Don’t Burn the Candle at Both Ends: Crowdsourcing our Practice Challenges and Solutions

By Michelle Tullier

Each morning I start the workday by opening the closet in my home office where I have a shelf of candles. Selecting the one I choose to burn on my desk on any particular day is not a decision I take lightly. The lemongrass and eucalyptus candle promises to awaken and invigorate, good for a sleepy Monday morning. The oak moss amber one claims to offer confidence and freedom. Who wouldn’t want more of that, right? The hibiscus palm option might tide me over until the next beach vacation.

Candle selection is hardly my proudest professional moment, but this simple daily ritual represents both the pleasures and challenges of being an independent practitioner. Our days are marked by series of decisions that have an impact on our clients and on the success of our business. As entrepreneurs, often solopreneurs, we enjoy the freedom to make decisions about everything from our schedules and pricing structures, to the career development theories on which we base our work. Sometimes our decisions are based on our own experience, on solid data, or guidance from peers or outside experts, while sometimes they are based on our intuition and leaps-of-faith. We often make our decisions in isolation, which can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Call to Action to Eliminate Isolation

As the newly appointed Associate Editor of this Independent Practice department of Career Convergence, I am excited to play a part in bringing together our collective wisdom, so that we can all make better decisions and find greater success for our clients and our practices. I invite you to join this effort by writing a best practices article, reviewing a relevant book, or voicing your interests and needs regarding what you would like to read here.

To kick us off with some ideas, I have scoured this publication's archives to determine where we have been and where we might want to go with article topics. I have also plugged in to the conversation of the NCDA Constituency: Private Practice, Business/Industry & Agencies. And, I have made my own observations from thirty-plus years of part-time independent practice and recent conversion to full-time practice.

Independent Department Archival Review

A review of Independent Practice articles published in this web magazine since 2003 revealed the following:

  • 67% cover topics related to how we do our work, including theory, tools, and techniques for helping clients through career transitions, job search, finding meaning, and being more resilient. Within that category, about 10% address specific client populations, including older or semi-retiring, in prisons, homeless, chronically ill, and lawyers in transition.
  • 16% address how we develop, manage, or grow our businesses.
  • 8% focus on us, including how our values, strengths, biases, and even fears, play a role in our practices, as well as how we find happiness, can serve as volunteers, and more.
  • 7% are reviews of books relevant to our work.
  • 3% focus on world-of-work factors that we should know about, such as the green economy, portfolio careers, and our role as advocates in the wealth/income divide.

Interests of the Constituency Group

Turning to the NCDA constituency, it is interesting to see that the percentage of published articles about how we run our businesses (16%) is not proportional to the emphasis our constituency placed on this topic in the group’s break-out session at the NCDA 2019 conference in Houston. More than twenty topics are listed in a summary of that session posted in the Constituency’s LinkedIn group in July 2019. Nearly all of those relate to our practice management, from issues of forms we use, contracts, business structures, and case notes, to our websites, videos, course platforms, and graphic design tools. It is possible this discrepancy between the archives and the constituency topics is due to shifting priorities within our constituency, or perhaps the result of a desire to discuss certain topics verbally as opposed to in written articles.  

The Constituency’s interests mirror my own. Targeting two types of clients—young adults launching their careers, plus mid-career professionals and executives contemplating or making career transitions—I face branding challenges to resonate across generations and time challenges to reach them all in my social media visibility, speaking, and networking. My days involve decisions about how and where to spend my time, energy, and money. I happen to love the business management, marketing, and operational side of my business, though I enjoy even more the time I get to spend in continuing education and in continual tweaking of my counseling and coaching models to represent relevant and current theoretical perspectives and workplace developments. For that, the many archived articles on how we do our work have been helpful.

Turn to Career Convergence

I encourage you to be aware of the times in your day when you wonder how others handle a situation that you’re facing, and remember you have a professional resource available 24/7. Leave a comment on this article or email me directly to share your thoughts or to suggest an article you would like to submit. Together, we can crowdsource solutions to our challenges, aid the success of others, and contribute to the field of career development.

Oh, and which candle is burning as I write this? Cranberry dahlia, which is supposed to bring joy and laughter. It has.


Michelle TullierL. Michelle Tullier, PhD, CCC, CPRW, is the founder of Tullier Consulting, LLC, based out of Atlanta, GA and Vinalhaven, ME, working with clients across the U.S. She was most recently executive director of the career center at Georgia Tech and held career coaching and regional leadership roles for thirteen years with global outplacement firm Right Management. Michelle is the author of nine books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, and has served as a freelance book editor for major publishers. Michelle is a member of Maine Career Development Association, serves on the board of Georgia Career Development Association, and is the Associate Editor, Independent Practice, for Career Convergence. She was published in Career Convergence in 2018: “Promoting Student Well-Being and Mental Health: the Career Center’s Role”. She can be reached at michelle@drtullier.com or http://www.tullierconsulting.com/

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Susan Wise Miller   on Tuesday 09/03/2019 at 01:01 PM

Great idea to review the archives! You are such a good writer.

Michelle Tullier   on Thursday 09/05/2019 at 09:27 AM

Thank you, Susan. You know I owe my start in this field to you! Always grateful for that.

Carolyn Couch   on Thursday 09/05/2019 at 05:08 PM

Thank you, Michelle, for taking this on. I know it will be helpful to many of us.

Michelle Tullier   on Thursday 09/05/2019 at 05:27 PM

You're welcome, Carolyn! Happy to do it.

Dominic Militello   on Wednesday 09/11/2019 at 03:03 PM

Great article! Thanks for sharing!

Carolyn Coburn-Allen   on Tuesday 09/24/2019 at 11:58 AM

Michelle, your article has given me several things to consider, including review of the archives. I am at a point in my career where learning other coaches/counselors experiences might give me the spark to move me in the new direction I am seeking.

Michelle Tullier   on Tuesday 09/24/2019 at 08:07 PM

Carolyn Coburn-Allen, I'm glad it was helpful for you!

Nancy J. Miller   on Wednesday 01/01/2020 at 08:21 PM

Thank you, Michelle, for taking on this role and perusing the archives. We've had articles in the past on creative practices and some on marketing, but I believe strategic marketing is a weakness for career counselors and sometimes coaches. I don't know many who say they enjoy marketing and business management. I hope to see articles on these topics and at least one written by you since these are areas of your interest. You are an asset to the Career Convergence Independent department.

Michelle Tullier   on Friday 01/03/2020 at 10:45 AM

Nancy, thank you so much for the feedback and suggestions. I'm honored to be part of this magazine and enjoy helping shape the editorial direction.

Michelle Tullier   on Friday 01/03/2020 at 10:46 AM

Dominic, thank you for the feedback!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.