Career Therapy: Getting professional help when the going gets tough

March 1, 2010

Intro: Deciding to get therapy

Have you ever considered getting professional help for your quarterlife crisis and general career confusion?  Maybe my personal experience will be helpful to you.  Recently, something at work triggered my search for a therapist who specializes in career counseling.  Partially for the sake of exploration for this blog, and partially because I really think it will be  helpful, I’ve started this “column” to document my experience with the counselor anonymously.

The other day, an event occurred at work that made me loathe my work environment more than usual.  It wasn’t so far from the usual things I deal with, but it was just a bad day that made me reevaluate my purpose at work and where I wanted to go with my career.  Typical stuff.  Granted, I’ve been going through the quarterlife crisis for months now.  In general, I’ve dealt with it quite well because of the resources at my disposal, including this blog, as well as a strong support network.  In any case, for reasons beyond disliking my job, I decided it was time to take real action.

Here’s how I got started.

A very close friend studies psychology and is a practicing therapist.  This friend suggested awhile ago, long before I seriously considered it, to reach out to a professional therapist for career help.  I didn’t take the advice too seriously at first because I thought therapy would be expensive.  When I reconsidered recently, the friend provided references.

I reached out to the therapist that was most highly recommended.  The therapist has a Psy.D. and has practiced for years, with one of her specializations in career guidance.  Again, I was worried about cost.  But here comes the big surprise.  It was news to me that therapy is covered by many health insurance plans.  In fact, after calling mine, it turns out that each session would cost me just $30.  Out-of-pocket, the sessions would have been $150+.  I don’t think I have to point out the obvious irony, but I will: My company’s healthcare plan is helping me figure out my next career steps.  It makes a lot of sense for companies to provide therapeutic support for their employees.  If this works out, it would theoretically make me a more productive worker.  Happily, I booked my first session with Dr. R, who was accommodating enough to schedule me for the next day.

Here’s a few suggestions on how you can get started.

If you’ve done career exploration on your own already, and you feel like you need someone else — a coach, therapist or counselor — to help you sort through all of it, I would encourage giving counseling a try.  Start by looking for a general therapist who specializes in career guidance and life transitions, or look for a specialized office dedicated to career counseling or coaching.  They should be able to provide references or statements from their past clients that will give you a better idea of their background and experience.  If you do not have a friend who can give you personal recommendations as in my case, definitely do your homework.  Compare your options carefully.

Next, if you are on a budget, check to see if your insurance covers it and what the co-pay is.  The therapist should be able to give you a general idea, but only your insurance company can give you a definite answer. Then, book your appointment and give your new counselor a try.  There is no promising that the relationship will work out, so make sure you are comfortable.  My therapist offered the option of a complimentary consultation session the first time.  See if this is the case in your situation.  Once you try it out and find the him/her to be a good fit, then decide whether or not you want this to be an ongoing relationship.

Lastly, I want to point out that going to a counselor/coach/therapist doesn’t mean your personal exploration ends.  Professional help is only a guiding force, and I realize the powers of change are within me and within me alone.

If you decide to give this a try, good luck!

Stay tuned…my next post will focus on the experience of my first session.

Soccer Mom Wanna-be?

February 8, 2010

For personnel in higher education there has been a recent phenomenon of young undergrad females not going on to their freshman or senior dreams, first marketing cubicle job, grad school or relying, as so many, on moving back with Mom and Dad ’til things get better employment wise. Looks like Dad’s rumpus or Mother’s reading room are safe for now.

What has been noticed by career and behavioral counselors is a spike in young ladies choosing to seek a mate immediately and pop out kids. Ergo, going for the soccer mom ASAP. Some have suggested this new trend has to do with the war mother demographic…higher numbers in the military have always equaled more war brides. I am sure a fifteen year high in teenage pregnancies also has a factor. But, mostly as a higher ed type myself…it is the economy stupid.

The unknown, fear of jobless years, no 401K, health care either coming or going…and general lack of confidence in hope…well it might just be natural to think domestic engineering as a good fall back. Hell, I am all for good mothers for our kids. Wish we had more. But, I also never wish to see young coed grads dissing themselves and the world of opportunities before them.

Do they want to be a fictional character? Finding that being a real “soccer mom” is about as easy as finding Elvis picking up Bigfoot hitchhikers in his UFO. It just ain’t gonna happen! The term soccer mom started in the mid 1990’s with more and more women entering the workforce and trying to subsequently balance professional and maternal responsibilities.

When added to the growing generation of spoiled brats, the myth was born of a super, well kept, organized, PTA attending, check, credit card balancing, relying off the man and da Man, mother of 2.5 kids…that at the end of the day became an exhausted, frazzled, short on time and dinner on the go…go-go girl. She could do everything! At least on car commercials.

