A Recent Grad's Journey to Success
by Deborah Rentler
As I spoke to a career counselor during the last month of my senior year in college, my first thought was. "I want your job." The year was 1986. I did not know it at the time, but my Holland code is SAE (social artistic and enterprising) the interest code which career counselor fits into. Was it at that moment that I decided to become a career counselor? Probably not because I then spent six months cleaning houses before I bit the bullet, moved back in with my parents, and started a "real job search."
After three months of living with my parents, I landed my first job as an adult day care center worker. I spent the next nine months entertaining elderly people and loving every minute of it. It truly satisfied my social and artistic interest areas. The only problem was it did not pay enough for me to move out of my parent's home. So I continued to watch the want ads and waited to hear from a couple of civil service positions which I had tested for during my job search. Eventually I was interviewed and accepted for a position as a job coach for the NJ State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
The duties of this position consisted of helping chronically mentally ill people obtain and adjust to employment. Challenging would be a highly understated way of describing that job. However, it was during that experience that I realized my "mission in life" (thank you Richard Bolles) was to be a career counselor. My social interests were fulfilled in assisting clients with resume preparation and helping them decide what type of work they might enjoy. The enterprising component of the job was contacting and recruiting employers. My creative interests were also met through the constant challenge of coming up with new ways to recruit employers and market clients. The problem was that it was a new program and the population was so challenging that I quickly burned out and was on the job hunt again.
Within several months I applied for a vocational counselor position at the Private Industry Council (JTPA). The year was 1989. For the next 5 years I counseled chronically unemployed people, and a variety of other job seekers in the process of career planning. The pay was not so good, the paperwork was overwhelming, and many of the clients were hard to place. I loved the counseling part of the position however, especially when clients were appreciative. As I searched the want ads for my clients, I came across a position for a career counselor at a community college. As I read the description, I knew that would be the job for me. I would be helping people from diverse backgrounds discover their values, interests, skills, and personalities in a learning environment with minimal paperwork and enough money to put food on the table. I had the experience for the position, but not the master's degree which was required.
After reading the ad, I cut it out of the newspaper and taped it up to my filing cabinet and said to my co-worker, that is my goal. Within a year I had quit my job entered graduate school full time with an assistantship in the career services office and was on my way to my first job as a career counselor at a community college.
Today I am writing this article at my desk in the administration building of Lehigh Carbon Community College. I received my master's degree in 1999 and began working as a career counselor soon after. As I consider the path that my career has taken, I am struck by the realization that all of those hours of planning, evaluating, and preparation really did pay off.
Deborah Rentler received her M.Ed. in Student Affairs from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in 1999. She is currently working as a Vocational Education Career Counselor at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, PA.