When I ran, screaming, from corporate America nine years ago, I swore that there were things I’d never want to see or do again. I wanted no part of organizational management- away with the flowcharts, spreadsheets, and silly buzzwords that we euphemistically used: “push-back” to refer to a major system of conflict between two people, for example. I envisioned becoming invested in the transgender liberation struggle as a counselor, working with clients to tackle significant problems in living directly.
It’s interesting that academe beckoned to me, and with it, a number of new interests. As assessment coordinator for the counseling programs at Walden, I really enjoy putting processes and metrics together, and developing process flows for systemic improvement. This work resembles things to which I never thought I’d return- and the only difference I can ascertain is that it’s a meaningful use of my skills. In my previous environment, I simply felt incompatible with the goals of the organization. Counselor education, though, is a goal I can support.
Even more importantly to me is the fact that I’ve found my method for engaging the transgender liberation struggle in a manner that suits me- which interestingly, at the moment, is not clinical work. My primary professional investment is in qualitative research, something I knew nothing about when I was initially considering my career change; however, the opportunity for a level of engagement that supports my professional goals is immense.
I think the “lesson learned” (the lingo term everyone uses these days to optimistically describe getting kicked in the teeth) for me is that we often have very real and valuable skills from previous career lives. Whereas it seems desirable to throw out the baby with the bathwater at the end of an unfulfilling career, we might find that there our skills are an enduring and sometimes enjoyable function that we carry with us.
Stacee Reicherzer is a counselor, a faculty member at Walden University, and a private consultant with special interests that include: transgender issues in counseling, lateral (within-group) marginalization, and sexual abuse survival.