Using creativity in careers interviews


What is creativity? It’s an interesting question and not an easy one to answer. I tried to find the perfect definition but it seems very difficult to define. However, several words and phrases come up again and again:

  • thinking differently
  • problem solving
  • curiosity
  • imaginative
  • innovative
  • unique

Interestingly none of these are specific artistic abilities yet I so often hear people say, “I’m not creative, I’m terrible at drawing/painting/making things……!” Creativity is so much broader than that. I stumbled across the Osho website recently and really like their description of creativity:

“Creativity has nothing to do with any activity in particular – with painting, poetry, dancing, singing….. Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things”

As careers advisers, we naturally bring creativity to our practice. We are always having to think on our feet and quickly come up with the right method or appropriate questioning style to best support our clients. This in itself is creative. I like this quote from American neurologist, Alice Flaherty, about the neural basis of creativity:

“A creative idea will be defined simply as one that is both novel and useful (or influential) in a particular social setting.” (

The ‘social setting’ being a careers interview, can be a novel experience and one that is useful and help to influence clients’ career planning and decision making.

Creativity doesn’t need to be anything complicated or time consuming. Some of the best ideas are really quick and simple. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Post-it notes – these can be used in so many ways, I never go anywhere without them! One very quick but effective method to help people with lots of ideas is to write each idea on a Post-it. You can then move them around putting them in order of preference, or a favourite of mine, is to scrunch them up and ask the client to pick one. When they open it up you will see their gut reaction about whether they really like it or not!
  • Stand up and move around – I use different corners of the room and ask the client to visualise alternative futures in each corner. This helps them to see and feel the consequences of their actions – the good and the bad!! This can be really powerful!
  • Mind maps – especially good for clients who are visual learners or like to see the ‘bigger picture’
  • Card sort activities – another personal favourite and great for kinaesthetic learners! I have several card sort activities to help clients explore self-awareness, ‘career anchors’, and their feelings towards different jobs.
  • Using metaphors – this is particularly powerful if it is client led. I once had a student describe his whole career planning process using the metaphor of a basketball match!

What do I like most about these methods? They involve the client and put them at the centre of the process from the start. Being interactive means the client is engaged throughout and an active participant rather than having the feeling of being ‘talked at’. I use my professional judgement to choose which would best suit an individual client but it is always a joy to witness their ‘lightbulb’ moment whilst using one of the creative methods.

If you want to learn more, check out this video of Liane Hambly and myself talking about different approaches to career guidance. Liane gives a theoretical overview of innovative and creative approaches in career guidance and I talk through some practical methods.

About the author

Katherine JennickKatherine Jennick RCDP MCDI joined Ideas4Careers in 2017. With 15 years experience as a careers adviser as well as varied roles in mentoring and training Katherine has a wealth of expertise in supporting young people. Her innovative and creative approaches to career guidance helps to individualise the support for each young person and gives them a safe space to explore their self awareness. In her new role of School Partnership Manager she is developing key relationships between Ideas4Careers and several schools around Nottingham.

One thought on “Using creativity in careers interviews

  1. Really useful reminder to use creative skills in practice . Great video and a also a reminder to read leanne’s book this summer

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