Career Genogram

Ellen Weaver Paquette, MA, CAGS, NCC, NCDA Fellow and Master Trainer
August 28, 2019

Career genograms are a specific type of genogram, which has been used extensively in family system therapy. The purpose of a career genogram is to look at established career patterns, or lack thereof, in a family unit however defined by the client. The basic construction of a career genogram starts with the individual, then extends out to include significant members of the same generation. Such may include biological and non-biological extended family members, and close friends.

The career genogram then extends to the parents’ generation, including extended family, close contacts in the community, mentors, advocates and others with whom the individual has had a meaningful association.

This method provides content, environmental influences, generational influences pertinent to the individual and provides the career counselor with background.

Once constructed, the client then adds in occupational detail for each person; what id d they do for a living, was that in flux, what was the perception of the individual towards their work history.

The counselor may then proceed with thoughtful questions designed to illuminate the world of the client.

  1. What were you supposed to be when you grew up?
  2. Where you told that you could be anything or were you told which occupation to choose?
  3. Were you expected to “do better” than your parents and how was that defined?
  4. Where there “myths” or “legends” in the family that served to propel or hold back the client?
  5. Were you expected to take on a role that your parent (s) could not pursue?
  6. Did the family tell you that some occupations are “better” or “acceptable” than others?
  7. Was higher education a means to itself without a connection to the working world?
  8. Were you told that a job is just to “put bread on the table”?
  9. Were you told that a “stable and secure” job was better than chasing a dream?
  10. Does the family fit around the job or does the job fit around the family?

These questions are designed to illicit a conversation helpful to the client in any stage of career management, but the counselor needs to proceed with caution.

There may be holes or gaps in the career genogram, perhaps unknown areas to the clients but withholding information may be to protect the client’s memories. There may have been trauma in the client’s past, therefore the examination pf the career genogram may bring up issues that the counselor without mental health training needs to facilitate.

Such may include abuse, dislocation as experienced by recent immigrants, homelessness, disease, anxiety, depression etc. Collective societies may emphasize group decisions regarding career choices instead of individual career trajectories usually emphasized in Western work worlds. These are important issues affecting the client’s ability to move forward in the career management process.

Once the career genogram has been examined, clients may then look at their own decision-making style while processing new information about the world of work.

Suggested links for further exploration of the use of career genograms with adults…