Counseling – any kind of counseling – can be an essential lifeline for people who don’t know which way to go, or if they have questions and don’t know where to go for answers. I feel strongly about this as I’ve done personality tests online and they all say I should be a counselor. So, clearly, it’s an important profession that deserves society’s respect and admiration.

Career counseling, though. That’s a different thing. A couple of years ago, I was tangentially connected to the process and it was…fascinating. I dug out my notes recently and decided to write them up and fulfill another week of my blogging requirements.

These are the things I learned about careers counseling.

It is (usually) expensive. If you can get a cut-price version – say, through a college or other institution – go for it. It will save you a lot of money. Even if the person doing the course chooses to remind you every twenty minutes that you’re getting the cut-price version and the real thing costs ten-times more and takes ten-times as long.

It is (often) not scientific. I don’t know. If someone leading a professional careers course tells you that the Briggs-Meyers test is so good because it’s “scientifically proven”, is the correct response just to walk out or should you show everyone in the class this simple video instead?

It is not (necessarily) useful. Look, I don’t know your experience, but I’m just telling you what I saw. I saw an experienced lady, looking for a change in career, ask what she should be doing to help with her dream  – she wanted to write books. Hey, I want to write books, too! But I don’t have the social confidence to tell that to a classroom full of strangers, so I was pleased someone else was asking the question. The answer: Maybe try writing one in your spare time? Now, I know: this is not in itself bad advice. It’s the advice I would give (and everyone from Briggs and Meyers on down agree that I should be a counselor, so my words carry some weight around here). It’s the advice I’m trying to follow. But, from a careers counselor, wouldn’t the advice be more along the lines of: “Well, the benefits you get from writing books could also be found in careers X, Y, Z…and maybe also keep writing in your notebook every day too”?

It is (possibly) misguided. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take what you love and make that your job? So, what is your dream day? How could that be made into a job? What would you do if money was not an issue? Is there a way to follow that path to having a career but “never working a day in your life”? These are the dreams. This is, in fact, my idea of what I should be doing: following my heart, my bliss, my instinct. But, what if that’s entirely the wrong thing to do? There’s a great article about the importance of having hobbies: here. When I used to write marketing copy, I didn’t write anything else. When I used to copy edit, I literally stopped reading for pleasure. I taught myself to love reading again by starting with graphic novels, then Terry Pratchett. Now I read non-fiction like a big boy. But, sometimes, following your dreams only means you no long have a dream.

My personal favorite of everyone there, though, was another older lady. The class facilitator asked her what her ideal day would look like. “Retirement,” she said.

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