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Conference Sketch: Cannex 2010 – Stories Worth Sharing

by Jan Bottomer

What attracted me to career counselling in the first place was the stories; specifically, those of my Czech and German students, professionals in Prague and Berlin, where I worked for several years as a Business English Teacher. While I enjoyed many aspects of teaching, it was the stories that really had me hooked; my students’ backgrounds, their life and work, and crucially, their journey to their current positions and their dreams and ideas for where they wanted to go next. Now, as a Career Advisor at McGill, I revel in the opportunities we have in this field to delve deeply into the stories of our clients and to help them build and move towards the next chapters of their life and work.

It should come as no surprise then, that what initially drew me to Cannexus 2010 was the opening keynote address by Dr. Mark Savickas, “Career as Story: Using Life Themes in Counselling.”

Dr. Savickas spoke eloquently about his passion for career counselling, and his view that the goal of our field is not match-making per se, but meaning making, helping our clients to hear, know and tell their own story and thus to find thematic consistency and wisdom in their own experience. He noted that clients seem to tell the stories they themselves need to hear, and by doing so, they are working at constructing possible futures and next steps.

I was riveted by his presentation, and even more impressed by the skilled and sensitive demonstration Dr. Savickas gave the next day, eliciting and making meaning from a client’s stories and experiences, examining the themes and life projects which emerged, and using these to inspire future courses of action.

Metaphors, Possibilities and Demographics


Stories remained a constant thread throughout this excellent conference.

  • Dr. Norman Amundson’s session on “Metaphor Making” stressed the importance of using visual images as well as verbal discussion to re-ignite our own imaginations and to help our clients be more precise about their feelings and experiences.
  • Denise Bissonnette’s inspiring address urged us not to focus solely on the barriers and challenges faced by our clients, but to ask “questions rooted in Possibility.”
  • Dr. Nancy Arthur and Sarah Flynn used descriptive vignettes to illustrate the career challenges and adjustment issues faced by international students.
  • During the closing keynote, Dr. Linda Duxbury told us the story of the demographic makeup of Canada’s current workforce, why certain demographic groups behave the way they do, and what all of these trends mean for the nature of the employer-employee relationship and for those of us working in the field of career development.


As a relative newcomer to the field of career and employment counselling and development, I have benefited greatly from conferences I have attended over the past several years. The opportunity which Cannexus provided to immerse myself in career development issues and ideas, and to connect with a wonderful mix of like-minded and passionate colleagues from Newfoundland to Ontario to British Columbia made for an inspiring, educational and enjoyable three days, and equipped me with many highly-relevant tools and ideas. I look forward to sharing and creating many more Cannexus stories in the years to come!

Jan Bottomer, M.A., CCC, is a Music and Arts Career Advisor at McGill University’s Career Planning Service (CaPS) in Montréal.

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