Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Introducing The Wisdom Wednesdays Series

The Wisdom Wednesday Series

"Say yes to life and know that your mistakes don’t define you."

Today marks the first installment of a new series I am starting on this blog. The last couple of weeks, I have been trying to make sense of my life's purpose and trying to put the puzzle pieces together.

But then I got to thinking - why not get some help? Why not ask the people who already seem to have it figured out. What if someone else's perspective on their life and their work could be the key to unlocking all of this for me?

So I put a call out for people who love their jobs - people who felt they had found their life's purpose. I wasn't expecting to find many people but to my surprise, more people responded than I could have imagined. And thus, The Wisdom Wednesday Series is born.

First up, Diana.

Diana is the Assistant Director of Career Services at a post-secondary institution in the United States. She spends her free time volunteering at various community events, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Here are her responses.......

1. What do you do for a living?
I am a career counselor and run an internship program for college students.

2. What does that entail on a daily basis?
I wear many hats, but my most important role is to be a counselor to my students. I may see 3-12 students a day and help them with all kinds of inquiries, including resume/cover letter revision, interviewing tips, editing grad school essays, career testing, finding jobs and internships related to their major and networking strategies. Aside from that, I may conduct a career panel or run a workshop, attend leadership meetings, train new staff, and follow up with employer partners to secure internships for the students; and that's on a slow day.

3. How did you get to this point in your career? What was the step by step progression?
I went to Rutgers University for undergrad where I majored in Social Work. Since I had to do many internships for my major, I quickly realized that social work was not the right path for me but I still wanted to stay in the helping field. I decided to talk to a career counselor at the university and she introduced me to the world of career counseling. I loved everything about it because it not only included counseling but also event planning and relationship building, which I love! I went to NYU to study counseling for colleges and universities but the school changed the focus of the degree to mental health counseling. In spite of that, I was able to work as a graduate assistant for the career services office at NYU and to do my graduate internship at a career services office of a community college where I was offered a full-time job upon graduation working with low-income, high-risk students. In this role, I wore the hats of academic advisor, financial aid officer, mental health counselor and career counselor. This is why I decided to move to a job where the main focus was career counseling, which was what I really wanted to do. I have been at my job for 5 years and just recently got promoted to an Assistant Director position where I get to manage the largest university internship program in the tri-state area. I’m really loving it so far!

4. What were some of your other jobs? Did they teach you anything or prepare you for the work you do now?
Working as a graduate assistant at the NYU career services office helped me to see the ins and outs of the industry, and to shadow counselors during their appointments. It was there that I learned how to revise resumes, how to start creating partnerships with employers and how to process work documentation for international students. At my community college job, I learned how school curriculums are built and how intricate the financial aid process for students is. Most importantly, I learned my counseling style, which was really the foundation of who I am as a helping professional now. Prior to those jobs I had lots of internships at hospitals and non-profit organizations, which exposed me to counseling diverse populations. I also worked at a pharmacy for 6 years while I completed school, which taught me how to be patient and built my customer service skills immensely. All of those jobs allowed me to build all the skills that I’m using now at my job.

5. What is the best part of your job?
My students, hands down. They really are what drive me to get up every morning and endure a long commute in all types of weather! I also get to wear many hats so it’s never a boring job. I learn new things about myself and become a better professional every day!

6. What is your least favourite part of the job?
Perhaps the bureaucracy that is so prevalent at universities and the budget restrictions. Those two factors often make it more difficult for me to put on the best events for my students or to attract the best employers. However, those two factors have also allowed me to be creative and resourceful when it comes to finding funds and ways to create events that are meaningful and fun for my students. So, I guess it’s not that bad after all!

7. Do you feel like this job is fulfilling your life’s purpose? How did you know it was the right fit for you?
I definitely think that my job fulfills me both professionally and personally. I knew it was the right fit for me when I discovered that I could have the best of both worlds as a career counselor: counseling, which is what I went to school for and event planning, which is a passion of mine. Even when I’m having a difficult day on the job or if I have to work long hours, it only takes a thank you letter from one of my students to make me remember that I’m doing what I was intended to do.

8. Did you always know this was your calling? If not, what was your turning point? How did you figure it out?
I absolutely didn’t know this was my calling! I changed majors about 5 times in college and was really confused about my future! I guess the biggest blessing for me was going to see a career counselor to explore different career paths within the helping field. Most importantly, I stumbled upon a career counselor who presently is my dear friend and mentor. She really showed me the ropes and still supports me in my professional decisions. I guess my turning point was going into her office for an appointment! However, I would also say that my social work internships really helped me to realize what I did not want to do, so I was able to re-focus my career early on. I guess it’s been a combination of luck and preparation on my part as well!

9. What were the biggest challenges you faced in getting the door to open for this job?
I would say my own insecurities about being able to do the job. My professional history has been full of wonderful opportunities and people who have offered to help me. In spite of that, I had to deal with my own demons about myself and had to really push myself to get rid of a lot of insecurities.

10. Are there people who inspired you? What was it about them that inspired you?
My mom is a huge inspiration (as corny as that sounds). She is another person who loves her job and never misses a day of it even if she’s sick. Her work ethic and professionalism have provided me with an invaluable example of how to be an integral professional. Of course, my mentor has also been a huge influence in my career to the point where I think that if I hadn’t decided to go see her for an appointment, I would probably be stuck in a job that I hate right now!
11. Is there ever a time in your working life where you doubt this is where you are meant to be? If so, how do you keep going? What keeps you on the path of your life’s purpose despite these doubtful moments?
My job can get very political and upper management sometimes is more concerned about numbers and ranking than offering quality services to the students. What keeps me going is actually my students. I really see potential in them and hope that my assistance will allow them to realize their career goals and bring them to fruition in the future.

12. How would you describe the feeling of fulfilling your life’s purpose on a daily basis?
Just pure joy and gratitude! A sincere “thank you” from one of my students, a satisfied employer who found the dream intern, an event where employers realize the career potential of my students; those are the moments when I feel the happiest and most proud of my work.

13. What does it mean to you to be doing something you love? How has it shaped other areas of your life? Do you feel like you have obtained a good balance in your life?
Doing something you love for a living doesn’t feel like you’re working at all. There are days where I work long hours and I don’t even notice the time passing by because I’m “in the zone.” I definitely feel balanced in my life as I’m very involved with various community service efforts, travel to a different country every year, and have a lot of fun with my friends and family. If anything, my job has made me a better person!

14. What advice would you give to others in search of their purpose? What helped you get to where you are?
I would recommend that they really think about what they would love to do professionally even if they weren’t getting paid. Once they find that, connect with professionals in that field and try to learn all there is to know about that industry. Most importantly, I think it’s essential to remain true to who you are and your values. Although your job shouldn’t dictate who you are, it should enhance your life and allow you to become a better person overall. So surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed, find a good professional support system and go for your dream job without hesitation; we only live once!

15. What philosophy do you live by? What’s your motto for life?
Try anything once (or almost anything!). Say yes to life and know that your mistakes don’t define you. They just help you to learn lessons that will make you a better person. Most important of all, HAVE FUN! If you’re not having fun with what you do for a living, then that’s not the right career for you.
This series will be posted on the first Wednesday of every month. I hope it inspires you and imparts a little knowledge at the same time. Drop me a comment or email me at to let me know how it impacts you. Happy Wednesday!