Part Next

So, I suppose this is a Part 2, but let’s not call it that. This is Part Next, where I tell you about the next chapter in my journey.

I moved to Seattle, I started my private counseling practice, I got engaged and I was making zero dollars and planning a self-funded wedding. Also, I just wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing. I ended up being offered a position in a vocational cosmetology school serving as their counselor/administrator. I had no idea what I was going to be doing on a day-to-day basis other than some administrative processes of the school and being available for students who were having challenges getting through school.

gm1

[this was my office & that was my to-do list]

I don’t think it’s any surprise to you that many of the students flowing through the school had mental health issues. Vocational education seems to attract people with limited resources and hence, ongoing issues resolving their problems. It’s one of the reasons they hired me. I was essentially a human resources generalist with an amplified focus in social work. I updated the student hours against the time clock, wrote the student handbook and thus became the official handbook know-it-all, and managed all student files. I was also the person who handled when a student need a leave of absence, recommendations for in-patient rehab or when they needed additional assistance that a typical cosmetology educator did not necessarily know how to provide.

I ended up loving that job. It was the perfect mix of business and social services. I was embedded in doing good – supporting the effort to educate people and enable them to make something of their lives. I also had a level of authority and autonomy that allowed me to feel like I was contributing to the overall success of the school and of others. It felt like a broader impact than I had experienced doing one-on-one counseling and there was a measurable level of success. The goal was graduation. I could measure my contribution.

gm3

[I also regularly got used as a model, not too shabby]

I need constant novelty to feel like I’m growing. The first year I learned the job and the second year I mastered the job. After that, there was no upward mobility and I wasn’t getting thrown into anything new and/or challenging. There were no equivalent positions available and at two years in, I realized I wanted to continue doing what I was doing, but I wanted to make it official. I wanted to get into human resources.

I started looking at jobs. I wanted to see what I would need to be an official human resources leader at a company. Turns out, my master’s degree was a great fit for entering human resources, because if we’re being honest, HR is basically counseling at work. It’s the highest level of development. You’re already working with people who are motivated to grow and change because their livelihood is at stake. You can capitalize upon the strengths of your employees and harness them for the good of a company. It’s so freaking awesome, you guys.

The only hitch was that most companies wanted a degree in HR or business, neither of which I had. I had the years of work experience and the level of education, but not educational focus most jobs required. However, there was a very amazing loophole – a Professional Human Resources certification [PHR]. Actually, I wouldn’t call it a loophole, I’d call it a great fortune. I studied for months for this exam and passed it with flying colors. I pretty much got a job offer right after I get my certification.

I’ve been working in HR for several years now and have been continually amazed at how perfect my education has been for what I do daily. My writing skills coupled with my counseling abilities have been like Batman’s utility belt for HR. I can look at an employee on a singular level, a group of employees at the team level or an organization on the systemic level. I get to look for patterns, processes & people to support, champion, improve and inspire. I can’t get bored because THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO.

gm4

As I’m sure you can tell, I am not your normal HR person. I like to think HR can be done in a way where you are everyone’s greatest ally and champion. Is it difficult to do? Hell yeah – but so is mental health counseling. Plus, there are so many different areas of HR to tackle and become an expert in.

So, that’s where I am. I feel fulfilled by what I do and I am glad I got the education I did because I think it prepared me for my current job better than many people who get a formal education in HR.

Anyway, expect me to still share mental health stuff, but especially how the mind relates to work. I’m really into lots of different areas HR directly influences that are becoming huge in the national conversation – paid parental leave, a livable hourly wage, work-life balance, ‘Lean In’, & millennials at work. Expect me to talk about those things and so much more. I’ll continue to talk about all the things that I’m geeking out on in the hopes this remains a place to process all the ideas and things I’m learning and hopefully benefit some of you out there.

gm5

Welcome to my life now, kids. I hope you enjoy the ride.

More Than a Therapist

I didn’t become a counselor because I wanted to counsel. I became a counselor because I thought the process would be incredible. Sure, I liked the idea of having really thought-provoking conversations with people as a career. I liked that I would be considered a trustworthy advisor and ally. I liked that I would have an advanced degree. I liked that I would be making an investment in continual self-growth. I liked that it was something that capitalized on a lot of things I was already quite good at, one being communication.

But the times – they are a’changin’. If the economy was a measure for enthusiasm, we’d still be at a smattering of applause. I left for school thinking I’d be emerging into 2012 victorious, a degree in one hand, plenty of job offers juggled in the other, and so many different types of job opportunities, I’d just beat them off with a spoon (because spoons are just nicer instruments of deterrence).

I’ll address the obvious fact that I’m an idealist bordering on delusional. My beautiful picture of my career post-master’s degree is like a Monet painting. From far away it looks OK, but up close it’s just a big old mess (Clueless, anyone?). I feel I’m doing well for my circumstances – heck, I’m doing awesome – but I’m frustrated with where I’m at in my career development. I know to a certain extent that I have to pay my dues, advanced degree or not. You have to start out at the bottom of the totem pole and work your way up.

However, I’m under the impression people don’t understand what exactly goes into a degree to become a therapist. It’s not just talking about feelings and how your parents are to blame for everything. It’s legitimate, damnit! It’s a degree that wholly focuses on how to deal with people. Not just how to deal, but how to make them happy, let them thrive, and find a place where there is harmony among many desires and voices.

I don’t work with ‘crazy’ people. I work with people who want to see their lives improve in one way or another. I’ve looked into tons of jobs in tons of fields out here and you know what most of the main qualifications for a position usually are? Getting along with others. Interpersonal relationship skills. Ability to work in a team. The foresight to develop plans and see them through. Thinking on a micro and macro level about problems and developing innovative solutions.

That is the core of what I know how to do because of my degree! Based on my research, jobs therapists and counselors would be amazing at (given the motivation and intelligence – just like there are bad hair dressers, there are bad therapists) are the following:

  • Project Management
  • Human Resources
  • Internal Communications
  • Employee Development Specialists
  • Program Coordinators
  • Teachers/Professors
  • Group Facilitators
  • Crisis Communicators
  • Recruiting

There are tons of other jobs I feel a core of my training would enable me to do and perform quite well. Unfortunately, with the job climate where it’s at, people want someone with loads of experience and education in their particular niche. It’s hard to take a gamble on someone who isn’t the perfect puzzle piece. Sadly, I think a lot of companies could use someone trained to be a therapist. So much of what plagues companies is not a lack of intelligent workers or time to complete work. I hear all too often about employees struggling because of conflict with their manager/co-worker, employees burning out because of a lack of work-life balance, and jobs not getting done because of poor interpersonal and communication skills.

I have tons of ideas on how to address these issues. Granted, they are ideas based on training in a field that isn’t directly associated with some of these professions. I don’t think that’s a detriment, I think it’s an enhancer. Not only can I write, speak, present, communicate, get along, develop, and deploy a project – I’ll do it in ways you may not have thought of yet. I’ll do it in a way where people actually get along, work is done equally, and there’s more open communication about the process as a whole.

That’s what a therapist can do, if you’ll let them, anyway.