DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

The Poetic Journey: Using Poetry in Career Development
Sally Gelardin, Ed.D.


Word pictures are my friends.  They add meaning to my life. Without them I would be a robot, going through the motions of life, but without perspective or purpose. I write poetry when I need to express strong emotions. Then I read my poem over and over to understand my feelings. After delving into my emotions, I am better able to move through them.

Life is a delicate balancing act. We juggle home and work responsibilities. Our challenge is to keep all the balls in the air with our feet on the ground. The show must go on as we create our plotline. Sharing stories through poetry helps us learn from others and articulate our successes and struggles as we find our paths. How do you maintain a love of life? What images give meaning to your life?

Activity: Using Poetry To Make a Transition

Overview and Rationale

Making a transition can be difficult, whether it’s planned or unexpected, happy or sad (i.e., marriage or divorce, move, birth, death, award, layoff, graduation).  By writing poems, individuals can learn how to make transitions. Through poetry, they can apply Nancy Schlossberg’s transition theory to their own life experiences. The following exercise illustrates two career competemces:  informal assessment and career models/theories.

Icebreaker Exercise

Share, with a partner, some of your favorite childhood memories up to the age of 10. Include places, actions, people, visual memories, sounds, scents, and physical activities. Each person in pair has 4 minutes to share his or her memories. Later in this lesson, you will have an opportunity to write a poem that will include your early memories. You may be able to find sources of support to manage a current or future transition from these early memories.

Expected Participant Outcomes

•    to identify internal & external sources of support to help manage a career transition
•    to demonstrate a multi-sensory informal assessment (Chapter 5 of CDF Student Manual) based on Schlossberg’s Transition Theory (Chapter 4 of CDF Student Manual)


This is an activity for career practitioners to use with clients from 16 years old on up.

Sample Poem

Parisima - A Holiday
by Carmen (a woman of Nicaraguan heritage whom I met on a plane ride on the way home from a conference).

To celebrate
The Immaculate conception
Patron of Nicaragua
Father had a beautiful alter.
Flowers smelled like heaven.
All the neighbors visited my house.
They brought apples from Costa Rica,
Chicha - a corn drink - pink, a little sour.
Mixed with sugarcane.
Vacatamales - like a tamale.
That was the best part of my life
When I was little.
It makes me feel that
I can be a child again.

Write Your Own Poem

I invite you to write your own poem. On a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper, write an “I Am From” poem.” Include favorable memories from childhood. If you have time, include some current positive images in your life.  After 5-10 minutes, a couple volunteers are welcome to read their poems. You will not be required to share your poem with others, if you don't want to. (After 5-10 minutes, student volunteers read their poems.)


Transition Definition: A transition is an event or non-event that results in change. A transition is characterized by a change in roles, relationships and/or routines. An event is something that happens, such as getting married, having a child, getting a job. A non-event is something that you expected and wanted to happen, but it did not like not getting a promotion (CDF Student Manual, 4-24 through 4-26).

Triggers of transitions, events and non-events. Four things determine the severity of a transition (Schlossberg, 1989): (a) situation, (b) self, (c) supports, and (d) strategies. By asking client questions about each thing separately, you and your client can understand more about the transition. View CDF Student Manual 4-24 through 4-26.  We are going to do an exercise today to evaluate our sources of support.

Sources of support. See four main sources of external support in Attachment 1 below. Reflecting upon her sources of support in her poem reaffirmed Carmen’s decision to discuss with her supervisor her desire to go into sales.

Sources of Support Activity

Relate sources of supports to your “I Am From” poem. Some of these sources of support may be from your youth. Add other sources of support that you have developed over the years.


We used the poem to help identify sources supports that can be used to make a transition. 

Attachment 1: Four major groups of external supports

Following are four major groups of external supports to manage transitions (Schlossberg).
Can you give some examples for each of the following categories?
1.    Personal relationships
2.    Professional relationships
3.    Organizational and community affiliations
4.    Opportunistic networks

What do you think would be sources of Internal Support?


Connelly, M. F. & Avis, J.( Summer, 2001). A model for counseling older worke
rs and their families. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal. Richard L. Knowdell, Publisher. Sally D. Gelardin, Guest Editor. Volume 17 Number 2 (pp. 27-41).

Gelardin, S. (2003-2006). The Job Juggler Employability Program. www.JobJuggler.net .

Harris-Bowlsbey, J. Suddarthy, B.H., and Reile, D.M. 2001 (second edition revised 2008). Facilitating Career Development Student Manual. www.ncda.org

Schlossberg, N.K. & Robinson, S.P. (1996). Going to Plan B. New York, NY:  Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Schlossberg, N. (1984). Counseling adults in transition, Linking practice with theory. Springer.

Sturdevant, K. (1998). The Laugh and Cry Movie Guide: Using movies to help yourself through life’s changes. Lightspheres.

Copyright for “I am From” activity. 2006. Dr. Sally Gelardin, sal@gelardin.net.  You are welcome to use this activity with clients. Please cite the source.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.