Counseling Today, Your Counseling Career

Career and life assessment: Are you taking care of you?

Amy Reece Connelly November 10, 2006

We are approaching that time of year when various end-of-the-year checklists will be published in a wide range of venues.

The end-of-the-year financial checklist will remind you to gather all the information you will need for your taxes, to make sure you get your charitable donations in before Dec. 31 and to use the funds in your flexible spending accounts for child care, health care and insurance.

The end-of-the-year technology checklist will ask you if the technology in your office is adequate, while also recommending equipment upgrades.

The end-of-the-year health checklist will advise you to schedule any physicals or diagnostic tests that you’ve put off,  check those all-important numbers (cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure) that help you to monitor your health and quit any bad habits that endanger your well-being.

But have you ever seen an end-of-the-year career and life planning checklist? For too many busy professionals, reflection on career and life planning focuses much more on career — the getting around, the getting ahead and the getting things done — and less on life.

During this time of the year (arguably the most taxing time for counselors, as clients often struggle with the holidays), it is particularly important to assess your own needs. You will be more effective as a counselor and, therefore, more successful in your career, if you ensure that your own life is balanced.

Donald Super theorized that our career consists of our many life roles: child, student, leisurite, citizen, worker, spouse/partner, homemaker, parent and pensioner. These roles constitute our “Life Rainbow,” and they are also the basis for the end-of-the-year checklist that follows.

As you reflect on each element, consider how you define your responsibilities in each individual life role. How do you see this role changing over the next five to 10 years?

Child

Are you as close as you want or need to be to your parents (or other older relatives) as they age? Do they have all of the help they need?

Student

What do you want or need to learn? Do you want to devote more time to professional reading? Do you need to explore new treatment options for one or more of your clients? Are you thinking about pursuing additional formal education?

Leisurite

What hobbies have you put off pursuing until you “have time”? When was the last time you took a vacation? If you can’t get away for an extended period of time, can you schedule a long weekend for a mental break?

Citizen

Are you new in your area? Have you given yourself permission to break away from work to explore opportunities for getting involved in your community? Are you involved in a religious organization, political movement or nonprofit group? How are you giving back to your community?

Worker

Are you satisfied with your life’s work? What can you do to increase your satisfaction level? Have you established your end-of-practice plan in compliance with the revised ACA Code of Ethics? Do you have adequate insurance for your practice? When is the last time you updated your resume?

Spouse/Partner

Are you and your partner able to meet each other’s emotional needs? Do you have time to spend with one another? When is the last time you had a discussion that didn’t relate to household maintenance or child-rearing issues?

Homemaker

Are your living arrangements appropriate for your stage of live? Have you taken care of any necessary repairs to ensure the safety of all who reside in or visit your home? Do you desire aesthetic changes?

Parent

Are your children getting enough of your time? If they’re young, do you know who their friends are? Do you know what their interests are? Have you spoken with their teachers, and do you know how they’re doing in school? Do you have fun with them? Are you modeling positive life choices for them? Is your will up to date, and have you established provisions for their education and health care in your absence?

Pensioner

Have you reviewed your retirement funds recently? Will your investments be adequate for your long-term needs? If you’re nearing retirement, are you working to reduce or eliminate debt? Do you need to adjust the distribution of your retirement funds to decrease your level of risk? Will you have adequate medical coverage?

Once you’ve considered these life roles and their significance in your own life, you’ll be able to affirm the positive and adjust the neglected. It might even be the basis of the list that emerges at the beginning of next month — your New Year’s resolutions!

Amy Reece Connelly is the manager of ACA Career Services. E-mail your career-related questions to her at acacareers@counseling.org. Telephone consultation is available to ACA members by appointment.