Thursday, May 14, 2009

The search for the right career path...

The past couple of years have been filled with me analyzing, reanalyzing, coming to decisions and then rethinking them, and in general running around in circles in the concept of what I want to do with my life. Here's some of my thoughts, and I really, genuinely would love input on them. After running in circles for a while I really can use a fresh perspective.

Here's what I know:
1. I want to be a mother at some point, and hopefully that's not too far away. When I'm a mom, I intend to be a stay-at-home mom at least during their younger years. I can see myself doing work on the side, but only something like...taking on some counseling clients independently or something.

2. It has to fit with Isaac's dreams and goals of being a teacher, because, you know, when you're married you sort of have to make things work together.

3. It has to be able to be done outside of the U.S, because we'd really like to be somewhere other than here.

...and that's about it. These are the two clear directions I've contemplated:

1. Counseling. Unfortunately, you can't just get into counseling. You have to have a degree. So... this means I need possibly two years of school, and then I can start being actually qualified for counseling jobs (probably not as a clinical counselor with an office and a couch.... ;)). I love people and working with them, my undergrad degree is in counseling and I got a lot of positive feedback that I was gifted in this field.

2. Literature. I grew up reading constantly - I got in trouble for it constantly and out-read everyone I knew. I love classic literature, literature criticism, book groups, writing about literature.... in general, I eat it up. It was my best subject in high school and yes, I admit that I still am proud of the 5 I got in AP English Literature. Thing is, I've always considered this a hobby, but in the past few years I've seriously considered teaching lit.

*sigh*. I go in circles. I pretty much had decided on option #1, but in the waiting period I doubt myself and wonder if a career that requires an MA is really necessary, and if I can't find another sort of "helping" career that doesn't require such specialization. Isaac asked me this past weekend if I can think of jobs that I would be qualified for now that I would potentially love. Here were my brainstormed thoughts.

1. Being a leader/lay counselor to mks (missionary kids). The summer I did this with Mukappa during college was seriously the most fulfilling thing I've ever done. Yes, it was like summer camp so there's a certain high that goes with the experience, but it was very, very clear to me that I LOVE working with those kids, I am passionate about the things they are going through, and I am qualified to speak into their lives. Problem with this idea - you have to raise support.

2. Dorm parent or Resident Supervisor of a dorm (college or high school or ... any age?). Again, this type of position takes advantage of both more organizational skills and my love of people and sorting through interpersonal problems. Problem with this idea: I haven't found any open positions like this in Dallas, it's the sort of job you have to move TO, and right now we're committed to Dallas for at least two more years while Isaac finishes up.

3. Youth worker. Not youth leader, I'm not an up front person, but I can take on a supporting role in a youth group, a youth-based non-profit, etc. Problem with this idea: many of these require you to raise support, and I haven't yet found a local position that open that pays, though I know they exist.

4. Case worker - for the city? For a refugee organization? With a non-profit? In any case, I've applied for a handful of these positions with no response. The city positions require degrees. In any case, I have kept my eye open for this type of position even while we still lived in Chicago. I need a foot in the door somehow - a contact within an organization that can recommend me.

This weekend I told Isaac that maybe my recent insistence on needing a degree is partly because of the situation I'm in now with having a good job for a good place but not within the type of thing that I feel like God has particularly gifted me for or called me to. I am afraid that I will get caught in this situation again unless I have high enough qualifications that I can sort of create a job for myself. Like, once you're a licensed counselor you can sort of counsel wherever you are, particularly overseas. I think the degree is a protection mechanism for me.

I don't know. Is that... smart? Isaac is now totally on board with the idea of me getting a degree, I guess I just question if my motivations are actually valid.

And... any thoughts on the career direction?

Oh, and I have a fantastic husband. I love how encouraging he's been of my search for purpose.


Kaycee said...

I was originally drawn to social work, but changed my mind when I realized how hard the job actually is. When I spoke with a few social workers (child services, gerentology, etc.) they all seemed so jaded and indifferent. Almost like their caseloads combined with the red tape they were swimming in every day took all the fulfillment out of their jobs.

I still want to help people though. Now that I'm a mother I really want to teach. I love working with kids and think that education is important. I'll also have summers and holidays off with my own kids. You can't beat that.

Jaimie said...

My parents got a degree in Biblical counseling from the Master's College in California. They only had to fly in two times, for three weeks during the summer. Other than that, it's correspondence. You could get a degree like that, so you don't have to do a lot of work outside of the home. Not sure if "Biblical counseling" is what you want. I'm sure you could find another similar program in psychology.

Kelley said...

I think I often had the same thought as you - that counseling was flexible and I could just take clients in on the side while my kids are young.

Only - plan about 5 years before you'd be able to open your own door from starting your M.A. You've got two years of school and then you have to get a certain number of hours (depends on the state) before you can practice independently. It can be done in two, but it usually takes longer. So unless you are putting off kids for 5 more, you'd have to come up with an agency position of some type that was flexible.

Also, clients on the side can get complicated. Where will you take them in? Will you make enough to pay partial rent for an office? Your home? How do you deal with boundary issues then, etc.?

I only write this out because these are the exact types of questions I ask myself ... and I'm already 3 years into the process! Wouldn't change my career path for anything, but it's definitely not a simple one at all.

weelass said...

Did you not finish your degree, or are you saying you need a specific degree? There are many positions in social services that just require A degree. My position only requires a diploma or GED. I can apply for a hire qualified position, though, since I have A degree. Our agency is going to pay for me to get a certificate, then they will subsidize a degree if I choose to go on.
Have you looked at your local United Way listing? Think about the population you would like to work with while you skim it. That is how I found my job.
It is true what Kaycee said. Social work is very hard and many people can become jaded. But there is a fine line between becoming jaded and becoming wisened. I could write a book on it, so I will just leave it at that...