Mika Launikari

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‘Who am I?’ – Identity and Guidance

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‘Who am I?’ and ‘What am I going to be?’ are questions most of us ask ourselves from time to time. Such reflections are an essential part of human growth and development. They are also related to human identity, self-understanding and perceiving where we come from and where we are going. The perceptions we have of ourselves affect how we think, behave and act throughout our lives. Strong self-knowledge and the identity experience built on it promote our overall well-being and make it easier for us to succeed in relationships we regard as important. 

Our identity is not something carved in stone or something that lasts forever. Instead, it is constantly changing and renewable. It develops and grows when we interact with other people. Identity can be seen as a process continuing throughout life, where our self-knowledge is deepened and diversified as we accumulate more life experiences. The uncertainty that you may have experienced about yourself as a young person will pass and, over the years, you will develop an internal understanding of who you are and what matters to you. A person’s own world view and the related values, ideals, beliefs and attitudes often become clearer and crystallised only at a later age.

Identity consists of the personal and social aspects of a person. What is personal about us makes us unique and distinguishes us from other people. The social aspect of identity is reflected in the groups we belong to, such as family, school friends, colleagues at work, hobbies, religion, politics, ethnicity, native language, citizenship, age, and gender. We have stronger connections to some groups and looser to the others, and some of our group identifications overlap or are interlocked. All of them, individually and together, define us and tell something essential about us to other people. 

The groups we belong to and identify with affect how we see and experience ourselves. However, it may sometimes be necessary to critically examine and assess the impact of a particular group on us and our identity and decipher whether it is good or harmful. Belonging to a group often involves social pressure and a desire to be accepted by others, particularly at a young age. In the worst-case scenario, this can mean participating in groups whose attitudes or behaviour do not support the development of a positive self-image and identity. It is therefore good to have the courage to question what are the groups or different characteristics through which we define ourselves at any given time. An internal dialogue with yourself is a good way to structure your own identity and consider how it can be developed throughout life.   

Self-examination is not always easy or comfortable, but at best, it is quite rewarding. The expectations and hopes we have for ourselves do not always materialise, which may lead to frustration and disappointment. This experience may bring things to a momentary standstill which, at worst, paralyses us and prevents us from seeing all the good in ourselves. ‘What kind of person do I want to be?’ is a question most of us want to find an answer to.

Guidance and counselling can support the overall well-being of an individual and create balance in the relationship they have with themselves and the environment. Guidance can help individuals see themselves in a new and more objective light and gain insights into themselves, their abilities and their interests. Guidance can provide help and support for verbalising your own identity and matters that are important to you, and for linking them to your education and career choices. In addition, discussions with a guidance counsellor or teacher can clarify your own thinking and offer new perspectives for it. Moreover, guidance often increases people’s understanding of their own personality and potential.    

Text and photo: Mika Launikari

Visualizing your dream career

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Are you looking for an effective method to successfully prepare for your desired professional future? Imaginal experiences can do the trick for you. They refer to the use of your imagination to envision achieving the end goal of your tasks. It is all about visualizing yourself performing outstandingly in situations that you may find demanding or stressful, such as a job interview, a salary negotiation, or a more long-term project.

Imagine yourself at the interview or negotiation, rehearse mentally for it by asking yourself questions or thinking about arguments that may come up, and answer them with confidence. Put all negativity and self-questioning thoughts aside. Picture yourself talking in a self-assured manner, describing well your key achievements, and vividly sharing your professional experiences. It feels good, doesn’t it?

Or if you are interested in making a more major career transition, but lack clarity of direction, you may benefit from visualization. Visualization is the ability to create a positive mental image of your future career path before it actually happens. The better you will be able to see, feel and embody a future outcome, the more likely you will reach it. Visualize in a clear and detailed way what you expect from your career, and then make it a reality. Use the power of your mind to picture your future success and then start working enthusiastically towards your desired goal.

If you can dream it, you can make it

Visualization is an easily applicable technique. It helps you to change your life and career for the better. The more you do visualization, the stronger it becomes. Visualization can be viewed as the bridge that connects where you are in your career today and where you want to be in the future. See yourself succeed professionally and see yourself move step by step to your dream career.

Imagine it is early morning, you have just woken up and are still in bed. You have a fresh new day ahead of you. It is full of new opportunities and possibilities. What exactly will the day entail for you? What do you see? What will you do, who will you meet, where will you go? What is your mindset like? What do you wear? What do you see coming towards you? Do you eventually start seeing something different from how things are for you right now? 

The following steps can help you to make your career goal come true: 

·      What is it you want to have? Make your dream or goal as concrete as possible and start visualizing.

·      Where does all this happen? Imagine the exact scene and picture yourself there. Be clear and specific in describing the scene and what you do there. Try to use all your senses to bring your vision to life.

·      How does your action plan look? Visualize all the steps required to reach your goal or dream. Put your plan in action. Build upon your assets and resources to make progress towards your preferred career future.

·      How does it feel to get there? Focus on what you want to achieve and once you have got it, imagine the wonderful feeling of fulfillment, achievement and satisfaction.

It does not matter if your career goal is one month or two years away. The main thing is that every day you reserve some time in solitude to do a complete visualization until your dream becomes your new career. Make your visualization practice a pleasant daily routine. Be consistent with your visualization, but above all be loyal to yourself and to your dream! 

Text: Mika Launikari

Photo: DH Deccan Herald    

Symphonic selves and self-leadership

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This year I have been working as a Career Guidance and International Mobility Expert on the European Commission’s new Europass platform on lifelong learning and career development. It is an online service that will be launched in 2020 and offered to European citizens for planning their learning and career paths. Learners, workers, volunteers and jobseekers will be able to use Europass, for example, for

  • presenting their skills and achievements,
  • reflecting on their skills and capabilities,
  • identifying their interests and aspirations in life, and
  • looking for jobs, study programmes, and volunteering opportunities across Europe.

Guidance practitioners and other professionals, such as youth workers, human resource experts, and recruiters may benefit from the new Europass in their daily work with individuals seeking for advice on studying, training, volunteering or working. An essential part of their professional work is to support skills development of people of all ages, and to provide them with tools for demonstrating their capacities.

A more holistic approach

Our self-representation is usually multi-vocal, multilinear, and often episodic. In other words, it is not necessarily easy to bring all our different voices and experiences together so that they would be completely in unison. Therefore, a personal (digital) portfolio can be a useful tool for an adolescent or adult to narrate their life story as well as to reinforce professional self-esteem and integrity. It helps to sort out your learning and working experiences and to have them translated into knowledge, skills and competences. All this can result in a more symphonic self-representation where a person’s all notes and instruments are played in full harmony.

That is exactly what the new Europass platform aims at doing. It will give users an opportunity to better grasp who they are and what they stand for, and where they want to be going with their lives in the future. It is only good, if people – by means of their personal portfolio – will be able to have a more holistic overview of themselves. It contributes to strengthening their self-leadership, i.e. agentic functioning, self-efficacy and resilience.

Exercising self-leadership is about intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and behaviour to achieve your learning and career goals – and dreams. Self-leaders are driven by purpose and proactivity, they have a desire for autonomy, make well-considerate decisions, are more creative and they persist in the face of adversity. On top of that, they have a highly evolved self-awareness that is helpful in today’s world with many disruptions and uncertainties.

Self-awareness relies on the ability to be objective. By critically assessing your own performance and progress will make you see yourself more realistically. This again will make it easier for you to tap on your talents and potential, and to harness your self-discipline for reaching your personal and professional goals. To play life by heart and rational mind gives you a clearer idea of where to go in your learning path and which career move/transition to make.