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Patrick Sheehan

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When they were kicked to the curb, jobless workers mostly blamed themselves: Enter career coaches


June 30, 2020

Roberta is collecting her cards when I approach her cloth covered table. She is in her sixties and wears a light purple shawl over a flowing black dress. A matching purple gem – sapphire, she tells me – hangs from a thin chain on her neck and the silver bangles on her wrists are also dotted with purple-shaded stones. The bracelets jangle as her thin hands move over cards labeled “independence,” “knowledge,” “stability,” and “excitement.” Roberta pushes them across the table and invites me to sort the cards as I see fit: it will help me “learn something new” about myself.

Roberta is not a Tarot card reader. She is a professional “career coach” who specializes in guiding the white-collar unemployed through hard times. Roberta is manning a vendor booth at the 2019 National Career Development Association (NCDA) and she is taking me through the first step she takes with clients who have been laid off: self-discovery. I sit and sort the cards into ascending rows of importance as Roberta hums sagely.

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