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A New Year’s Reflection: My first year as a Career Counselor

A New Year’s Reflection: My first year as a Career Counselor

EACE Blog contribution by Kelly Scott, Career Advisor at Northeastern University

The new year is traditionally a time for new beginnings and resolutions, but every year I find myself looking back. It is safe to say that everyone’s first year as a professional can be daunting, exhausting and one that challenges potential and growth; that was certainly true for me. As a product of co-op, I have always been a true believer in experiential education and can personally vouch for its value, which is part of the reason I was drawn to this career. However, that said, I have some wisdom to share with new career development professionals that I think have helped me become a better counselor and colleague.

1.  Listen.

As counselors we need to be able to listen. True listening is a skill, something that is developed with practice and time. Recognize the difference between listening and hearing. If you’re formulating your response before the client or your peer is done talking, you’re not truly listening.

 For anyone who knows me, it is clear I am an extrovert. And I know we’re not supposed to say this (I am also MBTI certified) but I am an off-the-charts extrovert– as in I scored all the way to the left in all of the five facets of extroversion on the Step II MBTI. I bring this up because as a counselor you need to be OK with silence. I am generally biting at the bit to give out advice, share my idea or provide my opinion, but a good listener can decipher if and when it’s the right time to speak up. Keep in mind that some clients need time to process and think, or just need somebody to listen, which is hard to do when you’re talking their ear off.

2.  Say Yes.

As new professionals, you need to be open to trying new things, even some which make you uncomfortable. Taking risks is part of learning and figuring out what you’re good at and similarly what skills you’d like to develop.

3.  Say No.

This is something I have always struggled with and probably will for most of my career and life in general. You’ve probably heard a lot about work-life balance, especially if you work in higher education. Echoes of professors and colleagues saying “Learn what your boundaries are” and “Don’t check email on weekends” will forever haunt me. Well, I can tell you firsthand that in this smart-phone-yielding, wireless-everywhere world we live in, work-life balance is hard to come by.

Recognize when your work is taking over your life. Turn off the phone once in a while and say, “no, I don’t think I want to join that committee” and/or talk to your supervisor if you feel swamped. Nobody wants you on a project you can’t give 100% to. Understand what skills you want to develop so you can seek out the assignments that you want to take on. I have come to learn that I hate disappointing people and I associate that with saying “no”. Maybe saying “no” is disappointing someone; it probably is most of the time, but when you have the choice, disappointing someone is better than losing control of your life and ultimately sanity.

4.  Figure out how you can add value.

You were hired because your employer thinks you’re good at what you do. Figure out what additional skills you have and how you can add value to your organization within that position.  Are you a good facilitator? Ask if you can develop and lead your own workshop. Are you good with technology? Ask to join the social media committee. This is also a part of “saying yes.”

Robert Frost once said, “I am a writer of books in retrospect. I talk in order to understand; I teach in order to learn.” As I look back on my first full year as a professional, this quote really stuck with me.

I talk to better understand my colleagues and my students. I ask questions and sit in on discussions; it’s an important part of professional growth. I teach to learn. In an office that values innovation and encourages risk taking, I am constantly learning something about myself, my skills and what I need to improve on, especially when I’m teaching others.  I look forward to my next year as a Career Counselor and tackling whatever professional challenges lie ahead.

Kelly Scott

Kelly Scott

Kelly Scott is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development and “blog master” for the Northeastern University Career Development blog, The Works. A self-proclaimed social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she likes experimenting with new technology to help clients define their personal online brand and enjoys reading and writing about workplace culture. Kelly graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in communication studies and a MS in college student development and counseling. Contact her via Twitter @kellydscott4 or LinkedIn.

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