Monday, September 12, 2011

When One Career Change Isn't Enough

I’ve known today’s ‘guest’ for over 30 years as she has been my friend since we were in the 5th grade. Miles separate us, but we have managed to stay connected through those years and she has coached me and encouraged me in so many areas. I’ve always been in awe of everything she has done in her life…especially since we came from the very same block growing up. Meet Pamela Milam!

Pamela Milam, MA, LPC
Counseling and Life Coaching

I’ve made 2 major career changes.  One was in 1997 and the next one was in 2010. First, around 1997, I decided to go back to school -- I went to graduate school to become a Master's Level Licensed Therapist. I made the leap from working as a clinic worker and being on the “cleaning crew” to becoming a therapist in private practice. I worked in a clinic setting, helping to prepare patients for surgery. I also was on the "cleaning crew", which is just a more palatable way of saying, "I was a janitor." I remember having a friend who was in a Masters Program for Social Work. She interviewed me for a paper she had to write. After I read her paper (before she turned it in), I thought to myself, "Why am I afraid to go to graduate school? I could have written that paper myself!" It occurred to me that I could do it too, so I did. Looking back, I appreciate my friend for including me in her school project – it was a turning point.  

Second, around 2010, I decided that I wanted to add non-fiction writing to my career path. have maintained my private practice as a therapist for over 10 years (working as a therapist and as a life coach), but a year or so ago, a colleague named Nathaniel Smith asked me to co-author an Anger Management Workbook with him. His enthusiasm helped me to move forward in a new direction. I might never have considered writing a book, if Nathaniel had not approached me with the idea. Once we started the workbook project, I realized I was ready to stretch, grow, and continue to try new things. And then you, Greg, are someone who has been especially encouraging in that regard as I’ve pitched future projects to you and you geared up immediately with information, guidance, and advice. Your willingness to read my rough drafts and brainstorm together gave me confidence that the whole endeavor was worthwhile.   

I remember being told you can't make a living as a therapist. I now know that's not true. It all hinges on how hard you're willing to work. When I completed graduate school, I strengthened my sense of personal identity, gained skills that could be used both personally and professionally, enjoyed more day to day freedom, and increased my earning power. In short, after graduate school, I had more time, more fun, and more money. I would advise others: Do what interests you when possible and keep learning no matter what. If you find yourself losing momentum or motivation in your career, you can avoid burnout by learning more about your career and tackling it from new angles. Since I’ve added writing to my skill-set, I've felt more motivated and fulfilled in general. I feel even more curious about other people and their experiences, and I have found that I enjoy the collaborative process. 

The common theme I noticed from both of my career changes was this:  Other people.  Prior to both career changes, I was motivated or inspired by another person. All it took was for someone to point the way or encourage me to come along for a new experience. Now I want to make sure that I’m able to do for others what was done for me. When I see someone with a skill, talent, or aptitude, I tell that person what I see. It’s possible that something I notice in someone else will spark a thought, provide a flash of insight, or stimulate a new way of looking at options and possibilities – it might even start that person down a new career path.

Pamela is working on a book entitled, What Your Therapist Really Thinks About You and a compilation of essays about Integrity, Self-Righteousness, and Personal Growth.   

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