I remember someone once told me, “If you don’t know what you want to do, just do what you’re good at…”
When you’re a confused and impulsive 19-year-old with a year of community college under your belt and no declared major, that sounds like decent (enough) career advice. “Okay,” I thought. “Well, I’ve always gotten good grades in English, so I will be a Journalist! Okay, great! That didn’t take a lot of thought. Glad that’s settled.”
Fast forward 3 years later…. It’s 5 a.m. and I’m sitting in a chair behind a microphone in a radio station as a morning show co-host. Great right? I mean, not many people get to do that. My face was even plastered on the side of the city bus! I got a lot of free food from the local pizza shop as long as I spoke highly of them on the air. There were a lot of perks. Yet somehow, I felt myself growing aloof, and then resentful. I did my best to ignore those feelings.
I lasted 18 months and then I broke down. I felt like something was wrong with me. How could I be so bored with this? I had what other people considered to be a unique career, so how could I be unhappy? I felt guilty that I had made an irrational and impulsive decision because I didn’t want to take the time or face the anxiety associated with making career choices. One day I walked into my boss’s office and collapsed into tears.
Of course, because that boss is a caring mother and a compassionate person in general, she was understanding and genuinely empathetic of my situation. I will never forget how kind she was to me the day I left to begin the process I should’ve begun 3 years prior.
I was unemployed for the next year, and I won’t pretend that it wasn’t difficult. I sucked it up and worked some odd jobs while I saw a career counselor at a local agency. The whole process wasn’t as bad as I thought. It turns out, learning about yourself is kind of fun. I came to learn that my personality is extremely social, creative, and humanistic. I enjoy personal interaction and helping others.
The most ironic part of my career development is that I had such a positive experience with career counseling that I ended up pursuing a Master’s degree in School Counseling. There was a graduate assistantship opportunity to work as a career counselor in SRU’s Office of Career Education and Development, and I am pretty certain I was offered this position because I had a good understanding of the career development process, as I had just gone through all the steps and experienced the associated emotions in my own life. Working as a career counselor was truly rewarding, and for the first time in my entire life, I realized that you really can enjoy being at work.
I graduated with an M.Ed. in School Counseling in 2012 with a 4.0 GPA. I’m not trying to brag. I got all A’s because I found something I was passionate about, and I barely had to try for those grades (okay that’s a slight exaggeration), but it did come naturally because I loved what I was learning.
I am currently working as the Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County. I work with volunteers and families every day, and I get that social interaction that I enjoy. I have the satisfaction of helping others, and while I am not working as a school counselor, I am getting highly relevant experience and expanding my skill set into non-profit work, as well as case management that will most certainly benefit me if and when I do work in a school setting. I am happy in my current role. While I may have taken the long way, I feel that my mistakes really helped me to grow, but it certainly could’ve been avoided had I just done my exploration earlier.
I guess, what I am saying here is: do not try to take short cuts with your career. I can tell you from experience, it rarely just falls into your lap. Take the time to figure out who you are and what you care about and figure out how you can work that into a career. You’ll be working for a decent chunk of your life, and 40 hours a week is a long time to be miserable if you are in the wrong field. Take advantage of the SRU Office of Career Education and Development. I’m telling you, it doesn’t hurt. It’s actually enjoyable. Most of all, it’s extremely helpful and can save you a lot of grief. Tell them I sent you!
Taylor Gall, M.Ed