What a career counselor taught me about myself and my 'perfect' job

With the exception of a few ineffectual sessions with an in-house therapist at my college following a bad breakup, I had no experience with the counseling process when I made my first appointment to see a career counselor earlier this year. I had heard the gamut about counseling, though: it’s so helpful, it’s a total crock, it changed my life, it’s a waste of money. All I really knew was that I’d hit a wall with my own efforts to clarify my job goals, and seeking professional help seemed like a good next step.

When I first contacted my counselor, she suggested we speak on the phone for a few minutes to make sure it would be a good fit. I told her my central problem (“I’m interested in a lot of jobs and am having trouble narrowing down”) and she laid out a path to clarity: we’d take stock of my strengths and preferences, then match them up with careers that would put them to best use. Sold!


featured

Talking to a career counselor can be like talking to an old friend - except you get job tips after some venting. (Photo credit: Linzi Clark)


Personal revelations

My counselor spent the lion’s share of our first 50-minute session taking a wide-ranging personal inventory of me. Questions went from “Did you go to a private high school?” to “What are your relationships with your siblings like?” By the end, I felt a little self-conscious from blabbing so much, but my counselor wanted to learn as much about me as possible. Toward the end of that first session, she asked what impressions I thought my parents’ working lives had made on me. As I thought aloud about it, I found myself saying, “They gave me a sense that there were no limits, but also that there was little direction.” After saying it, I realized that this one sentiment explained a lot about how I’d lived my life thus far. A good counselor can help draw you out and let you reveal for yourself factors and habits currently operating undercover.

Identifying themes

Another benefit of this kind of personal reflection was being able to tease out the strongest themes in my personality, with the goal of matching them to career possibilities. My counselor gave me a post-first-session homework assignment called “Seven Stories.” You jot down brief descriptions of 25 different times you can remember enjoying doing something, thinking you were doing it well, and feeling proud to do it. Not just one or two of those things; all three. Then you take the seven stories you like the most from the bunch and write a paragraph about each of them. The exercise takes time, but can quickly reveal some striking trends in personality. In my case, I immediately noticed themes of close personal relationships and a desire to help; in addition, my counselor picked up on the tactile nature of many of the stories, and on how most of the goals I reached came from me setting my own bars and reaching them.

After identifying themes like these, we moved on to more formal methods of personal data mining, including the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (for professional use only!). Using info from all these sources, we compiled a list of some of my strongest personality trends (artistic, extroverted, collaborative, intuitive), then dove into career matching. The Strong especially includes lots of cool matching tools, but there are other helpful sources available free to anyone online, including O*NET’s Interest Profiler (created by the U.S. Department of Labor).

The total picture

Something I found at first frustrating but then comforting throughout career counseling was my counselor’s contention that there are thousands of jobs any person can find satisfying, and by the same turn, there is no such thing as a job without drawbacks. So she emphasized that career search is not about finding the one magic title that will solve everything, it’s about matching your interests and skills as much as possible to a line of work. Kind of like Dr. Phil’s 80/20 rule.

In this vein, my counselor also appreciated that there’s a lot to every job that’s not in the description, but that affects its total scope tremendously. A doctor’s bio blurb might indicate his academic degrees and areas of specialty, but it won’t mention that it can be lonely running a private practice, that his office is a two-hour commute from his home, or that insurance paperwork takes up half his time. Another example comes from my counselor herself: she always enjoyed counseling, but it took her awhile of working with teens, then business school students, before she realized she would really feel most at home working with young professionals in the arts, which is her focus now. When searching for the right opportunity, pay attention to the kind of daily lifestyle (work environment, potential colleagues and peers, even seasonal changes, etc.) your work could entail.

A few notes on choosing a counselor

A trusted friend gave me the name of a counselor she’d seen and found helpful, and since my friend and I are a lot alike, I was confident that I’d see eye to eye with the person on at least some things; it turned out she was just the counselor for me. If you can’t get a recommendation, make sure to scour potential counselors’ websites for clues to their style, and ask for a ten-minute phone chat before you book your first appointment (if the counselor doesn’t suggest it first) so you can get to know each other a tiny bit before starting. If you’re not at ease with the person’s demeanor, or you feel they’re focused on different goals than you, take an initial pass and try someone else.

Career counseling can be expensive, no doubt about it. Frankly, I don’t think I’d ever spent so much per hour on any activity, except perhaps flying. And it absolutely stretched my budget. But for me, it was worth every penny. I consider it a great investment in the future, ounce-of-prevention style: the new ideas and methodologies I learned have streamlined my thinking, and will save me time and headaches down the road.

