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exercise: Lifeline


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Learning outcomes

At the end of the exercise participants will be able to:

  • Review own career through mapping and viewing past-experience (work/life)

  • Discuss and summarize important events which have occurred in life and effected his/her career development

  • Analyze and discuss events in one’s career path


About the exercise

This is a very popular tool among career counsellors. The lifeline tool adapts to different discussions and purposes. It can be very effective when initiating guidance to assist the individual in organizing the order of events and highlight the positive factors in his/her experience, as well as challenges. The exercise brings forth a clearer picture of the individual’s career development and factors which have had an effect. These factors can be discussed and through that encourage a deeper self-understanding for the individual. The employer can gain information about the strengths and competences of employees in addition to learning about what makes them thrive in a workplace. This exercise can be conducted individually and in a group session where f.ex. 2 and 2 can discuss their results together under the supervision of guidance personnel and discuss findings as appropriate in the large group. 

The lifeline exercise exists in many versions. It has the advantage of suggesting in visual form both the eventfulness of a life and the degree of dramatic tension. In career counselling at the workplace, this exercise may be used by a career counsellor or a supervisor of the employee with a focus on career development. 



  1. Explain the lifeline exercise. You can use your own story (see item 2) as an example or make up one.

  2. Give the individual an A4/A3 paper with two axis (see picture below). Also provide two colour pencils. Ask him/her to mark the first job at the beginning of the line (left side) with a dot. The vertical axis as a measure of satisfaction experienced in the job. A dot marked low on the axis represents little satisfaction and a dot marked high on the axis represents high satisfaction. 


Discuss the following:

  • What was the job (jobs)?

  • What were your tasks?

  • Which tasks did you enjoy the most?

  • What skills did you develop?

  • What did you enjoy the most at this job?


  3.  Repeat the process described in item 2 until the current job.

  4.  The lifeline can be used as a basis for further competence mapping, portfolio/CV 

       development. Also as a basis for making decisions about the next steps in career


Related links

Here you can check out some sources:


Lifeline drawing with two axis as "feelings" and "career".

"Lifeline" can also be without axis, kind of "life path" drawing. This kind of visualization gives plenty of food for discussion as well. See also "River of life" -exercise from the link below!

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