I saw an acquaintance make multiple posts on their Facebook account and read some of the comments underneath these. The person is a young adult who is working in the field they got their degree in but is expressing much discouragement about not being where they would like to be in the field.
Although I work in a completely different field from this individual, I realized that this person is going through a similar experience to what I have gone through in my professional journey. This realization inspired me to share my professional journey with them. I figured they would feel more empathy, validation, normalization, motivation, and encouragement from my story than they would any comments along the lines of “keep your head up” or “just be thankful you have a job”.
Today, I want to share with you (a polished and shortened version of) what I told this individual in hopes that it will be helpful to those of you who are going through, have gone through, or will go through the struggle of knowing what they want to do but are having difficulty getting there.
I remember a couple years ago, completing my masters degree and my desire was (and still is) to counsel people who are anxious and depressed while ideally in a “typical” counseling office setting. I had the degree I needed, one year of internship experience at a hospital, and had finished with a stellar GPA. I had worked my butt off for 6-7 years in school and I wanted so badly to jump into the field!
I applied to over 100 positions. I had several interviews but no job offers. I had a family member freak out when they found out that some of the jobs I was applying for were what they deemed unsafe. It was all super discouraging.
Finally the September after I graduated (I had finished my degree that May), I was offered an in home therapy job, and I accepted it. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. I thought that although I wasn’t in an office setting that at least I was counseling.
I did get to do some counseling and I learned a lot from the experience.I do not want to minimize that. However, a lot of bull crap came with the job. Several of my clients and their families did not treat my services as valuable. Sometimes, I would drive to their homes (using my own gas money) and they would not even be there or would cancel last min. I was not in a comfortable office but rather I was constantly going onto other people’s turf. Sometimes, I would sit on a dirty porch swing or in a house with bugs-not very glamorous. My income varied immensely from one month to the next. It was very disheartening.
I took on a second job about a year after starting the in home therapy job. The second job was not my ideal job but it was supplemental income and in field. The job was with a local hospital that I had previously interned at. I would work as needed for 2 different departments, one field (school)based and the other in the hospital.
I looked at it as I will be doing counseling but I will also do assessment, which I enjoyed during my internship. At least, I would go back to something I was comfortable with and learn something new-in school counseling.
However, I ended up doing a lot of the in school stuff and it wasn’t a good fit for me. I was thrown in with very little training because they needed to use me immediately. Sometimes, the schools would not have a space for me. Sometimes, people would come in and out of the space I met the kids in. One time it was held against me that I got frustrated that someone took the room I had been given while I was calling up a kid. I learned that you have to be flexible, organized, and good at time management with that job and those are not strengths of mine. Also. I had a couple incidences that were nearly traumatizing to me including having to physically stop two elementary kids from getting into a physical altercation.
However, a positive was that I learned a lot from the experience and found it neat connecting with the kids, especially teens. I found it easy to interact with the older ones due to my one year of in home therapy.
At the hospital itself, I discovered things had changed a lot in the assessment department I had interned in and that was a big adjustment. I had to learn this new version of this position and then procedures would (and still do) constantly change. Our “office” was soon no longer ours and instead we had a desk and a couple computers just feet across from the patients’ rooms and the bathroom in the ER. At least, I liked assessment and felt comfortable doing it.
Eventually, juggling working as an in home therapist, in school therapist, and in hospital assessing therapist became too much to juggle. I got to a breaking point where something had to change. I took off a couple weeks to take care of myself and figure out what changes I needed to make. As soon as I returned back to work, I found out that what I thought were guaranteed hours through in school were being cut, right after I had made the decision to quit the in home therapy job……I was beside myself. I had busted my butt, had 1 1/2 years of paid experience, 2 1/2 total years experience was an emotional wreck and felt like I was no closer to my goal of being a counselor in an office setting.
However, I was able to get officially transferred to the hospital. And although still a prn(as needed) position, I got an unexpected raise and close to and sometimes above full time hours. I still didn’t have my ideal job but I did have something I did need desperately, stability.
I have been working just this position since June…..and I realize now that through the crazy ups and downs I am about to hit a milestone: 2 years. 2 years post-master’s experience. And this is huge because when I do hit this milestone, in about 7 weeks, I can apply to be licensed.
This will make it easier for me to get my ideal job. I still have crap I deal with currently like staff who talk down to me because I am young and they do not know or do not care I have a master’s degree. Sometimes that really gets to me. However, even though I am not where I want to be, I now know I am closer to it. The journey is long, hard, and sometimes disheartening. Honestly, I wish we were more realistically prepared for this struggle in college. Although the journey is painful, you learn things you don’t even realize you need to know and by staying the course you get closer to the goal.