within this relationship.


I wanted to create a client-centered approach to Career Counselling that combined reflection, creativity, and strategy.

 

How would you describe your approach to Career Counselling?


My background in existential psychology combined with career development theory provides a framework for my approach to Career Counselling.


An existential approach is experiential, how we experience our lives. This includes how we actively respond to both the opportunities and restrictions that we face in life, how we continuously construct our lives through our choices and decisions, how we develop through our participation in the world, our relationships, our experiences of meaning, fulfillment, challenge, setback, and resilience. I am interested in how all of this is reflected in how we build out a career life.


When you apply an existential approach to Career Counselling, your starting point is the individual as opposed to a goal or strategy. Your starting point is an individual’s lived experience, aspirations, expectations, motivation, their “why”. This is the experiential (or existential) arena that opens space for clients to explore their relationship with work and career, reflect on their experiences, give voice to the questions that are most prominent for them, confront personal blocks, get creative, gain perspective, and clarify their personal position. This experiential material forms the foundations for customized goals and strategies that are truly relevant to that individual client as they continue to build out their career lives.

 

Why do people seek out Career Counselling?


I work with clients of varying ages and stages of career life so the reasons people seek out Career Counselling varies.


Many people who contact me express feeling stuck, disengaged, or unfulfilled in their career lives. Something has shifted for them. They may have outgrown their current role or position, they may feel ill-suited to the work they do, or they may feel their work doesn’t align with their skills or their values. They want some kind of change in their career lives but are unable to clarify what change means, what change might look like, whether change is feasible, and how change could be executed.


Some people are grappling with career decisions. Career decisions have context and at any stage of our career lives we confront junctures where we must evaluate our options, our feelings, and the meaning a decision has for us.


Some have lost jobs and with it a personally valued professional identity. The emotions around this loss of identity can heavily influence that person’s attitude towards and motivation for career change and the more formal process that requires.


And some are experiencing unmanageable stress and even burnout and are seeking practical ways to regain well-being personally and professionally.


Increasingly I work with clients who are interested in what I have termed, Career Maintenance. This is time and space to proactively explore their relationship with work and career, and explore challenges and successes within their professional development. It is time to work on leadership skills or the evolution of their leadership style. It is time to brainstorm decisions or aspirations. It is time to evaluate boundaries and well-being.


Whatever the reasons, the clients who reach out to me are eager to have a conversation, dissect what they are experiencing, gather information, get support, gain insights and perspective, and develop steps, a strategy, or an approach they can move forward with.


Every client I work with is unique and our work together reflects customized attention.

 

Can you provide an overview of the services Canvas Career Counselling offers its clients?


I would describe it as all things career! This can include: career development, career change, motivation and engagement, career questions, career decisions, skill re-evaluation, burnout and well-being, work-life balancing, change, meaning and fulfillment, career clarity, work and career past 60, career maintenance, strategies.


Most clients I work with start with 2 sessions. These 2 sessions focus on the clarity piece, understanding and identifying what the client is experiencing, how this is impacting their career life, what they hope to change, and how they want to move forward. These initial 2 sessions include conversation, customized reflective questions and exercises, looking at an issue or challenge from different perspectives, gathering information, discussing possibilities, and brainstorming next steps (this might include suggestions and guidance on research and informational meetings).


What follows these initial 2 sessions is discussed and shaped with the client. For some, the first two sessions are enough. The perspective-taking, the reflective exercises, the supportive conversation, and the possibilities that emerged give the client energy and ideas they can start integrating into their day-to-day.


For others, the two sessions provide clarity, and perspective, and also reveal something specific the client wants to work on. This might mean 2 – 4 additional sessions. The focus of these sessions can range from further reflective work to customized strategies to help with research and a career change outline, preparation for informational meetings or interviews, steps for career expansion and development, outlining and customizing goals, and creating personal routines for stress and burnout.

 

How does Canvas Career Counselling meet the diverse needs of users at different stages of their careers?