Tell us about your experiences with career counseling!

Tags: , , ,



What a career counselor taught me about myself and my ‘perfect’ job

With the exception of a few ineffectual sessions with an in-house therapist at my college following a bad breakup, I had no experience with the counseling process when I made my first appointment to see a career counselor earlier this year. I had heard the gamut about counseling, though: it’s so helpful, it’s a total crock, it changed my life, it’s a waste of money. All I really knew was that I’d hit a wall with my own efforts to clarify my job goals, and seeking professional help seemed like a good next step.

When I first contacted my counselor, she suggested we speak on the phone for a few minutes to make sure it would be a good fit. I told her my central problem (“I’m interested in a lot of jobs and am having trouble narrowing down”) and she laid out a path to clarity: we’d take stock of my strengths and preferences, then match them up with careers that would put them to best use. Sold!


featured

Talking to a career counselor can be like talking to an old friend - except you get job tips after some venting. (Photo credit: Linzi Clark)


Personal revelations

My counselor spent the lion’s share of our first 50-minute session taking a wide-ranging personal inventory of me. Questions went from “Did you go to a private high school?” to “What are your relationships with your siblings like?” By the end, I felt a little self-conscious from blabbing so much, but my counselor wanted to learn as much about me as possible. Toward the end of that first session, she asked what impressions I thought my parents’ working lives had made on me. As I thought aloud about it, I found myself saying, “They gave me a sense that there were no limits, but also that there was little direction.” After saying it, I realized that this one sentiment explained a lot about how I’d lived my life thus far. A good counselor can help draw you out and let you reveal for yourself factors and habits currently operating undercover.

Identifying themes

Another benefit of this kind of personal reflection was being able to tease out the strongest themes in my personality, with the goal of matching them to career possibilities. My counselor gave me a post-first-session homework assignment called “Seven Stories.” You jot down brief descriptions of 25 different times you can remember enjoying doing something, thinking you were doing it well, and feeling proud to do it. Not just one or two of those things; all three. Then you take the seven stories you like the most from the bunch and write a paragraph about each of them. The exercise takes time, but can quickly reveal some striking trends in personality. In my case, I immediately noticed themes of close personal relationships and a desire to help; in addition, my counselor picked up on the tactile nature of many of the stories, and on how most of the goals I reached came from me setting my own bars and reaching them.

After identifying themes like these, we moved on to more formal methods of personal data mining, including the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (for professional use only!). Using info from all these sources, we compiled a list of some of my strongest personality trends (artistic, extroverted, collaborative, intuitive), then dove into career matching. The Strong especially includes lots of cool matching tools, but there are other helpful sources available free to anyone online, including O*NET’s Interest Profiler (created by the U.S. Department of Labor).

The total picture

Something I found at first frustrating but then comforting throughout career counseling was my counselor’s contention that there are thousands of jobs any person can find satisfying, and by the same turn, there is no such thing as a job without drawbacks. So she emphasized that career search is not about finding the one magic title that will solve everything, it’s about matching your interests and skills as much as possible to a line of work. Kind of like Dr. Phil’s 80/20 rule.

In this vein, my counselor also appreciated that there’s a lot to every job that’s not in the description, but that affects its total scope tremendously. A doctor’s bio blurb might indicate his academic degrees and areas of specialty, but it won’t mention that it can be lonely running a private practice, that his office is a two-hour commute from his home, or that insurance paperwork takes up half his time. Another example comes from my counselor herself: she always enjoyed counseling, but it took her awhile of working with teens, then business school students, before she realized she would really feel most at home working with young professionals in the arts, which is her focus now. When searching for the right opportunity, pay attention to the kind of daily lifestyle (work environment, potential colleagues and peers, even seasonal changes, etc.) your work could entail.

A few notes on choosing a counselor

A trusted friend gave me the name of a counselor she’d seen and found helpful, and since my friend and I are a lot alike, I was confident that I’d see eye to eye with the person on at least some things; it turned out she was just the counselor for me. If you can’t get a recommendation, make sure to scour potential counselors’ websites for clues to their style, and ask for a ten-minute phone chat before you book your first appointment (if the counselor doesn’t suggest it first) so you can get to know each other a tiny bit before starting. If you’re not at ease with the person’s demeanor, or you feel they’re focused on different goals than you, take an initial pass and try someone else.

