Career makeovers: Don't settle for just a 'job'

Pam Susman thought she had her career figured out. After graduating from Fordham University in 2006 with a master's degree in counseling and personnel services, she took a job as a vocational and mental health counselor at a community center in New York City. She liked the career counseling aspect of it so decided to try her hand at recruiting two years later. But with the economic slowdown, her job became more administrative than she would have liked, so she jumped at the chance to volunteer in Israel.

Six months later, she's back in the Big Apple pounding the pavement once again for a job in college counseling. But it's been a frustrating process for the 29-year-old.

"I've looked for school jobs online, e-mailed private schools directly, contacted people I didn't know," Susman told WalletPop in a telephone interview. "Some of my fellow graduates have also had no luck."

Susman says she's now not only in need of a job to pay the bills, she's gotten so discouraged that she's wonders if she should pursue a different career.

WalletPop asked Dr. Susan Bernstein, Ph.D., founder of Work From Within, to help. In a telephone conversation that lasted a little over an hour, Bernstein had Susman list what about her old jobs were drains, gains and desires.

"My philosophy is don't look for a job," said Bernstein. "It's to maximize your R.O.L.E., your Return On Life Energy. So what are the activities, tasks, and situations, that drain your life energy, the things you dislike about the job? List those. You might feel heavy or nauseous as you read your drains. Drains tell you what feels off course for you; it's your body giving you information. Then list your gains, the things that give you energy, that you wish you had more of, the ones that make your body feel good."

After Susman listed drains like working with a difficult boss and working in a typical office environment, and gains like working with interesting people and being challenged, she was urged to think about how to change her negative drains into positive "desires." So instead of working for a difficult boss, Susman wants to work with a manager who motivates her and is willing to teach.

"A job is collection of activities," Bernstein counseled. "Who can you talk to about things that you really love? If you find your interest is piqued, then keep going. Make an exploration list and start multiple explorations at the same time. Some of them may turn into ways to make money. If you need money, get a sustenance job so you have time to think about yourself."

Bottom-line: Susman says she feels better about her decision to get a paying job in retail while she explores passions like interior design, travel and counseling.

"After speaking with Susan I was given a lot to think about," she said. "It was a very positive experience to be told that career exploration is very important. Despite my training being in psychology and the helping profession, I am going to continue searching for other ways to use my experience and education that will be more rewarding."

She continued, "However, I'm also going explore my interest in interior design and take an intro course that starts in November. I am [also] going to do some research on ways to include my passion for traveling into my career. I am a big fan of work/life balance, but I truly believe that if I find something that I love to do, there won't have to be such a drastic difference in the two."
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