Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 2: Career Counseling

Part II: Susan's Saga 
EPISODE 2 Career Counseling

In the previous episode, Susan started to contemplate life without David--including the fear she'd end up a bag lady. She decided to look into finding a career counselor. 

First, Susan called a career coach she ended up calling The Moneygrubber: He'd only sell a $4,900 bronze package, $6,900 silver package, or $9,900 gold package. Susan thought, "Way too much. Besides, anyone who makes you commit that much money up-front probably is afraid that after a session or two, you'll quit."

Susan called the next counselor, "The Tester:" That counselor would devote three sessions to an alphabet soup of career assessments: DISC, SII, and MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.) One of the few specifics Susan still remembered from her college courses was her psychology professor saying, "Those career 'tests,' especially the Myers-Briggs, aren't much more valid than a horoscope."

Susan called the third counselor "The Listener:"  "Uh huh," "Tell me more." "I hear you saying" (then parrots back.") Susan thought, "She'll never teach me anything. She's like those consultants who steal your watch to tell you what time it is."

Susan decided to do at least one session with the fourth coach, Michelle, whom she called The Practical Dreamer. Susan liked that Michelle said, "I keep my head in the clouds, feet on the ground," whatever that means.  Susan also liked that Michelle would, a week before the first session, email Susan a probing new-client questionnaire to complete at home. That would serve as the springboard for the session. That way, Susan wouldn't have to pay the counselor for all that questioning-and-answering. Plus, Susan would have the time to reflect on the questions rather than having to come up with a great answer on the fly.

In fact, Susan felt she got more from answering the questionnaire than from the session. Susan's questionnaire answers made clear that her career non-negotiables were: a creative component and working in an organization rather than solo so she'd have lots of people contact and a support infrastructure. Her best abilities were staying calm, leading kids, and a refined aesthetic. Her core value was education. Susan wondered whether all those stood out simply because her most recent activity was directing Rent at the middle school.

Susan also worried, "Isn't all that too vague?" Michelle responded, "Getting more specific would be false precision. You could be satisfied in many fields and settings. For example, you never would think of being in soybean processing but if a nice person offered you a good job helping him to set up his soybean processing facility, I'd bet you'd give it a try and could enjoy it. Right?" Susan agreed. 

At the end of the session, Michelle gave Susan a homework assignment that, while just common sense, felt right: "Explore new vistas, maybe volunteer. Put yourself in places you might learn more about yourself, be exposed to new career ideas and to people who could give you a good job lead." 

Susan left after that two-hour session feeling she had gotten her $350 worth but decided not to make another appointment. She'd simply follow Michelle's advice to explore. 

The next episode is posted HERE.

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