New Year’s Resolution: Meet with a Career Counselor

Cork board with a white sheet saying "Resolutions: #1, #2, #3"It’s a new year and you are probably making resolutions in the hopes that 2016 will be a successful and productive year. For career-related resolutions, a good place to start within the NIH is the Office of Intramural Training & Education. Here at OITE, we often make resolutions of our own in order to help provide new resources. At the start of years past, we have created Career Success Plans as well Calendars for Career Success. However, often the first place to start with career development and planning is by meeting with a career counselor.

There are many reasons why you might want to meet with a career counselor. Even if you don’t meet with a career counselor, it is likely you are having career related discussions with mentors and advisors. Here are some things to keep in mind in order to make the most of those discussions.

Honesty is Key
Many people say things that are disingenuous simply because it sounds good or because it is what other people want to hear. For example, you may feel pressure from your physician parents to go to medical school or you might feel pressure from the PI you respect to go into an academic job. Individuals often struggle with internal micro-pressures as well as external macro-pressures regarding career choices.

These can compound into choices that don’t feel right to you and are often accompanied by a sense of confusion or ambivalence. It’s not fun to be in this ambiguous state, which makes it so important to find a safe place to express these struggles. Career counseling is often the space where you can honestly and effectively work through these challenges with a neutral third party.

Manage Your Expectations
A career counselor (or any one person for that matter) doesn’t have all of the answers for you. It will be important for you to seek out multiple career mentors. This is important because not only will you not click with everybody but it also helps to hear a variety of opinions and approaches.

Participate in the Process
Sometimes people think they will go to their mentor or a career counselor and they will receive the answer of what they should do next. That is just not how the process works. In order for it to be effective, you must participate in the process. In fact, it is imperative that you be an active participant. The most effective career counseling takes place when an individual comes in with an open and proactive mindset. You might not be in a stage where you are open to this process quite yet. That is okay and this usually becomes readily apparent early on in counseling. But, it is worth a try in order to assess your readiness for introspection and change.

Perhaps there is an obstacle standing in the way of moving forward toward your goals? Sometimes this is a concern about grades, lack of experience or confidence. It can be helpful to talk about these perceived obstacles with a career counselor to help you evaluate them and find a way to overcome them or find a path around them.

Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Assessing and thinking about your skills, interests, values and personality traits is a vital part of any career counseling process. It’s often one of the first steps; however, introspection only gets you so far. There will come a point when you or your career counselor will challenge you to move forward in the process. This is not always easy and it might come at a time when you don’t feel you have everything figured out quite yet. You will still need to take action. Career counselors can help you identify your goals as well as the first action steps to help you get started.

If your resolutions are career-related, we wish you the courage to be honest with yourself and the strength and determination to be a proactive participant in your own career development. At OITE, we hope we can be a part of your career success in 2016. If you are at the NIH, you can make appointment with career counselors here.

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