Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not Your Mother's Career Counselor

When, if ever did you go to your first Career Counselor? After High School? During a mid-life crisis? After college? Chances are, there has been someone along the way with some opinions about what your life's work should be. They might have given you tests or asked questions and in the end, they were looking for a box to put you and your skill set into.

"Life's Work" is now an outdated concept for many of us. There will be many times we change what we do, how we do it and who we do it for. My last post was about the lifestyle connected to different professions. That's one example of some of the points that don't get covered in some career counseling.

I like to start all my new folks out with this question: What do you want your perfect day to look and feel like?

It's a kind of reverse engineering. Instead of asking a series of questions about what you're good at, I'd rather know what you'd like to do, day to day. Because when it comes down to it, you may love the "idea" of doing something, but the collection of tasks that make up that job really don't interest you.

Are you a musician who loves to be on stage but hates to practice? Are you a musician who loves to play in their bedroom but hates the stage? Ok, so that's an easy one. I love textile design, went to school in my late 20's to study it. I got my degree from Parson's School of Design, went out and started looking for a job. I was told it was going to be tough and not much pay. I really thought I was ready. I was training with professionals in the field! Two days into my first job I felt like I was in hell. A kind of hell I didn't even know existed.

I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was seriously doubting my sanity. No one asked me if I could work with no direction in a sweatshop-like environment using a set of skills I never actually learned in school. Oh, and for pennies. I've taken what I learned at Parson's and have used it a million times over in other ways. I have no regrets, except perhaps taking a tour of a studio with one of my instructors.

That experience has really shaped the questions I ask as a small business consultant. It's about all the moments that make up your day. As they say, it's more about the journey than the destination. Put yourself back in the sandbox, as it were, and ask yourself.

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