Q&A: Counselor Lynn Berger on Shifting Careers

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Some people turn to counselors when they’re thinking about a second career. Lynn Berger is one of them. For years she’s been helping people decide whether to pursue a completely new field. But a lot of times, changing environments in the same industry is all you need.

What sort of advice are people looking for when they come to you?

I help my clients step back to look at what careers and occupations and areas are going to be a good fit. I try to really help them get at the skills they have, where their interests lie, where their personality is going to fit best and what they are going to be proud of doing at the end of the day. Skills are great, but I try to help them identify the skills that not only they’re good at, but they like to use. A lot of times people find themselves in careers where they’re good at something but that’s not necessarily what they like to do. I meet a lot of people like that.

So what tips do you give them?

The first thing is they have to accept that they might want to do something different. And that can be a big thing for a lot of people. Some people are settled into what they’re doing, and they’ve always seen themselves that way. Once they feel focused on something, I help them speak about it, create resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles. Whatever it is that will help them focus on the skills that they want to transfer.
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When should people consider talking to a careers counselor?

When you realize you’re not happy. And if your days are very long and you’re not as productive. You feel there’s something missing, but you’re not quite sure what it is. And you’re grappling with it. One of the things that a counselor can provide is that even if you have a lot friends and a great family support system, you still need objective feedback, because everyone sees you in a certain way.

With the economic downturn, how has your job changed in the last few years?

There were times over the last few years where if you had a job that was enough. You really weren’t thinking about your own kind of fulfillment or happiness. It was just such a weird situation. Now, one of the things that happened was that people who worked for financial reward, and that was their main reason for working, that began to lessen. They began to look at their situation and say, “Well, if I’m not going to get the financial reward, and I’m not happy, maybe I need to think about changing.”
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From your perspective, what’s the state of the job market today?

A lot of it depends upon the industry you’re in. It’s definitely better than it was, but it’s not like it used to be (before the economic downturn). It takes a lot of persistence. It takes focus. It takes luck. But people in hard-to-get-job businesses, I’ve seen them get jobs. It’s not a robust economy by any means. But if people stay focused, I’ve seen them get jobs.

What should people know before going to a counselor?

Just call. It sounds so basic, but I’m willing to have a conversation with anyone over the phone. Then you can get a sense of how comfortable you feel speaking with them. A lot of things are happening in the marketplace today. It’s different. Certain industries just aren’t as vibrant as they were. So when you get a sense something’s not working, it might be helpful to act on that. And sometimes just subtle changes can make a tremendous difference in your life.

What sorts of subtle changes?

Sometimes people don’t change their work, they change their environment. You can do the same job in a different place and it can be a whole different experience. Certain people get dragged down by certain kinds of people and just the way the organization’s run, or the department’s run. Sometimes you think you have to change your career but sometimes it’s just that new environment. Sometimes for people it’s like looking at your life and realizing maybe you should take a class or do something creative or get more active physically. And sometimes you need someone outside to help you see what’s missing.