In just over a week, I’ll be returning to my (very) part-time job as a career counselor at a liberal arts college. This will be my seventh academic year in this position, which still amazes me. After all, when I took this job, it was supposed to be a ten-week, temporary position.
When my husband and I moved upstate, I did not have a job lined up. (He did.) Once we were settled in our new home, I got in touch with staff members in the career centers at all of the local colleges. The Capital Region has quite a few colleges and universities, and I met with people at almost all of them – two community colleges, a state university, and five private colleges. Ultimately, I took a job working with a very different population – low-income adults – which I left just before my daughter was born.
I had always planned to stay at home when I became a mother, but when my daughter was about nine months old, I started getting stir-crazy and bored. Parenting is challenging in many ways, but I didn’t find parenting a baby to be particularly intellectually challenging. Even though I never thought I would work outside the home when I had small children, I was ready to make a change. So when my current boss called to offer me a part-time, temporary position while someone recovered from back surgery, I knew it was my chance to try out being a working (outside the home) parent. (Important note for people who hate networking, from a career counselor: My boss was one of those people I met with on my networking tour about a year and a half earlier. This is the power of networking in action!) I hired a babysitter for my daughter, dusted off my business-casual attire, and headed back to work.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this will be my seventh academic year in this position, and I’m going to keep going back for as long as they’ll have me. I love my job for several reasons:
- Career counseling is a perfect fit for me. I have a graduate degree in clinical social work, experience working as a recruiter, and experience working in marketing. I love writing. I love teaching. I love listening to people describe their experience, and helping them package it to sell themselves to employers.
- I really enjoy working with college students, particularly at a liberal arts school. College is a time of great discovery and personal development for most students, but figuring out what they want to be when they grow up can be confusing and frightening. I find it incredibly rewarding to help students make sense of this process and “find” themselves. I also love helping liberal arts students identify their many skills, and see the value of these skills to employers.
- I only work one-on-one with students. Most jobs entail meetings, projects, and events. My job requires just one thing: that I meet with as many students as possible, and work with them on whatever aspects of the job (or internship) search they need help with: identifying their goal(s), writing a resume and cover letters, developing and implementing a networking strategy, and/or preparing for interviews. This is what I love doing, and it’s the only thing I have to do.
- This position is very flexible. This is key for parents, and I feel very lucky to have happened upon such a position. I generally work two or three days per week, and most years, I’ve been able to choose my work days. I was able to schedule my work hours so that I can be home when my daughter gets on and off the school bus. If my daughter is sick or has a day off from school, I can reschedule my work days to accommodate her.
- I have summers and college breaks off. Because I’m paid to work with students individually, when the demand for these services drops off, I don’t work. (Apparently my boss doesn’t want to pay me to sit at my desk and surf Facebook all day…) This means that I have summers and college breaks off. This is great for me as a parent, because my daughter’s school breaks often overlap with the college’s breaks. And when they don’t overlap, I can generally switch around my work schedule to fit it with her school’s schedule. (See reason #4.)
No job is perfect, but this one is pretty, darn closeto perfect for my current season of life.