by Miranda Rex, MA, MT-BC
Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were little? What about in middle school and high school? When you went to college, did your plans change at all?
For me, when I was in elementary school I wanted to be a teacher – which was only natural since I loved all of my teachers (and 90% of my family members were teachers!). By middle school though, due to constantly playing the Sims, I wanted to be an interior designer. Then for most of high school I wanted to be a sports journalist or sportscaster! But when I was a junior in high school, I got to do a job shadow of a sports writer for the Dallas Mavericks. It was a delightful, thrilling experience, but the actual job itself was not quite what I expected; thus, I decided maybe I would be a lawyer or dabble in something musical. Ultimately, I vacillated between music education and music therapy before I decided music therapy was worth a try. And the rest is history!
Not everyone circles through that many interests and fields, but did you know that each unique experience is a natural part of a person’s progression through career development? Yes, career development — the psychological foundation of career counseling and a hidden gem of the counseling profession.
Career counseling began, as many fields do, as a means to help veterans gain and maintain employment after the war. The field has gone through many changes since then, and what started as a simple tool for vets is now a special area of counseling with a plethora of assessments, scales, and screeners.
Similar to our stages of cognitive development, career development generally follows a series of stages wherein we develop and grow, then transition into a more mature stage of development. And, also like cognitive development, development can be interrupted or hampered by external factors. While this may seem inconsequential, career confusion can lead to a number of other issues, both physically and emotionally.
This is something I have been thinking about a lot over the last couple of years, especially as the workforce has changed so dramatically since COVID-19. Because of these changes and all the other burdens we have all had to carry since late 2019, lots of employed folks have either lost their jobs or experienced severe burnout.
This is how career counseling can help, even on a basic level.
Career counseling can help folks find a job that is suited to their skills, interests, and ambitions. The RIASEC is one of many current assessments and is an excellent tool that has stood the test of time in terms of reliability and validity. I can personally vouch for this one as well – I took an unofficial assessment and my result was that I should be a … (drumroll please) … music therapist.
While this wasn’t a total surprise, it was validating to see how the information I provided meshed together and told me what I have known for awhile: I am a music therapist.
Now, here is where burnout comes into play.
I have felt symptoms of burnout. I have been exhausted by my work and frustrated with clients and the system. But in the midst of it all, I still love what I do. I can take some space for myself and feel refreshed because at the end of the day, being a music therapist is my calling.
But not everyone feels that way or has that luxury, which means maybe it’s time to take a look at what’s causing the burnout. Is it temporary? Is it activated (triggered) by something in particular? Does the work itself or the work environment have the biggest impact?
A big buzzword lately as of late has been “self-care.” It’s become thrown around so casually and so often that it has lost its meaning — which is unfortunate because real self-care is crucial to healthy functioning on all levels.
When it comes to self-care for burnout, Zunker (2016) recommends “self-monitoring by recording thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when interacting within the environment” which can the be reviewed at a later time for additional insights (p. 340). Or, if there’s a particular activator (trigger) that is causing feelings of stress and anxiety, individuals can take action to eliminate these stimuli or create coping exercises to self-regulate, or even simply taking a few minutes to remove themselves from the stressful environment for just a few minutes.
All of this requires individuals to have a good sense of self, which is not easy and takes time to develop. However, I believe we are worth that investment.
Check out the RIASEC assessment here.
We’d love to hear from you!
Have you ever taken a career assessment? Was it accurate? Comment and let us know.
Miranda Rex, MA, MT-BC