From Hitting Burnout as a Counselor to Finding My Spark in TechFeatured

“I really don’t care,” is not the thought that should be running through your head as a school counselor listening to a middle school student describe their severe mental health symptoms. But it is, nonetheless, what I was thinking more often than not as a school counselor in the middle of a pandemic. So I decided that I needed a change.

I’ve learned a lot between that point and where I am now, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is this: figure out what energizes and empowers you and make sure that is what you’re bringing to the table.

Time for a Change

When I hit burnout as a counselor, the biggest question facing me was, “If I don’t want to work in mental health, what am I going to do next?”. I sat down to reflect on what I needed and wanted for my next move and decided it came down to three things:

1) No middle schoolers, and definitely no responsibility for others’ mental health,

2) The flexibility to prioritize my own mental health and self-care (bonus points for remote options),

and 3) More money than I’d ever get working in K-12 education.

With these three criteria in mind, tech seemed to me like the obvious industry to pivot to. I’d always been good with computers. My dad and lots of my friends were in tech, and I was pretty sure I could learn the concrete skills I needed to land a job as a software engineer.

The Game Plan

So I came up with a game plan.

Step 1: Learn to code. I signed up for Codecademy’s Computer Science Professional Certification and started learning Python.

Step 2: Hire a career coach. I enlisted the services of a coach highly recommended by a friend to help me rewrite my resume and LinkedIn for a completely new industry.

Step 3: Apply to jobs. And I did. So many jobs. But then…crickets. For months I got no responses, and didn’t have a single interview. I tried to network, and while I had many great conversations with lovely, helpful people, they all felt like total dead ends. I felt depressed and hopeless. I started to question if I had made a mistake in trying to switch careers.

Where it All Went Wrong, and Putting it to Rights

And then, nine months into my job search, a series of events led to a lightbulb moment: I’d been spending the last nine months operating from a place of desperation, insecurity, and fear. I’d been approaching the search with an attitude of “please, I’ll do anything, just give me a job,” not feeling confident in my newly learned technical skills, and not having a clear vision to pitch to the people with whom I was networking.

Not to be too woo about it all, but I was putting a lot of negative and desperate energy into the world. And, surprise, surprise, I was getting a lot of negativity and stagnation back.

So, I once again decided it was time for a change. I again took some time to reflect, but instead of focusing on what I wanted my day-to-day work to look like, I focused on how I wanted to feel while I was doing it.

After so long feeling depressed and hopeless, I wanted to feel confident, energized, and badass. So what was going to get me to that feeling? The things I already knew I was good at and loved doing. For me, that was two fold - logistics & organization, and community building. As my new LinkedIn headline says, I love to “streamline operations and foster inclusivity” – things I could definitely do in the tech industry, I just needed to start focusing on the roles that would let me do that.

It’s only been a couple of weeks since this lightbulb moment and side quest of self-discovery, and I can tell you that my entire outlook on this job search has changed. Instead of dreading opening up my computer every morning to apply to more jobs I don’t feel qualified for and likely won’t get answers back from, I start working each morning excited to bring my authentic and powerful self to the table.

It hasn’t all been easy. I’ve rebuilt my LinkedIn and resume from the ground up, making sure they align with my new goals and the version of myself that I’m trying to embody; and I have to go back through every job board I’m on to upload my new resumes and reset my job alerts for the jobs I actually feel confident in and excited about. But I’m already feeling it pay off. I can feel the difference in the quality of interactions I’m having with people in my network. I’m no longer going into these conversations feeling like I have to apologize for taking up their time with my novice-level skills and questions; now I’m excited to share with them the things I’m passionate about, that I know I’m good at, and that I can use to help them or their companies. My mental health has improved, as I’m no longer spending as much time focusing on things I’m honestly not very good at yet, and instead focusing on the things I love.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you for reading. What I’d love for you to take away from this post is this:

  • If you’re just starting out on your job search or career transition, learn from my mistakes. Figure out not just what makes practical sense for you, but what makes you feel confident and energized to show up to work every day. Look for that. The more positive energy you bring to a job opportunity, the more positive energy you’ll receive back from recruiters, hiring managers, and new networking contacts.
  • If you’ve been slogging through your job search for a while and you’re feeling stagnant and depressed, take a beat. Take a minute to think about what it is that has you feeling hopeless and stuck. It may very well be that the thing you’ve been looking for really isn’t what’s going to make you excited to show up to work every day. And that’s okay! Figure out what is going to bring that positive energy back into your life, and focus your energy there. It’s not too late! (I know, it feels sucky to think that the last however many months of your job search have been “a waste.” They haven’t, I promise. It’s just been a long journey of self-discovery, and you’ve learned skills and made connections along the way that will be helpful in the long run.)
  • If you’re not currently in or about to start a job search or career transition, go you! I hope to be one of you someday soon. But I hope you can still use some of what I’ve talked about today to assess for yourself if you’re coming to your work from a place of confidence, energy, and power. If not, it might be time to figure out what changes you can make to bring that energy back into your life.
  • Regardless of what stage of the employment game you’re in, I’d love to hear your thoughts, advice, or a bit about your journey in the comments below. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn as well. Good luck!
Thanks for your share! I just sent a Li connection to you. Would love to connect with you!
Hi JS, I'm in the same boat as you (transitioning) and on the journey to discovering what really excites/energizes me. Thank you for sharing. I really resonated with you. Just sent you a LinkedIn connection!
Hi! Thank you for sharing! I am in the same boat- I am burned out and trying to find a career that excites/energizes me! Sent you a LI request 😊
Thank you for sharing your experience. Taking steps towards a new path is incredibly brave. I sent you a LinkedIn request.
Thank you all for the love and the connection requests! Sending good vibes and luck to everyone going through it right now!