Two More Success Stories and Two Life-Changing Questions

questionIn March I shared three real-life stories that reflected internal shifts, as well as outward changes, that enabled these clients to become unstuck in their careers and their lives. Even if you don’t share these same circumstances, perhaps the stories will help you take steps to invest your future with a little help from an experienced career professional.

Emily – a success story shared by Andrea King, MS, NCC, MCC

25 year old “Emily” completed career counseling sessions with me to explore college and career options. She explained she had attempted to complete two years of college, hoping to study pre-med and wanted to be a medical doctor like her mother. Her classes were extremely difficult and she dropped out. She then mustered up enough confidence and returned to another college to gain an Associate’s degree in nursing. During her last quarter she failed a necessary class required to obtain the degree. She was heartbroken and it shattered her confidence further.

I knew something was not right since she presented as a bright woman. Why was she not able to pass certain classes? Upon assigning a writing exercise to learn more about her skills, I noticed that ¼ of the words were misspelled. I asked Emily if this was ever brought to her attention. She said, “No, I have not been told this, but I know my spelling isn’t good”. I asked her to do another exercise and noticed the same pattern with misspelled words. I told Emily that it appeared she had a learning disorder. She broke down in tears of joy and frustration.

I recommended she be assessed by a psychologist. She was diagnosed with Dyslexia and entered a learning center program which strengthened her language processing. Both before and while she was in the program, we discussed multiple career options and worked to improve her confidence. Since she did not want to leave the field of medicine, she decided to pursue radiography. Today, she is successfully completing a radiography degree and very happy that she found a career of interest. I will never forget her saying, “Thank you for noticing what held me back and for assisting me in regaining my confidence. I am happy to pursue a rewarding career and grateful for your support and guidance. I am successful now and it feels incredible!”

Henry – a success story shared by Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC

Henry was in a bad place when we first met. In the process of divorce after 23 years of marriage, he had given up his education and career to stay home with the kids and allow his wife to pursue high-level corporate advancement. His soon-to-be-ex was involved in yet another extra marital affair and Henry had just found out about a whole string of such involvements. He was devastated. Years of being put down at home had worn down his confidence. It was hard for Henry to imagine that anyone would hire him, but he needed to work.

We went over his career assessment results, pinpointing options that were a match for his interests in customer service, organization, communications and social media. Henry began to feel better about himself as he paid more attention to the creative merchandising ideas he had almost every time he entered retail establishments. Then he found a music shop near my office and started spending time there before our sessions. He connected with the owner and in a short while was hired on a part time basis to provide customer service and update the store’s social media image.

Henry decided to return to school and work toward his Associate’s degree in business. As his studies progressed, he made connections within the Business Department and his spirits climbed further. With continued career counseling and support, Henry, a natural extrovert, impressed the business department with his enthusiasm and talent in marketing and technology, as well as his support of other students. He was hired on as a work-study student within his department and decided to earn a four-year degree in Business. About this time he also began dating and found people he enjoyed spending time with, people with shared interests and values; another boost to his self-esteem.

In a recent communication he wrote, “What a huge change from last year…..Thank you for all you have poured into me and for encouraging me the way that you have. I could not have taken the first step on this journey without you.”

Now for the two thought (and action) provoking questions that completely influenced my own career journey. The first one put me on the path to becoming a career counselor and therapist, a path I have been on for the past 35 years. In my late 20’s, I was directionless and unemployed. I had just moved to Portland with my then-boyfriend, a physician who had accepted a job in Portland. We were at his work-related social gathering, and a nurse turned to me and said, “So what do you do – are you just a wife?”

There are so many things wrong with that question that it still takes my breath away, and it was a necessary kick in the pants. About 10 years later, I was teaching Career Development/Job Search classes for groups of adults who had lost their jobs due to lay-offs. For every class I played a motivation DVD by Les Brown, and in it he asked a question that changed the course of my career, and now I will pass it along to you. “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”


Anne Bryant, MA,

After 35 years in the counseling field offering both career counseling and therapy to help clients through all sorts of life transitions, Anne closed her private practice and retired in May 2015. She considers herself the luckiest of people to have had such a variety of jobs in a field she loves. Anne has agreed to stay on with Career Transition: the Inside Job as an editor and writer inciter. The other contributors have agreed to leave her archives up for our readers.

Retirement so far looks like spending the mornings gardening with the sound track provided by birds, bees, and her chickens, Meryl (Streep) and Lily (Tomlin). She and her retired spouse enjoy sailing, kayaking, and hiking. Anne’s life is enriched by continuing her T’ai Chi practice, participating in a book group and a community chorus, and occasionally volunteering to help develop a new community garden and to read with a kindergartener through SMART (Start Making a Reader Today). She is exploring other forms of writing and ways to become active in addressing climate change.

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