Navigating that thing called work
Nevada Lee chose what could be considered the responsible route in college – namely a path treading heavily through CU Boulder’s engineering school. With shoulder-length bleach blonde hair and a skateboard always in hand, he didn’t necessarily look the part, he said. But he excelled in math and science and it was what his mom told him he should do. After graduation, Lee worked for an environmental engineering firm based in Golden for three years. That’s how long it took him to get sick of it, he said.
“The job got to be a drag. The whole routine – driving through traffic to Denver.” Soon after he moved to Steamboat to work as an on-mountain photographer, and after that, to Vail. This past summer Lee partnered with a college roommate to start a website called VailPM.com. Trading the career for the mountain lifestyle wasn’t an easy choice, he said, but it’s been the right one. And though he didn’t use a career counselor to help him make the change, he said he’s all for people choosing the path that makes them happy, rather than the one that just makes them money.
“Listen to the people who love you, to the career counselors, whoever. You just finally come to a point where you realize it’s more important to do what makes you happy, than to do what society says you should do.”
A whole mess of playing cards is spread out in front of counselor Lori Haugland. But this isn’t a game of Solitaire and there are no diamonds or spades coloring the cards. Instead phrases are written on them: “Creating dialogue,” “Persuading people,” “Doing the numbers,” “Making deals.” The cards are purpose cards, as well as an important tool in Haugland’s work. She uses them to help people figure out what’s most important. The phrases that appeal to them are clues to what they need in a career to feel fulfilled.
Haugland, a licensed clinical social worker, has been practicing in the valley for 15 years and has lived in Vail for 23. She sees a trend among her clients, she said.
“I work with a lot of young men and women who are in their late 20s or 30s and in transition. They’re trying to figure out what they want to do. Or maybe some of them have done things previously, like started a career that didn’t work and so they’re looking for their next step. They want to close that chapter and move onto something new.”
There isn’t a set number of sessions for people before they “figure” things out, but Haugland said there is a general protocol for what she does. She usually has a series of discussions with clients that go into the concept of purpose – essentially a person’s “why.” Why am I living? What’s my purpose?
To figure out your purpose, look first at your values, then at your talents and gifts and finally at what you love doing, she said – “What really makes your heart sing?”
Your purpose may be different during different parts of your life. In her 20s Haugland was an elementary school teacher. After that, she became a children’s librarian. At the age of 48 Haugland went back to school to get her master’s degree.
“You get unsettled and your spirit is speaking and wanting something more,” she said. “People often seem to cycle through. Mine is every six years or so but everyone is different.”
Rob Lohman credits a career counselor in Chicago for turning his life around. Though it was lucrative, Lohman was unfulfilled with his career in real estate.
“There was just no passion anymore,” he said. “So I called up a fraternity brother whose mom was a career counselor.” For eight months, the counselor, named Barbara Hill, helped Lohman to examine past jobs he’d held in his life, along with everything from his relationships to his childhood.
“It was very enlightening,” he said. “I got to look at my life under a microscope. The bottom line came down to I love listening to what people are dealing with in their lives and helping them.”
Lohman later used some of what his career counselor taught him to write his book, “The Momentum Journey,” a book he says that’s about people across the country that have successfully found their own purpose.
As a student services counselor at Colorado Mountain College, Larry Dutmer does career counseling on a regular basis, and not just for students. Career counseling through the college is open to the community as well, he said, (the cost is $129 for an assessment and four one-hour counseling sessions).
The goal is to get a picture of the individual first and then look at careers that match up well. Dutmer recommends his clients go out and interview folks working in a profession they’re interested in.
“Do an informational interview – ask them what do you like about your job? What don’t you like? What education or experience is needed? What are the qualities of a person who is successful in this field?”
Usually people are very open to answering questions about their professions, Dutmer said.
The people he tends to see are people who have come to Vail for the lifestyle and are just working at their job to “get by.”
“They haven’t considered what a good career match for them would be,” he said. “Others are tired of their current occupation and looking for something more satisfying.”
Caramie Schnell can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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