Director of Counseling and Careers

Howard H. Meyers

Tell us about your work---what do you do? As Director of a university counseling and career services office, I do a variety of activities that I find stimulating and enjoyable. Even though it's no longer my primary responsibility, I still get to talk to students about problems they may be having in their personal life, or with grades and academics, or with their career planning. It's very rewarding for me to be able to assist students in working their way through a problem or situation that has been troubling them. Since I enjoy public speaking, I'm frequently asked to talk to student groups (fraternities, sororities, honor societies) and to different classes on a wide range of topics (dealing with test anxiety, study skills, career planning). My administrative responsibilities have me supervising a staff of counselors and managing several budgets. Working at a university means that I must have scholarly articles published. The research required to write a scholarly piece means I must explore areas of great personal interest. I take personal pride in seeing a manuscript published in a scholarly journal. While the work may take on a sense of routine, every school year there is a whole new cast of characters coming on campus. University life has its own energy and enthusiasm. There is rarely a dull moment. What skills are needed? Surprisingly, the most important skill may be the ability to listen carefully. It's also important to have good problem solving skills and be able to respond non-judgmentally. Communication skills are important as well, both written and oral. What was your major? As an undergraduate, I majored in psychology with a minor in French . My master's degree was in counselor education . My doctoral work was in counseling psychology and neurophilosophy . How did you get started in your career? My first position was part-time as a career counselor for a national career counseling organization. Since the director of the counseling organization was a nationally prominent vocational psychologist , I received very good training and excellent exposure to what was happening in career counseling circles. I realized that I would need more education. So, I began working on my Ph.D. My part-time position led to a full-time position in career counseling with an agency. I worked for a year at the agency polishing my skills, but I realized the agency might lose it's funding. Fortunately, a local university was looking for a career counselor performing the same skills that I had been using. I applied, was hired, and have been at the university ever since. What experience do you need in this job? Counseling students and supervising professional staff in a university environment would definitely be helpful experience to have. Describe your "typical" workday: My typical workday starts by turning on my personal computer to check my schedule. During the fall and spring semesters, employers may be on campus to interview graduates for professional positions. So, I next meet with the employers and welcome them to the university, and I see if there is anything I can do to help ensure there interview schedule goes smoothly. I will usually speak to at least one student in the morning about some kind of problem or career related concern, and I will likely meet with one or more of my counseling staff during the morning. After lunch, I may attend a committee meeting, as I chair a scholarship committee and also a committee overseeing research conducted on human subjects. Later in the afternoon, I may teach a seminar on study skills, career planning, or improving reading speed and comprehension. In the evening, I may give a talk at one of the residence halls on test anxiety or relaxation. What is the hardest aspect of your job? The hardest aspect of my job is dealing with ethical issues. For example, what should be done if a student I was counseling threatened to harm another student? Legally, nothing has happened, but do I have an obligation to let that student know that he or she might be in danger? While I may have personal feelings about what I should do, ethically I may have to do something contrary to how I feel, and legally I may still have to do something different as well. Counseling others can become complicated at times. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is when a student comes into my office after he or she has graduated to thank me for something that I may have said or done to that has helped him or her to reach that special goal. There may not be a better feeling. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? I think an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master's degree in counseling are good starts. In the long term, it will be most advantageous to go on and finish a doctorate. A doctorate adds to your credibility when working at a university or college. Work on communication skills: written, oral, and non-verbal (especially being a good listener). Personally, someone going into this field must ask him or herself if they have the love of counseling, teaching, and reaching other people. If the answer is "yes," then by all means go for it. While the financial rewards may not be as great as in other areas, the personal rewards can be quite substantial.