So if you do want to be such…here is what you will need!

1. SUV, wagon, or minivan. A sedan can work in a pinch, but only a Volvo or Audi. Sorry those are the rules.
2. Have a child involved in some sport that requires a great amount of equipment, red fruit drink and mud. Oh, and the kid has to be allergic to red dye #5. Sends him or her into a bi-polar fit.
3. Before you say “I do” realize it is just a starter marriage.
4. Wear skinny jeans only your imaginary daughter and waistline should put on.
5. Own at least one Rachel Ray cookbook.
6. Have at least one toddler with a sippy cup to spill.
7. Member of or aspiring membership to the Junior League.
8. Perfect hair.
9. Give up…at least for the next 15 years…all of your professional dreams.
10. A renewal of childhood affections with Happy Meals.
11. Platinum band with tri-set diamond engagement ring. Total karat weight at least 1.5.
12. Have a complete hysterectomy, be menopausal or have your period stop altogether.
13. Be thin.
14. Always stay thin.
15. Chase after the dreams of your other college friends.
16. Lovely blue dress suit or business casual pants suit…you never wear.
17. Be the designated driver for the rest of your life.
18. Use the pregnancy parking spaces way after you had the babies…probably until they are six or older.
19. Kids born potty trained.
20. Abstain from sex ever again…that is how you got into the kid situation.
21. Have AAA or a need to join AA.
22. Get a dog – preferably a Lab, Golden retriever or Saint Bernard. This is a good thing for the image, but not so much for the pooch that will need more walks than you have time for.
23. Be the neighborhood mini-bus for all your kids’ play friends.
24. Live a lie and keep up with the Jones.
25. Your FaceBook page will need to be purged of just about every photo you ever put up.

In other words…you might be asking for the impossible for yourself, your family, your world. You might want to think of it this way…be careful for what you wish for. Just be you and the quarter life wonder of a hip-heroine you already are.

Yes, there are worries about the economic times ahead. Jobs, money, insurance, (a 20’s kid realistically worrying about retirement), student loan payments, careers, pushing out 7 lbs. of human into a scary world….yep…lots to think about. But, no need to jump to conclusions or rash decisions. You went to college, or you put in your time for a career…and exploration of careers…a journey to find out who you are and what this big bad, awesome world is all about.

Just say no to the soccer ball…at least for now. When you do want to put a soccer ball sized bulge in your tummy area…Bend it like Beckham.

Why “Up in the Air” is a perfect summary of the quarterlife experience

December 21, 2009

Last weekend, I thought I was going to see the new George Clooney film. Instead, I found myself examining my metaphoric life on film, and loving it.

The main premise of Up in the Air focuses on the routine life of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a bachelor whose philosophy is to have as few personal relationships as possible. He flies from one city to another, serving as a “career transition counselor,” helping to ease corporate layoffs. Bingham fondly considers the airport terminals home and his goal in life is racking up American Airlines mileage.

My quarterlife radar turned on when Bingham is forced to work side-by-side with Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), an overconfident, tech-savvy, and to be frank – obnoxious fresh Cornell grad. Natalie is uptight where Bingham is suave. She is idealistic where he is realistic. She packs a travel-size neck pillow on her first business trip; he lives life on one carry-on bag. Yet, despite their apparent differences, they find a way to teach each other something new. She learns from him how personal a job can be, and the measure of compassion it takes to be effective. He learns from her that life’s dreams are nothing if they are achieved alone, without anyone to share it with. Each has wisdom to impart and assists in the other’s moment of realization.

Especially for quarterlifers, it’s refreshing to see our most annoying qualities on the big screen and recognize it in ourselves. It’s a gentle but heartwarming reminder that we have so much yet to experience. In the end, the moviegoer is left feeling gratified by Up in the Air. Each part of the film – the humor, the zinger lines, the subtle soundtrack and editing – contributes to make this a very worthwhile experience. Highly recommended.

Get Rich or Start Cryin?

February 20, 2008

Ever feel like if you could just get rich, everything would be ok? Ever feel like becoming wealthy is the most important thing? You’re not alone.

According to a Pew Research Center poll, 81 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds site getting rich as one of their generation’s most important goals and 51 percent feel the same about being famous.

In an annual survey of college freshmen by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, data from 2005 clearly show that money is on their minds much more than in the past. The percentage who say it is “essential” or “very important” to be “very well off financially” grew from 41.9% in 1967 to 74.5% in 2005; “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” dropped in importance from 85.8% in 1967 to 45% in 2005. [Read more]