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Kevin Stoltz Apr 19, 2010

Career Dating: Trials, Tribulations, and Success

I like to discuss my work with students aspiring to become faculty members. I believe that I am a good source of career development information. One day while working with one of my doctoral students I mentioned this blog. She became very interested and asked about its content. As we talked she came up with an idea and I asked her to write about it. I liked her reflections so well that I asked her to contribute to my blog. The blog that follows are her reflections on the career development. I found this amusing and insightful.

I think while researching career development with my doctoral program advisor, I came up with the idea that career choice and decision-making is similar to romance and choosing one’s life partner or spouse. There are many facets to each of these areas, what you might even refer to as “roles” in one’s life. As is the case for anyone looking for a mate, finding a proper career, one that makes you feel “fulfilled” and happy, is no easy matter. It involves time, effort, compromise, self-sacrifice, experimentation, and pain. It can also involve contentment, success, even intense excitement. How one can attain the more positive aspects of career choice and development is also much the same as one who wants to find that special someone, a person whom they can love (or tolerate!) for the rest of their lives. Of course, finding the answer to this dilemma is no easy matter. If you can entertain this idea, imagine that answering your own career questions can be like, well, dating…

Have you ever dated a dud? Your definition of dud could include a variety of things. I will insert my definition here – a person who seems to do a litany of irritating, irresponsible, or unsavory things. I’m talking about a guy who continually forgets your birthday even though you remind him about it daily beginning two weeks before the big day. This is the guy who forgot his wallet on your first date and asks you to cover the bill, and who also forgets the second and third (if there is a third date) as well. The guy who calls you less than flattering nicknames in an attempt to be cute and make you feel flattered, but which are actually insulting (e.g. “my sweet, pudgy bunny”), etc. Or even more sinister, the fellow who, after dating you for several years, grows to take you for granted and spends many a night partying at the bars and then acts surprised and disheartened when you refuse to put up with his bachelor-like antics and break off the relationship. To put it in the wise words of Beyonce, “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it!”

Or maybe it is neither of the aforementioned situations. Maybe he is a nice chap who treats you well, like a woman should be treated. It’s just that nasty spinach that constantly gets stuck in his teeth that he is never aware of but somehow the whole world sees. The kind that sits there and decays, turning into a smell so bad you’d think dragons from Hogwarts School were flying out of his mouth that only Harry Potter could kill. And yes, I am writing “man” here, but these types of situations can all certainly apply to female love interests as well, and to gay or lesbian couples. And please do not mistake what I said earlier. Men do not always have to foot the bill on dates. : )

When putting this relationship into the context of career development, please relax and imagine your answers to the following questions: Have you ever held a job where the work itself involved menial, annoying tasks which made you feel as though the job itself was completely useless and that it had no impact on your life and career whatsoever? That it was good only as much as the meager amount of money it proclaimed you were worth when you got that thin slip of paper called a paycheck? Or maybe the job itself wasn’t so bad, but your boss was. Your boss who would leave insulting notes on your desk saying things such as, “This summary report is a load of junk. Why are we even paying you anything at all? You should be paying us for having the privilege of keeping our seat warm! You have a degree? An ape could have written this report!” Okay, so maybe your boss did not actually write this note. But I bet there has been at least one time when your boss, a coworker, etc. has made you feel like that. (If not, then let me know where you work and I will apply there!) Or maybe the job is fine, not your cup of tea, but tolerable, and your supervisor is nice, along with all of your coworkers, clients, etc. It isn’t them – it’s you. And by you I do not mean something is wrong with you – perhaps you just have not found the right job. Perhaps it is even more terrifying. Perhaps you have not found the right career.

As counselors, we are always looking for ways to relate to our clients and help them see the successes they achieve in life. Many career clients come to me with stories of failed career starts, difficulty in maintaining interest, and feelings of not be appreciated beyond the status of a warm body. Drawing attention to clients other life roles and possible successes in those areas can be an important way of encouraging clients to continue to make movement on career issues. Leaving a relationship or work situations when you are just “comfortable” is always painful and difficult, but the rewards can be exhilarating!!!

Rebekah Reysen is a doctoral student at The University of Mississippi, Counselor Education Program. Her area of strongest interest is career issues related to women. She would love to read your reactions to her lamentations about career dating!

Kevin Stoltz is counselor and an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi. He specializes in career counseling and Adlerian Psychology and has a strong interest (no pun intended) in early recollections related to work life.

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