Career Counseling for the Career Counselor

By Sarah McElroy posted 01-09-2018 07:26

“What is YOUR next career goal?” was the pointed and personal question recently asked of me in a meeting with one of my students.

Our meeting consisted of my attempts to describe the importance of establishing career goals. This included a robust discussion of potential majors and career paths for this student, steps to start gaining experience in these areas, and professional goals to establish to provide a clear framework.

I was asked by the student to describe what happens when you meet a career goal. I suggested creating a new goal to replace the goal that was obtained, and emphasized the importance of continually establishing goals for ourselves. In my meetings with students, I often use myself as an example. In this particular conversation, I mentioned how I had reached my ultimate career goal of becoming a director of career services.

It was at this moment, that my wise student looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “What is YOUR next career goal?” Unfortunately, I was caught off guard by this question and stuttered out an incoherent response. Embarrassed to say that I had not thought of a new career goal yet, I answered that I was in the planning stages for my new career goal (which was not actually true at the time!).

If it’s that important to continue to create career goals for ourselves, what is our next goal? We need to fully embrace our own advice that we give to our students, as it is usually applicable to ourselves as well.

This question from my student has helped me to seriously sit down and evaluate my progress, my previously set career goals, and my future career plans. Thinking introspectively is not something for which we typically give ourselves time. As professionals in the field of career services or career counseling, we are always striving to help our clients or students with this issue.

This moment reminded me that we need to give ourselves time to plan for our own career goals and professional development. We need to consider our own futures in the field and strive for a new career goal, if we have reached our previously set one, or strive for additional professional development, conference attendance or presentations (like NACE Annual Conferences!) and other ways of gaining experience in our fields.

That moment with my student who asked about my career goals was the moment I knew that I needed a new one. I’ll never forget that moment and credit my current career aspirations to that student. This experience also showed me the impact that our students have on our own lives, and it made me appreciate even more how much I enjoy working with students in an institution of higher education.