January 26, 2007
Part 1: Rediscovering My Own Profession
I was looking for my next career very intensely in the late summer and fall of 2004. I looked for help on the internet and discovered Valerie Young and Barbara Sher. Reading stories of people discovering their special interests and abilities, and finding ways to use those to define and discover work that nourished them instead of draining them, got me really excited. In time I realized that was energizing to me. I like helping people develop and grow and accomplish. I wondered if I could start a new career doing that. I struggled with what to call it. I wondered how long it would take me to get trained. I had a course in career counseling but I knew this was different, and more, so I wondered if I needed more classes. I thought, Classes in what? I thought carefully about the skills Valerie and Barbara used and decided I would need skills in communication, increasing self-awareness, maybe some imagery techniques to increase emotional understanding, consultation skills, and understanding motivation and problem-solving.
Suddenly I remembered: The field of Counseling is about promoting healthy human growth and development! Psychology, my major field, is broader, but in my counseling courses I learned that focused definition. I’m a Counselor and I forgot! As a Licensed Professional Counselor all I had to do was shift the focus of my practice. It sounded so easy—in theory. But I realized that I would have to market my practice and make other people aware of what I offered. The problem? If I, a Licensed Professional Counselor, took weeks to realize that what I wanted to do IS counseling by definition, how in the world would my potential clients know that help with positive change, personal growth and development, finding meaningful work, and building strong relationships is part of counseling?
I got sidetracked in fall 2004 by the opportunity to join a business and marketing consulting firm and learned a lot about marketing and not going into partnerships until you know people well. I got sidetracked in fall 2005 by focusing on building a therapy practice, thinking that would give me more credibility to be able to do what I really wanted to do, the positive counseling path. By the middle of 2006 I knew I wanted to focus on this path exclusively but could not even put it into simple words where I could explain and market my practice. I attended a seminar by Ben Dean, PhD, of MentorCoach and learned there is a steady stream of people moving from therapy practice to life coaching. I was comforted that his organization specifically focused on taking the skills of therapists and redirecting them to life coaching. In my mind that gave honor and respect to those skills and gave me a way to enter this very broad and poorly defined field within a clearly qualified niche.
During the training we were introduced to many coaching techniques, and not one of them seemed like a new thing or different idea. The other therapists thought they were and they found them challenging during role-play demonstrations. As a therapist trained to work with children and adolescents, I already use a lot of observation and reflective communication and explaining the steps of new situations. I almost never ask about feelings but listen for and reflect them. Coaching was easy, like listening with purpose to a friend discussing a plan for the future or a minor dilemma. I knew I wanted to do this as my work, or at least a major part of my work.
From there I have realized the obstacles that have slowed and are slowing me down. I will share those with you in future posts, showing how they have affected me, how they can affect other therapists who are considering the transition, and the things I’ve discovered so far about moving around them. They include A Different Professional Image, A Different Business Model, and A Different Marketing Method.
May You Find Abundance,
January 19, 2007
Changing my practice from therapy to coaching and personal growth counseling is almost, very nearly, like starting from scratch. Starting from scratch defining what I do, without any product, creating a new business.
I have been a therapist in private practice and I have owned a child care center, so I know how to move forward when my service is defined and understood. I know lots of ways to market (even though it still feels like a chore). I know how to craft a marketing message, generate leads, create marketing tools, and set up the ongoing conversation that is marketing.
I know how to find an office, get the phone and utilities turned on, and hire people. I’m ready to provide customer service, track results, and get feedback on new ideas. I can manage bills and invoices and income (thank you Quickbooks).
I know how to take ideas, examples, and structured exercises and turn them into a system. I see where my target audience could use a new perspective to help them find their path and move forward. I’m eager to conduct interviews with interesting people and turn them into great products.
But all of those things are on hold while I carefully choose my focus, define my mission, and find my unique voice.
I feel like Merlin in the tale of King Arthur. It’s like I’m living my life backwards. I see how to do all the things it’s not time to do, but I have a hard time seeing the task back here at the beginning.
Don’t get me wrong. When I do launch a service or a product I’m not set to zoom straight for the finish line. I don’t have execution and delivery down pat. I’ll wind up overwhelmed by the details of the marketing plan for a while, or get sidetracked by some technology decision. I’m just a person, after all.
But I’m ready to drive my new car. I’m ready to get comfortable in the driver’s seat and navigate the road. I’m ready to examine maps to new places and choose the most interesting routes. I’m longing to see my destination in the distance, and all the different paths I can take to get there. I don’t know the complications I’ll encounter, but I know I can find my way around them. Eventually I’ll spot the detours and obstacles well in advance and my driving will become more effortless and easy.
For now (just a little longer) I’m back at the beginning, being sure I pick the right car. After all, it’s a journey, not a race. It’s gonna’ be a long, enjoyable drive.
May You Find Joy,
January 11, 2007
January 11, 2007- This year I am customizing my career. I have worked as a school psychologist (**legal disclaimer: as a graduate student and then as a substitute, but not licensed), as a child and adolescent therapist (both legal and licensed as a Professional Counselor), and then as a child care business owner.
I have spent my hard-earned money learning about business opportunity scams the hard way. Twice. Both times, within a few months of me being concerned the business that made me a “distributor” or “member merchant” was struggling, I was notified by the Federal Trade Commission that the company was taken into receivership. That means a judgment was made against them to cease operations and all assets were taken over to repay the debtors. In those situations, the people who paid thousands (or tens of thousands) for a business opportunity are at the bottom of the list of debtors, and large corporations are at the top. Wave to me, down there at the bottom.
Beginning now I will be creating a professional practice that includes personal growth counseling, consultation, and coaching. I am energized by helping people find meaningful work and meaningful volunteer opportunities, helping them find ways to be self-employed or becomes business owners, and helping them become better parents. Along the way I plan to share the things I learn, directly from my own efforts creating my practice and indirectly from helping other people.
I also plan to learn a lot by reading, observing, listening, and watching as I gather many different viewpoints on how to take control of the direction of my life. I will sprinkle the bits of wisdom I gather along the way into my posts. Knowing me, they will be contradictory and paradoxical sometimes, so I’ll have a lot of work to do just trying to make sense of them!
Thanks for joining me on this journey.