Three Career Questions to Ponder Over Summer

Originally published in the NZ Herald on December 19th, 2018

The end of the old year and the beginning of a new one is a time to consider where to from here. Career counsellor Lila Pulsford gives guidance on where to start.

1. What am I most curious about in life? Often, the things we are curious about have the potential to translate into a job. For example, a recent client shared a story of how when he was a child he would make his mum pause the cartoon DVDs he watched so he could draw the characters. He’s now a 2D animator. Another client’s curiosity about ships eventually led to a career in marine transportation. Follow your curiosity and interests, but realise that you do not know what will interest you unless you try new things. Make 2019 the year of trying new things.

2. What sort of a world do I want to help create? Many career decisions stem from a desire to meet our own wants and needs. It’s possible to re-frame our decisions towards asking what the world needs and how we might go about offering our strengths in a spirit of service. Social justice is a popular topic at the moment – where do you see inequity that needs to be addressed? Which community or world issues would you like to positively affect?

3. What are my non-negotiables? We all know that every job has its own set of advantages and disadvantages and that we all make compromises with our choice of paid work; however, is your current role draining you of your life energy and is it worth it? Taking the time to figure out what your top values are makes career decisions much easier.


How Women Can Negotiate a Pay Rise

Originally published in the NZ Herald on July 17, 2018

Although the gender pay gap in New Zealand is narrowing, males tend to get paid an average 10 per cent more than women.

That’s a drop from 16.3 per cent in 1998 but, according to Statistics New Zealand, the catch-up has stalled in the past decade.

Auckland career consultant Lila Pulsford says she has spoken to several HR managers who have observed that women accepting new job offers do not attempt to negotiate their salaries as often as men. Instead, many women immediately accept the first salary figure they are offered.

“If you have done this in the past, make a commitment to yourself to try a different approach next time you apply for a new role as it may make a significant impact on your financial health,” Pulsford says.

When a hiring manager offers you a salary figure, they expect you to negotiate. Do not simply trust the manager to immediately offer the highest figure they have available. Always ask: “Based on my skills and experience, I was expecting x amount. Is there room for negotiation?”

Salary negotiations are easiest when you are taking on a new role. If you wait for a salary review after three months or after a year, you will always be behind.

Exhibit strength and confidence during the job application process and always ask if there is room for negotiation. You will feel more comfortable asking this question if you practise beforehand with a friend, a career consultant, or even just in front of a mirror. In the end, the only person’s permission you are waiting for is your own.

Remember that although asking this question may feel awkward or uncomfortable, it could result in thousands of extra dollars in your bank account. The possible benefits far outweigh the discomfort you might feel in that moment.


Delicious Kindness

pexels-photo-904807.jpegMany people reach a stage in their lives where they start questioning whether or not their job is right for them and start looking for meaningful answers to their career questions.

Career counselling sessions offer a deliciously roomy sense of space for detailed conversations. A career counsellor will ask you intelligent, career-related questions which will illuminate your understanding of yourself. Career consultations have the potential to shift your perception of what is and what isn’t important to you, to give you a sense of space, to give you a sense of calm. You will be asked to consider your needs and you will be listened to by a professional who is fully engaged with your answers. Few people know how to truly listen and speaking with someone who is actively listening to your concerns feels like a balm on a wound. And the thing is, career concerns really go deep:

“when people across the globe were asked what is important to them and what makes them successful, happy and healthy, a meaningful career  was found to be a strong indicator of well-being” (Rath and Harter, 2010).

People who are unhappy with their current role face significant challenges; in fact, evidence-based research shows that

“an unsatisfying job can wreak havoc on an individual’s psychological well-being” (Butterworth et al, 2011, 2013).

Career counselling sessions offer a gentleness, a kindness and a source of agenda-free support. They contribute to your sense of peace and well-being because they help clarify an alternate direction in life, a direction that takes your values, your hopes and your life commitments into account. It is a rarity to be engaged in such a way; and, as such, career counselling conversations may stay in your memory for years afterwards.

“Professional career development practitioners are experts in evidence-based career decision making and transitions. No other professional group can claim this distinctive contribution” (McIlveen, 2016).

As an endlessly curious person, I find people’s career conundrums fascinating and I find my ability to help bring clarity to people’s thinking immensely satisfying. I’ve talked to a lot of people who are unhappy or unsatisfied in their current job role, a lot of people who have been blind-sided by redundancy or unemployment, a lot of people who are confused about what the next step in their lives might be and a lot of beleaguered young people who feel pressured to find a career that fulfils some elusive so-called “passion.” If I were to ask you what you are questioning in terms of your career, what would you say?





Rath, T., & Harter, J. (2010). Wellbeing: The five essential elements. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

Butterworth, P., Leach, L. S., McManus, S., & Stansfeld, S. A. (2013). Common mental disorders, unemployment and psychosocial job quality: is a poor job better than no job at all? Psychological Medicine, 43 (08), 1763 – 1772. doi: 10.1017/S0033291712002577

Butterworth, P., Leach, L. S., Strazdins, L., Olesen, S. C., Rodgers, B., & Broom, D. H. (2011). The psychosocial quality of work determines whether employment has benefits for mental health: results from a longitudinal national household panel survey. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. doi: 10.1136/oem.2010.059030

McIlveen, P. (2016). Effectiveness of Career Development? Ask a Precise Question if You Want a Precise Answer. Keynote paper presented at the Symposium of the Career Development Association of New Zealand, Christchurch, 3 October.


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