Career Development Association of New Zealand


Te Mōhiotanga

Why kindness?

By: Lila Pulsford

Date: 07 Nov 2018

Category: Article reviews

Tags: kindness, social justice, symposium 2018

Why kindness?

In 1929, author J.M. Barrie suggested that a new rule for life be that we always try to be a little kinder than is necessary. As a career practitioner, how often do you explicitly aim to offer kindness within a career counselling session? This article explores the value of embedding kindness in the work that we do. Career counselling requires clients to engage in self-reflection and this appraisal of early memories, influences, biases and potentially limiting beliefs might place some clients in a vulnerable state. Is it likely that a client will divulge this information if a practitioner has not gone beyond merely establishing rapport?

Several already well-established concepts, such as Amundson’s (1993) discussion on mattering and Roger’s core conditions (cited in Nelson-Jones, 2000) are strongly compatible and align well with the concept of kindness. The difference with kindness is that, for many individuals, kindness is instinctive, offered spontaneously, and without forced or learned effort. Empathy, mattering, and unconditional positive regard are essential in career counselling sessions, while kindness goes beyond what is necessary. Researchers in other disciplines, such as science, are beginning to recognise the value kindness might bring, and they “envisage a diverse collective of scientists leading a culture shift that embeds kindness in how scientists work” (Powell, 2018, para 4.) in the hope of achieving a more inclusive research culture that focuses less on competition and more on stronger science outcomes. A study that asked participants to describe their ideal mentor found that respondents valued a mentor’s kindness and consideration for others (Bailey et al., 2016). Others observe that help-giving behaviours include being warm and caring and listening to what a client has to say (Dunst, Trivette, & Hamby, 1996). Canter et al. (2017) go further and state that while empathy is a necessary aspect of kindness it is not enough; that kindness requires actions and reactions to others, rather than just the ability to have empathy. Rehfuss, Cosio, & Corso (2011) note that for counsellors who utilise Savickas’ (1989) career style interview, “a good relationship between the counsellor and client is crucial for the trust, support, and accurate reflective skills needed to allow clients to share … [their] life stories” (p. 9). Career practitioners seek to understand their clients; therefore, it is imperative that practitioners reflect on the attitude with which they begin a session, and that attitude might need to include kindness.

Kindness has links to career development theory and it supports social justice. Holland’s theory of types (cited by Nauta, 2010), Bright and Pryor’s (2011) chaos theory of careers, and career flow: a hope centered model for career development (2011) all align well with the concept of kindness. Sharf (2013) describes how roles in social environments such as career counselling “emphasize human values such as idealism, kindness, friendliness and generosity” (p. 122). Similarly, career development’s quest for social justice is related to kindness - it is kind to want all individuals to have a fair distribution of opportunities; it is kind to want all individuals to have equal access to social privileges. Hooley (2016) argued that career guidance is a political act that has the capacity to facilitate change. Hooley urged practitioners to develop models of career guidance that change society for the better. Offering kindness, despite its simplicity, might be just the kind of change Hooley was proposing. Offering kindness takes more time than a glib encouragement to increase one’s resilience. Equally, kindness transcends the limitations resilience suffers from: it does not matter if one individual is poor and the other wealthy - both can benefit from kindness; whereas both might not necessarily reap any benefits from adopting a resilient attitude. Kindness, with patience and time, might produce chinks in the imposing wall of social injustice.

If you see value in kindness, there are simple steps you could potentially offer clients facing the most difficult of circumstances: a gentle question to help a client illuminate their own sense of self-compassion, silence, space, active listening, a hopeful suggestion, compliments, tea and biscuits, and generous smiles, to name a few. Remember, though, that it is necessary for you to offer yourself kindness before you can offer it to clients. “The Dalai Lama suggests that before individuals can develop genuine compassion for others they first have to be able to commit to care for their own well-being” (cited by Beaumont, Hollins & Martin, 2016).

I know many career practitioners are inherently kind; but I encourage you to start further experimenting with kindness - to start explicitly offering it to yourself first, and then to clients. Once you’ve done this, it might be interesting to reflect on how your interaction has been kind and what immediate impact that kindness has had on your client and on yourself. Kindness has the potential to make an impact both to the individual and, by extension, to the world. The work we do as career practitioners has immense potential to shape the world into a kinder and more socially equitable place, so please take pride and pleasure in that.



Amundson, N. E. (1993). Mattering: A foundation for employment counseling and training. Journal Of Employment Counseling, 30(4), 146-152.

Bailey, S. F., Voyles, E. C., Finkelstein, L., & Matarazzo, K. (2016). Who is your ideal mentor? An exploratory study of mentor prototypes. Career Development International, 21, 160-175. Retrieved from:

Barrie, J. M. (1929). The little white bird. London, UK: Hodder & Stougton

Beaumont, E., & Hollins Martin, C. J. (2016). A proposal to support student therapists to develop compassion for self and others through compassionate mind training. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 50, 111-118. https://doi:10.1016/j.aip.2016.06.005

Bright, J. & Pryor, R. (2011). The chaos theory of careers. New York, NY: Routledge

Canter, D., Youngs, D., & Yaneva, M. (2017). Towards a measure of kindness: An exploration of a neglected interpersonal trait. Personality and Individual Differences, 10615-20.

Dunst, C. J., Trivette, C. M., & Hamby, D. W. (1996). Measuring the helpgiving practices of human services program practitioners. Human Relations, 49(6), 815-836

Hooley, T. (2016). The only thing worth fighting for is the future: Rethinking career guidance as an instrument for social justice. Retrieved from

Nauta, M. (2010). The development, evolution, and status of Holland’s theory of vocational personalities: Reflections and future directions for counseling psychology. Journal of Counseling Psychology 57(1), 11-22

Nelson-Jones, R. (2000). Six key approaches to counselling and therapy. London, England: Continuum

Niles, S.G., Amundson, N.E., & Neault, R.A., (2011). Career Flow: A Hope-Centered Approach to Career Development. Boston, MA: Pearson

Powell, Kendall. (2018). Should we steer clear of the winner-takes-all approach? Researchers reflect on an initiative in New Zealand to make science more inclusive. Nature. 553, 367-369.

Rehfuss, M. C., Cosio, S., & Del Corso, J. (2011). Counselors’ perspectives on using the career style interview with clients. Career Development Quarterly, 59(3), 208-218

Savickas, M. L. (1989). Career style assessment and counseling. In T. Sweeney (Ed.), Adlerian counseling: A practical approach for a new decade (3rd ed., pp. 289-320). Muncie, IN: Accelerated Development

Sharf, R. S. (2013). Applying career development theory to counseling. Melbourne, Australia: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning



Lila Pulsford

Lila Pulsford

Lila Pulsford holds a Master of Career Development and has been working in the career industry since 2010. She has managed a tertiary career centre, worked in a private consultancy in the creative sector, and she is currently employed as a Career Practitioner at Epsom Girls Grammar School while also running her own private career practice. Lila co-chaired the Auckland branch CDANZ committee from 2014-2016 and has recently had her research on kindness published in the Australian Journal of Career Development.