New Year’s Resolutions for Beginning Counselors
© Jessica Richards, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern
December 29, 2014
Let’s start with that word for a second. To have a resolution means that you need to resolve something that is wrong and make a firm decision to do or not to do it again.
As a new therapist, we already know that making a firm decision to “not do something ever again” sets anyone up for failure from day 1. We have been trained to map out long term goals but, not to just stop there. We are taught to break those long term goals down into 3-5 short term goals and work from there.
We have also been conditioned to expect failures as well as, setbacks and continue anyways. We have been taught how to be resilient, empathetic, understanding and motivating for our clients and when we take a step back and evaluate our own New Year’s Resolutions the same way; we will also be more successful at meeting our own goals.
So with that being said, let’s look at a different word “transitions”. To transition means to develop, evolve and pass from one stage to another. I personally like this word a lot better than resolution, especially for a new counselor. We are constantly transitioning and evolving from one stage to another and a New Year is just another time for transitioning.
I have put together a few goals, for the New Year, which may help new counselors transition into the next phase of their career.
- Define what success means to you
As you leave grad school, or prepare to do so, you will probably feel overwhelmed with “what’s next” and the image of success of others. Don’t fall into this trap. The best way to conquer this, in the New Year, will be to face it head on. Go ahead and define what success means to you. In 5 years from now, if you are successful, what will that look like?
The best question that someone asked me once was “If you could have 3 things in your career what would they be?” I constantly ask myself this question and still come up with the same three answers. Try finding 3 words to describe your own success and put them on a 2015 vision board. There are even vision board apps that you can use to your vision board your home screen on your phone!
- Define your ideal career
To go along with the first one but, to go a little deeper, try defining your ideal career. What does it look like? Start with 3 again. Choose three images or words to describe what your ideal career looks like. You can always expand and change it as you go but, try thinking of 3 for now.
It may be easier to start with things that you know you don’t want and convert them into what you do. For example, not wanting to work 40-60 hours a week means working less than 40-60 hours a week. Put that on your vision board too. Why not right?
You may want to teach, blog, write books, webinars, supervise etc. if these are a few things you see yourself doing in your career, go ahead and add those to your vision board as well.
Your vision board can serve as your long term goals and then you can break them down into short term, tangible goals later.
- Set obtainable goals
This seems like a no brainer but, sometimes we forget too. After you have clearly defined your own success and career, you can then start to break them down into short term obtainable goals. Such as:
- Applying for your registered internship or licensure
- Applying for your exam
- Taking your required continuing education classes
- Apply for graduation
- Find a qualified supervisor
The list goes on and you can add to it as you need to. Don’t worry about how overwhelming this list looks right now because as the old saying goes “Rome was not built in a day”, neither will your career and each of these goals will not be completed or tackled in a day either. We’ll talk about mapping your goals out a little later.
- Map out the year
With relentless focus, year after year, we have all forgotten long term planning. We’ve been focused on one semester to the next and one deadline after another. Now it’s time to put effort into our long term planning and life long career.
Now that you have your success and ideal career defined, a little better than it was, and you have set a few obtainable goals choose 2-3 career goals to focus on each quarter of the New Year. Most likely you will want to conquer more than this and get them all done ASAP, we all have that urge! Don’t fall victim of this fast pass to burn out. Take it slow and steady.
If you need to, rate your goals by importance for this next year. What are your three most immediate goals, write a number 1 next to those. Then what are your three secondary goals that need to be completed? Write a number 2 next to those and so on. Since there are three quarters in the year, anything more than that left on your list, go ahead and save it for the following year. Don’t try and squeeze it in. The only gain to that is being overwhelmed and exhausted. Not something you probably want to add to your vision board right? 😀
- Schedule self-care
Self-care, self-care, self-care!
We know. We’ve heard it. We probably don’t practice it as much as we should and we can all probably use improvement in this area as we continue our career transitions. So, why not add it to our New Year “Career Transition” Vision Board.
