The Hidden Gem is Within You: Exploring Your Career Potential

At the Association for Conflict Resolution  (ACR) Conference (10/11-10/14) in Dallas, TX this week, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore career strategies with Sarah Kauffman and Tracy King.  Sarah and Tracy are young professionals, both University of Baltimore graduates (master’s in negotiations and conflict management), and both working in the field.  Sarah is working for the Maryland courts, and Tracy for the Florida courts.  Our session was titled “Finding the Hidden Gem: Evolving Your Job Search.”  It was a real pleasure working with them!  (They are both now on the ACR board of directors!)

About 15 individuals attended our session: a mix of younger graduate students and older professionals.   Our goal was to have them consider their career potential and find their hidden gem.   We took an elicitive approach in our session: suggesting that the “gem” was within each of us.

We focused first on skills that we bring to the field, including listening and coaching.


One important aspect of the session was the sharing the self-inventory test: The Flower (at the end of this blog) which is a way of considering our own strengths and potential.   It is something that can taken periodically as we pursue a professional life.  The test was developed by Richard Bolles (you can access the test online through the link on the sheet).

The session then focused on asking those in attendance to think about five things:

  • Stories of success
  • “Fields” where we can apply skills
  • Resources in looking for work
  • Strategies for finding work
  • Burning questions that need to be answered!

After those in attendance worked on the lists, we addressed the answers and questions offered.

Right before the session one of the recent graduate students was offered a temporary job.  So she had an immediate success story!  A number of stories focused on the ways in which working in an internship setting  was valuable.  One “field” (or application) that was offered in applying skills was in PTA (Parent Teacher Association) settings.   The person offering it shared about using her skills in a PTA setting and then being offered additional opportunities for work.  In thinking about strategies, we talked about the ways in which LinkedIn can be used to network.  Resources that are useful included Indeed. One burning question focused on addressing the weaknesses in not having experience in getting a job: no experience, no job!   It was suggested that volunteerism and internships can solve that issue.   Students should be prepared to attain meaningful experiences as early as they can.

Pathways to careers in conflict resolution and peacebuilding have not always been clear.  But learning from others’ experiences can provide insight in ways to start a career.  We all have “hidden gems” to offer.

Finding the Hidden Gem Worksheet


Published by David J. Smith

I am a career coach, consultant, and head of a not for profit - the Forage Center - that offers humanitarian education training. I also teach at George Mason University and Drexel University. A one time lawyer, I spent many years teaching in a community college where I was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar teaching in Estonia. I'm the author of Peace Jobs: A Student's Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (IAP 2016). I've been married to my best friend for over 31 years and we have two well adjusted adult children who teach me something new everyday. I live in Rockville, Maryland.

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