Career counseling can be expensive, no doubt about it. Frankly, I don’t think I’d ever spent so much per hour on any activity, except perhaps flying. And it absolutely stretched my budget. But for me, it was worth every penny. I consider it a great investment in the future, ounce-of-prevention style: the new ideas and methodologies I learned have streamlined my thinking, and will save me time and headaches down the road.

Tell us about your experiences with career counseling!

Tags: , , ,



Job seekers and hiring managers: What our surveys reveal about employment in the nonprofit sector

It’s no secret that the past few years have been challenging for nonprofits as they try to serve their clients with shrinking budgets. We saw this first hand last year when we asked nonprofits to share the impact the recession was having on their organizations.

This year, we again approached the thousands of organizations on Idealist to ask them how they’re doing, what they anticipate in the coming year, and to learn more about their human resources practices. We also asked job seekers to share their experiences to get a more complete picture of how the sector as a whole is faring. In total, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S.-based organizations and 3,000 active job seekers to find out who’s hiring and who’s looking, the latest in funding and compensation practices, and what’s posing the biggest challenges to both organizations and job hunters right now.

In general things are looking up with 48% of all nonprofits plan to make new hires in 2012 and 54% say they will offer salary increases in 2012, up from 47% last year. However, what’s compelling are the experiences of job seekers and hiring managers.

What we know about today’s nonprofit job seeker:

From Job Seekers

  • They are experienced: 30% of job seekers are over the age 50; 26% have more than 11 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.
  • They value opportunities for career development: In fact, this is one of the top reasons job seekers who are currently employed full-time (33%) are looking to leave their current organizations.
  • They are committed in and outside of the office: 83% of job seekers have volunteered, demonstrating an interest in staying and growing in the sector.
  • They want to hear from hiring managers: The number one challenge job seekers face is the lack of communication from employers. In fact, 86% say they never receive any feedback or follow up at all.

Tip for job seekers: Given your experience and needs, it’s even more important that you are searching for organizations that are a good fit. Be sure you’re searching for the right opportunities by asking yourself a few key questions.

What we know about today’s nonprofit hiring manager:

featured

From Hiring Managers

  • They wear many hats: 84% have responsibilities in at least one other area, most often program management, office/facilities management, and communications.
  • They appreciate attention to detail: Because they have to juggle multiple responsibilities, hiring managers place emphasis on potential employees following instructions in order to move through the hiring process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • They also prefer job seekers not call: Also because of their limited time and resources, 40% of hiring managers prefer that you not follow up about your job application status.
  • They value passion: 86% say that understanding their organization’s mission is very important.

Tip for organizations: With many job seekers looking to leave their current organizations due to lack of advancement, you may need to get creative with how you support your employees. Over at Idealisthr.org – a community for nonprofit HR professionals  – a nonprofit recently shared a successful leadership pipeline program they created designed to retain and support top talent. You can also strengthen your organization by tapping into the Idealist community.

There is more information in the surveys. Download the Job Seeker Survey and the Organization Survey to learn more.

Tags: , , , ,



Green jobs have tripled! So how can you land one?

featured

Installing solar panels isn't the only way to work for a cleaner planet. (Photo: OregonDOT via Flickr/Creative Commons)

“Green jobs,” or jobs that touch on environmental sustainability in some way, are up, according to…our website! So how can you land one?

We recently spoke with New York Times reporter Austin Considine, whose piece Green Jobs Attract Graduates was published last weekend:

Amelia Byers, operations director for Idealist.org…said the number of jobs related to environmental work has roughly tripled in the last three years. “A lot of new graduates are coming out of a world where volunteerism and service has been something that has helped define their generation,” she said. “Finding a job with meaning is an important value to them.”

After we shared the article, the folks at Sacandaga Consulting tweeted back: “@idealist What tips would you give/what experience is needed for people looking to find a green job?

Good question. Here are some ideas…

Set yourself up for success.

Try some of the exercises in our free online Career Center and, if you’re looking specifically at the nonprofit sector, our Guides to Nonprofit Careers. Get really clear on the type of work you’re looking for, and prepare for interviews, salary and benefits negotiations, and success on the job.

Demonstrate your interest.

In Recent Graduates Head for Green Jobs, a response to the Times article, Care2.com blogger Amelia T. writes: “The worry, for me, is that “sustainability” will become so ubiquitous that it means nothing at all, another way for people to feel as though they’re doing something altruistic without much of an actual impact.”

Do smart searching!

Do you have additional tips or resources? Please share!

Tags: , , , , ,