Go ahead and put 3 of your favorite self-care techniques down and add them to your long term vision board. When you map out your year, make sure to include one of these techniques weekly.
We’ve spent countless years with the constant pressures of high demands and reaching high stress milestones. It’s time to take a deep breath and balance our lives out. It will take a lot of effort at first, as we transition from grad school to life but, make sure that this is on the top of your list each year.
- Schedule networking opportunities
“Nothing great has ever been accomplished alone.”
When I look back at my own life, I can pin point specific individuals who were in my life that have helped me get to where I am. Many times, they act as stepping stones to help you get to the next place and then disappear or fade into the back ground once you get there.
As you reach graduation and start your career, you will find networking opportunities will be an invaluable asset to get you where you need and want to go.
Finding a mentor, becoming a mentor and join associations will all serve as great networking and career building opportunities. There will be a lot of challenges, throughout your career, and the first two years will be the most difficult of them all. Surrounding yourself with a supportive network will serve you your needs and help you get through each new challenge.
Someone once told me to find 3 people (magic number right?) to have in my “career life”. They said; find one person that is above you 3-5 years, one person that is beside you maybe someone you graduated with, and one person under you to feed your experiences into and to pay it forward to.
Finding a mentor may be easier than you think. Many counselors and therapist, when asked “will you be my mentor?” will most likely shy away from it and remind you that you have a Qualified Supervisor. They are right and knowing the difference between a mentor and a Qualified Supervisor will help you to distinguish the difference in what you are in need of.
If you go back to your definition of success and your ideal career, you will find what you are looking for. You are looking for a career mentor, not a Clinical Supervisor. You are looking for someone who has “been there, done that” and can offer advice to you. Sometimes choosing a mentor doesn’t have to be as difficult as choosing say… a career. Sometimes, mentors pop out of nowhere and before you even know that that’s what they are, you are already well on your way.
A mentor will provide you with knowledge, business and life skills, perspective and vision, wisdom, and be a sounding board for you and your career goals. Mentors will come and go and your needs for a mentor will change just as much as your mentors.
Never forget to pay it forward and pass along the information and experience you have gained to others who will be following in your footsteps as well. Feeding this information into a graduate student a few months or years behind you, will only serve you and your passion for your career and help prevent you from becoming burnt out. You will also learn new ideas and changes to the profession from someone who has just entered the field as well. Often time’s mentors don’t see the relationship as being equally beneficial which only serves as an injustice to both individuals.
Always keep someone close to you, who is walking the same path as you at the same time. Someone you can share your current struggles and who “gets it” because they are going through it with you, these relationships will assist you along the way by providing a place to vent and share your struggles, concerns and worries with and to be that cushion of support when you just need someone “there with you”.
So, for your vision board make sure to place these long term goals on your board (Mentor, Mentee, Equal and associations to join). Pick out a few associations and research their benefits, choose one that best fits your personal career goals and needs. This may change year to year as well because there are many specialty associations out there too.
- Embrace time and don’t fill it up
Empty time is not an empty gas tank. Surprisingly it does NOT need to be filled.
We have all spent years juggling life, work, friends, family, holidays all with school at the top of our priority. We’ve learned how to juggle our time by squeezing in our study time in between our holiday festivities or reading journal articles between holiday dinner and nap time, on the flight to your holiday destination or in your car on the way there. We’ve become masters at multitasking and it’s time to surrender that title.
Don’t fill up your free time! Let yourself feel guilty for not doing anything at all (because you will and that’s OK!).
- Get your own therapist, you are NOT it!
This one also seems like a no brainer but, if you haven’t already then it might be something you want to add to your New Year’s Resolution. This will be an important part of your ongoing self-care and provide you with a much needed outlet when you realize you can’t open up to your friends and family the way you used to. You will need to take care of yourself just as much as you advise your clients to do.
Remember, you are well on your way to the rest of your life. Nobody determines how or when you will get there but you. I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for our Beginning Counselors of Florida members!