Does Career Counselling Matter? A Personal Reflection
Pryor, Robert, Australian Journal of Career Development
From time to time it is good to reflect on the work we are doing. What is it? Who is it for? Why we are doing it? Occasionally even in such moments self-doubt may insinuate itself causing us to ask: is what you are doing really worthwhile? Couldn't you be engaged in something more significant? When you get to the end of your career, will the best you can say be 'I am glad that is over', or 'if only I had done something different'? These are important matters and challenges that all of us should periodically consider. In fact as a career counsellor these are some of the 'problems' that my clients bring to me. At some times in counselling, counsellors have to realise that the very assistance we provide and challenges that we give to our clients, must apply to ourselves and our careers as well. I must confess that one of the most disappointing aspects of my own working life has been to see career counsellors floundering around in dismay when their own jobs have been deleted from an organisation. I suppose I thought that if any members of the company or department had been in a position to be able to make positive moves to new career possibilities, it would have been those who had been advising others about similar issues. However, sometimes to teach and advise can be easier than to implement and do.
With such lucubrations floating around in my head I pondered whether after 34 years working in the career development field it had been worth it! My mind then went back to my very first full-time job as a clerk in the then Commonwealth Department of Repatriation. I had just left high school and was studying at university on a part-time basis. The government seemed like a good career choice at the time since they provided time off for study, reimbursement for passing and job security while studying. My only previous employment had been during school holidays working in a timberyard tailing out in the mill. I had never worked in an office, nor was I accustomed to using a telephone, having never had one in our home. I had no idea about government organisational structures and no experience doing clerical work. Presumably because the administration thought I was intelligent, I was placed in a quite demanding clerical position. Unfortunately, the person who was supposed to teach me the duties of the job was leaving the government (somewhat disgruntledly) and thus was not especially concerned about her neophyte replacement, nor was she a very systematic teacher. The consequence was that by the second week I was on my own, with a largely incoherent set of notes about what I was supposed to be doing, taken down from a largely incoherent outline of the job by the disinterested former incumbent.
Needless to say I floundered in the job, feeling incompetent and letting the rest of the staff in the section down as I created more work with my errors than I ever accomplished. I was allowed another two weeks to demonstrate my lack of capacity for the job, then demoted to a clerical assistant job putting letters into envelopes for a further three weeks before leaving the employment of the Commonwealth Government forever. I felt like a failure. I lost self-confidence. I doubted my abilities. I felt guilty for not being able to keep a job and embarrassed whenever anyone asked me how I was going at work. However, what really sticks in my mind is the experience of sheer relief of realising that it was Friday afternoon and that I could leave the workplace, and then to have the prospect of Monday morning like an enormous shadow of dread casting itself over my weekend, spectrally contaminating every other activity that I undertook in my spare time.
Over the years since I have actually come to treasure that memory, especially after entering the career development field. It has motivated me to help others who are having troubles at work, whose work is experienced as a drudgery, who resent going to work and being there, whose lives are spent in finding ways to drive out any thoughts of the work they are doing, who feel degraded by the work they are forced to do and who want a job that will give them a genuine sense of joy and satisfaction. …