Jan 8, 2010

An Investment in Career Counseling

Per request of one of my loyal readers, investingnewbie, I'm going to jot down some information on my process in seeking out a career counselor -- why i did it, and what services they provide.

When I get into a funk I often start questioning the cause of my depression. More often than not, it's my career. After spending too many hours in a therapist's office rehashing the same old issues, I started thinking about how advice from a different angle could help. After all, understanding the root of my dissatisfaction with life is one thing, but being able to proactively create a better future for myself is another.

After doing some searching online, I sent out emails to a ton of local career counselors that went into detail about my current situation. Some, I'm sure, were scared away or weren't interested in helping me. I knew the more honest I could be, the better a match I'd find in whoever responded.

I got a couple of bites. Career counseling is not cheap (it's usually $100 - $150 per hour, more for some seriously overpriced counselors) so I wanted to make sure to pick someone who could really help me. One counselor, who was obviously in her 50s or older (likely older) talked to me on the phone for an hour in a free consultation. She basically told me that when she was my age women didn't have any choices and now we have a lot of choices so I am doing fine for my age and I shouldn't worry. While that was kind of nice to hear, it wasn't what I was looking for. She didn't want to take my money and she spent a whole hour talking to me, which was really nice of her. But I had to move on.

After that I decided I wanted to find someone nearby (not in the city, which is an hour a way and a pain to get to during business hours) so I did some more research. A woman who had been quoted in an article wrote me back and sounded like she might be a good fit. I scheduled a first appointment with her.

Before the appointment she had me fill out a lot of forms about my work life and why I'm dissatisfied where I am at. She charged $125 for the first hour long session, which I scheduled on my 26th birthday. I could immediately tell she was the type of person "not in it for the money" as she spend 30 minutes extra on my first session answering my questions. She really seemed to like helping me. Not saying every counselor is or should be like this, but it just so happens that mine is.

On the first session we went through some different forms about things that matter to me in work and talked a lot about values and goals. One thing I find that's difficult with a career counselor is that the industry I'm in is fairly new and I have yet to find someone who gets it, or anything I'm really interested in pursuing. Most career counselors have been in the workforce for some time and then decided to become counselors, getting their MSW's later in life. So while they know the basics of getting hired very well (resume writing, interviewing, etc), actual knowledge of future career opportunities, especially in newer fields, may be limited.

However, I've found that isn't too much of a deterrent to learning something from my career counselor. What she has taught me so far is that every person has a unique mix of what work means to them, and that finding the most important things to me (goals and values) is most important in figure out what path to take...

She's also helped me with some of the nitty and gritty, fixing up my resume that I hadn't taken the time to tweak much in years minus adding new jobs. She has also decided that I should take a class in marketing or business before really considering applying for an MBA.

I've only seen her for two meetings thus far, and she understands that my budget is tight so I don't need to see her often. Again, not all career counselors will be this flexible. I met with one who asked for $600 for a starter package, which would include 5 sessions, though it sounded like I could do them at my own pace. Some require monthly or even weekly meetings. Find someone who is flexible if you need that flexibility.

My career counselor even decided, at my last meeting, to drop her rate to $90 per session (and she gave me an extra 30 minutes again). She seems, for some reason, to really like me. After I went on about social networking, mobile, and the future of technology she was like "you're cool" and decided to give me a discounted rate. She thinks I have potential, apparently, which is nice... I've been so down on myself lately, it's nice someone thinks I can succeed somehow. Not that I really believe her, but in the least she can help me come up with goals and meet them, which is really important for me.

I'll update you all on my career counseling going forward when I have another session. Right now I'm trying to figure out if I'll stay at my current job. My company is going through some major reorganization soon and I think I may be left out in the cold. I'm not too worried, as it seems the economy is picking up and recruiters are writing to be on LinkedIn for open positions in my field. Luckily, I picked a field that few people specialize in. I'd really like to work for a company where I have the support to do my job, as opposed to my current job where all of the opportunities to quantitatively succeed and put on my resume are most often taken by my boss and coworkers.



1 comments:

investingnewbie said...

Thank you so much! I feel like I'm in the same funk as you regarding my job. However, does she help you get the best out of your current situation? Like does she advise you on ways to succeed in that environment even though you're not given the support you need? I might meet up with a career counselor on my birthday...or next week.

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