Assignment: Reflecting on the cases from the text or your personal experiences, provide an example of where career and non-career issues intersect. Where would you draw a boundary between career and personal issues? What theory(ies) (feel free to go beyond the theories we have covered, but if it is a theory we haven’t discussed please provide a brief overview) are most useful for addressing non-career issues? (Career Foundations Course)
Ah, yes, the fine line where we attempt to balance our lives between career and non-career issues via compartmentalization, yet how the messiness of life – like a demanding toddler – can be ever-present wailing at the door for its needs and attentions to be met too.
In theory, in the role of my job as a teacher, I generally do mighty fine with my coveted ideal of “drop it at the door” – meaning that whatever is going on in Pamela’s life that distracts from the work at hand, must be compartmentalized and left aside in order to focus on the business at hand – respecting the students and their learning. This is a rule I learned in training for the theatre and via the ideals of my English-Irish parents of a stiff upper lip and carry on. In the theatre, we are trained how to compartmentalize because if we don’t, nothing can get done by the emotional, empathetic natures of many theatre artists. Just as an actor leaves their personal “baggage” outside the theatre, in order to step into the job of acting and the being of a character, so too do I attempt to do the same in my job of teaching: focus on the students, focus on the learning at hand – this is paramount. Yet, the irony, is that my true being, my true self – a genuineness and a truth – must too be ever-present for the kids to buy-in (like believable acting – we access truth in ourselves to create believable characters). Kids can smell fake a mile away and if a teacher’s essence is 100% trapped in a trunk, outside the door, then the students will never wholly trust and connect. Hence, I need to ensure that my heart and being are honest and that the “left at the door” stuff is managed. Just like in all careers – we need to function to get the job at hand done.
My sleepless night, my sore throat, my worry about the argument I had with my daughter as I raced out of the house, my arthritic pain, my son’s heartbreak, my husband’s work frustrations, the politics of work, my worries about next year’s teaching assignments, my undone to-do lists (that I likely lost), my unsold house, my puking dog, my parents’ worries and struggles, my friends’ upsets, my being stretched too thin trying to be and do all I can – all the messiness of life, simply cannot get in the way of my students learning for the day, and simply should not get in the way of the job.
“Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.” (Dr. Seuss)
Ah, indeed, Dr. Seuss was so right “I’m sorry to say so / but, sadly, it’s true / that Bang-ups / and Hang-ups / can happen to you.” And sometimes that messiness cannot be easily left at the door, especially when there’s messiness inside the door too. Hence, we can manage as best we can and when it gets too tough to manage, as Brown and Brooks indicate, “career counseling is an appropriate intervention” and “counselors need to be aware of how career and personal factors are intertwined…”. (Swanson and Fouad 256)
Such a bang-up is this professional mid-life crisis where I genuinely want to ride into the sunset with my career ideals: success, satisfaction, and achieving a work-life balance – compartmentalizing and being the best teacher turned career and academic counselor I can be. I so passionately want to believe in career construction via Super’s Development theory that “vocational choices … represent an implementation of the self-concept” (137) and Social Cognitive Theory whereby “the constructs of self-efficacy and outcome expectancies are an individual’s perceptions of reality” (178. However, such ideals seem to be a “Pleasantville” of a past black and white TV world. After 20+ years successfully teaching – the satisfaction of a work/life balance is an ever-elusive fairy-tale.
In our modern world – with financial constraints, demoralizing Blustein philosophy of “working” as a means of survival over “career” achievement, and Gottfredson’s reality-checks of Circumscription and Compromise – it’s hard to maintain the ideals of how we desire our careers to play out in a balance of parallel existences, not at a crossroad where accidents can happen. With the wear-and-tear of more classes assigned (no preps), with more students (+30), with extra-curricular service, and the heartbreak of limitations placed on us in the limits of time and opportunity to teach, connect, and offer feedback – on top of the messiness of our lives encroaching on the world of work – added to the seemingly limited opportunities for growth or change, these intersections of career and non-career issues can erode our attempts at compartmentalization, balance, success, and satisfaction. The lines blur between what are “career vs non-career issues”: “And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.” (Dr. Seuss) The slump of uncertainties and lack of control – a reality in the educational working world today – creating a stress and haphazardness at the intersection of career and non-career issues.
Perhaps, we need to embrace what we perceive as this intersection being an obstacle, when really it might be an opportunity as Richardson acknowledges via a “study of work in people’s lives” (209)? Hmmm … food for thought.
At the end of the day, Savickas’ theory of the “four Cs” helps me to manage and move forward by focusing on “career concern” by maintaining optimism and planning for tomorrow, “career control” by making choices and setting boundaries, “career curiosity” by seeking alternatives, and “career confidence” by focusing on hope due to my skills and abilities.
So, although my career and personal issues do intersect, these crossroads can be managed and need to be managed, for I have a great power and responsibility to impact my students in a positive and motivating way that shouldn’t be cluttered with my issues.
Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go. http://denuccio.net/ohplaces.html
Ross, Gary (Producer & Director). (1998). Pleasantville. United States: Larger Than Life Productions.
Swanson, J. L., & Fouad, N. A. (2015). Career theory and practice: Learning through case studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.