The Value of a Career Counsellor: My Personal Story
By Kevin Waldbillig.
I know that a happy and fulfilling career change is possible. I know this to be true because I’ve experienced it first-hand. Don’t think, though, that the change transpired without some feelings of fear and reluctance. Let me give you the background of how I came to seek out the services of a skilled and supportive career counsellor and the resulting transformation of my career path.
I’m on the cusp of what society calls either a “baby boomer” or a “Gen Xer”. In my formative work years, I was a teacher and school administrator. For the most part, I enjoyed the roles, particularly as a high school teacher and coach. I was approached by a few different folks along the way who said they felt I might make a good vice-principal or principal some day. Besides my desire to be a “helper” to people, I was told that I had a sense of humour, a pretty good level of empathy, and an ability to listen. So, after some soul searching, I started on the path to attain the goal of becoming either a vice-principal or principal, taking the appropriate courses and certifications required, doing committee work, and participating in volunteer activities and community events.
Eventually, I did land a vice-principal role, which I worked at for 9 years. In hindsight, although I found the job fulfilling in some ways, I now realize it was at this point that I began challenging my thoughts about who I was as a person and what I wanted to do in my career.
One thing that was consistent throughout those years was a nagging feeling that something was missing in my work life. I knew in my core that I had both the skills and the desire to help people. But, as a vice-principal, I often found myself isolated from the students. I was required to do a lot of paper-pushing and report-writing, I dealt a lot with parents and with various problems, and I had to attend many meetings outside of my school.
Increasingly, I began to feel handcuffed by having invested so much time in the teaching profession. I realized two things: I had an entrepreneurial side that would never be satisfied in the rules-focused environment of a school, and I’d never be able to change and grow my career into something that resonated with me.
About 8 years ago, after meeting with a career counsellor for the first time, I was struck by the conviction that my work life had to change. Working together, my counsellor and I explored my strengths, accomplishments, and dreams for the future. He conducted some assessments, which were extremely helpful and validating for me as they pinpointed not only what my strengths were, but equally important, what my weaknesses were.
Through the work we did together, I began to think of my situation differently; that I wasn’t a victim of my work life but a master of the life that I envisioned. I developed a plan – a road map – that had the following key elements to help me with my next steps:
- I strove to be open and honest with myself and I worked to secure the buy-in of people who were closest to me, both personally and professionally. I shared my thoughts about my next career steps with them and they became the core of my support network.
- I learned and read as much as I could about the field of work I wanted to get into and I became certified in the areas I had a passion for.
- I maintained a relationship with a mentor/career counsellor and sought out good advice from professionals who were referred to me by people I trusted.
I learned a lot about myself through the work I did with my career counsellor. I realized that I needed to find a career path that synced up with my desire to work with a diverse group of individuals on a variety of projects. I wanted to be creative with the services and solutions that I provided. I discovered that I had a need to work at my own pace, meet new people, and acquire new skills in an environment that rewarded enthusiasm and imagination.
Today, I am enjoying an entirely new career as a Registered Psychotherapist and Career Consultant. A psychotherapist is trained to help others who are struggling with difficult thoughts, feelings, behaviours, or social functioning skills, any of which can impede one’s ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
Increasingly, amongst my clients, I see many who are struggling with job burnout, toxic work environments, and challenging career transitions. Some have similar stories to mine and are searching for alternatives.
The good news for these clients is that I’m confident and determined in my ability to help. I know that a successful career change truly is possible. And, I know this first-hand.
Kevin Waldbillig is a Registered Psychotherapist and Career Development Professional. He started Change Works Interactive in Oakville, Ontario, in 2012. Kevin enjoys being a part-time professor, author, and workshop presenter on topics related to career development, change, and psychological health and well-being.