[Ed's Note: This article originally appeared in Career Convergence in 2005 and is being reprinted here due to its value and significance today.]
As career counselors, we watch our clients go through turmoil as they search for career direction. We have become accustomed to the process by which people identify a career choice. For some of us, this process may have become routine. We may recommend tests, review the results with the client, encourage the client to research occupations and organizations based on the results, etc. Thankfully, each client is different, so there is some uniqueness to the process.
Still, what does a career counselor do when the career counselor is burnt out, or wondering about new ways to do their work? For many, vocational preferences and competencies do change with time and life experience. Super pointed out that as we progress through life and work, our self-concept continues to evolve, and perhaps redefine itself (Super, 1957, p. 197). Many people need to fine-tune their work over time. Why would we assume that our clients change, but we do not? Over time, aspects of ourselves such as interests, values, and skills change as we mature. Even personality, which has been argued to be the most stable of these traits, accounts for some movement. The theoretical underpinnings of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for example, predict that our under-used personality functions will be used more as we get older.
As professionals, we pay close attention to our client's career developmental issues. We expect our clients to make progress in their personal and professional lives through interactions with us. We cannot assume that, as career counselors, we are somehow exempt from developing questions about our own career choices. Conversely, might we be affected in some ways by the issues our clients bring to our sessions? As we facilitate our clients' struggles and issues on their career journeys, could this stir up our thoughts about the meaning and impact of our own work as career professionals and the career choices we have made?
Of all the professions in the world of work, one could argue that career counselors could potentially benefit most from the personal and professional growth promoted by career counseling. Compared to other helping professions, we believe that career counselors tend to have a more varied work history and interest spectrum. This has definitely been the case for career counselors with whom we are personally acquainted. Our profession values personal and professional growth highly. Our primary counseling instrument is ourselves. Should we, then, not validate the career choices we have made, or fine-tune our own career direction?
This advice is not new, of course. The helping field stresses the importance of seeking out other helping professionals to get counseling, supervision and consultation as needed. This collaborative effort is just as important in career counseling. Consider what we offer to our clients as career counselors: We create a safe, confidential, growth-enhancing, insightful and encouraging environment for our clients. As career counselors, would we not also benefit from this valued process?
We propose that career counselors be encouraged to routinely seek career counseling for themselves. We might seek assistance from others in our profession to explore best practices, including marketing, new instruments and approaches; honing ourselves as people and professionals; and new areas in which to apply career counseling skills and, if necessary, other professions. Career counseling for career counselors? Perhaps it is not as strange as it may sound.
Super, D. E. (1957). The Psychology of Careers; an Introduction to Vocational Development. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers.
Kim H. Tay is licensed as a psychologist in the State of Georgia and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. He has been an adjunct faculty member at Georgia State University, teaching graduate coursework in career assessment and intervention.
Bill Waldorf, LPC, MCC, is a career counselor and coach in private practice. He has an MBA from Yale University and a Master's in Counseling from Georgia State University. He draws from his experience in international business, non-profit and corporate America and, having successfully re-aligned his own career, now enjoys helping others find work that fits them. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org