I believe if you are client-centered, the starting point, as I mentioned earlier, is an openness to the uniqueness of each person you meet, an openness to the diversity of lived experience, skills, and aspirations. It’s a position of wanting to understand a client rather than interpret them.


Everyone interacts and responds differently to their experiences of work and career and these interactions and responses change throughout the course of an individual’s career life. If you take movement, change, and growth as “givens” of human life and our career lives, you engage with clients with openness and flexibility. Your leading question will be, how can I better understand your experiences?


When you lead with openness, you work with a client to foster new perspectives, create possibilities, and design steps or strategies that reflect who they are at this stage in their life while also integrating current and relevant resources – training, education, research, informational meetings, and the job market.

 

What changes have you noticed amongst your clientele?


I am noticing changes amongst every age group from young adults starting to develop their career lives to adults aged 60+ who are re-shaping work beyond the traditional retirement age.

Here are just a few examples.


Young adults express feeling anxious about navigating the very real possibility of having several careers during their lifetime, how to prepare for that, and how to map that out. They are also understandably concerned about changes in the job market, changes in skill requirements, and how they will secure stable incomes.


But I am also hearing more and more expressions of creativity as young adults envision building out their career lives. This creativity addresses current pressing issues, opportunities to change things in the world, or addressing gaps in the world. I certainly hope we can collectively nurture this creativity.


For any age group, there are significant changes to how and where we work with the addition of remote and hybrid work. These changes, specifically, were certainly brought on by the pandemic but they have endured as an option for people as they design their career lives and look for work that aligns with other realities in their lives.


Many people are working well past the traditional retirement age out of financial necessity and/or wanting to continue their career lives, or even pivot to new work experiences. Within this age group, there is a strong desire to contribute experience, perspective, and skills and engage in meaningful work that has an impact. Like young adults, I observe a lot of creativity stirring at this stage of life.


I’d like to note that experiencing meaning, fulfillment, and having purposeful work continue to be important criteria for a career life. This isn’t a change per se but these more experiential criteria do impact everything from engagement to retention to choices to career change to how we construct our career lives.


And finally, there is far more awareness and recognition these days that lived experience, discrimination, racism, ageism, neurodiversity, and mental health to name but a few do affect our experiences of work. We certainly have a way to go but this increased awareness will continue to generate changes to work environments, workplace policies, and how individuals can access and build decent, meaningful career lives.


How do you envision Canvas Career Counselling evolving to meet the changing landscape of career development?


There is continuous movement in the job market and continuous change both in the elimination of jobs/professions and the development and creation of jobs/professions. There are issues in the world that shape opportunities for the development of new work and careers. There is continuous movement in how people experience work and careers, their expectations, what opportunities are available, and where they can get creative. Career Counselling must be part of these realities, adapting, evolving, and being equally creative.


Career Counselling must have its ear to the ground, and by this, I mean it always must be attentive to what is happening in the world, not just the job market.


Career Counselling must be flexible and creative in meeting the changing needs, aspirations, and expectations of clients. It also must bridge that flexibility and creativity with strategy.


Because of this, I feel my process is always evolving and the services Canvas Career Counselling offers will also naturally evolve. I am always attentive to providing a relevant and flexible approach designed for change.


And finally, what makes the work you do fulfilling?


The best part of my work is the daily conversations I have with clients of different ages and stages of life. I have always valued and nurtured one-to-one conversations in any area of my life. It’s been easy to adapt this natural way of being to my work and to create space that allows me to bring my full attention to another person's experiences.


I am well aware of the trust clients place in me. It is a privilege to hear and work with their experiences and personal journeys of career, along with their aspirations, hopes, challenges, and questions. I enjoy brainstorming, facilitating creativity, helping a client gain clarity, and collaboratively creating strategies or steps toward change.


All of it is fulfilling!


Interested in more information on Britt-Mari Sykes, PhD, CDP and Canvas Career Counselling? Contact hello@mycareercanvas.co

 

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