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Her Career Was at a Crossroads — Now What?

“So now that you know more about what the process requires of you, do you want to do the work together?”

Presenting Problem: Rikki doesn’t know what her next steps should be professionally.

Tools Used: Career counseling strategies and motivational interviewing

It was a humid summer morning when I first met Rikki. Her cheeks were flushed and her sheitel somewhat sticky.

“Hi! Water?” I offered as an opener, handing her a chilled water bottle.

“Yes! Thanks. It’s brutal out there. Thank G-d for a/c.” Rikki made a brachah and took a long sip. “Phew. Okay. Now I can focus. Hi!” she said with a smile that reached her dancing eyes.

“Great to meet you, Rikki. Why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”

“Well, basically, I have no clue what I want to do with my life,” Rikki said with a laugh. “I did the typical: seminary, clepped a BA, and then went into teaching. Got married, had five kids in eight years.” She paused. “I’m so blessed. Everything went smoothly, baruch Hashem. My husband is still learning, and my kids are great.

“The fact is that my husband is still in kollel and while he tutors to make some extra income, I need to work. However, I can’t see myself teaching anymore. It takes up tons of energy. I teach fifth grade, there’s lots of prep and marking, and I don’t have to tell you that the salary isn’t exactly plum. I’m bored, and my students sense it. I’m dreading the start of the school year, but I don’t know what else to do.”

“That’s a difficult place to be in.”

“Yeah. Any idea what I should do?”

“Rikki, I’ve known you for approximately three minutes!” I said with a smile. “Also, this process isn’t about me dictating to you what I think you should do. I can definitely help you and give suggestions, but this is about you discovering more about yourself, what you excel at, and what works for your family. Through different questionnaires and also a technique called motivational interviewing (MI) I’ll hopefully help you get some clarity.”

“Shucks. I thought this could be like a one-time ‘Hi, tell me what to do, okay, bye’ session.”

“I’m not sure there are any good or ethical therapy sessions that look like that. So now that you know more about what the process requires of you, do you want to do the work together?”

“Yes. I was kinda joking. Kinda. What’s that motivational interviewing thing you mentioned?”

“Okay, so motivational interviewing is a way of working together that’s goal-oriented and focused on your strengths and interests.”

“But I don’t know what those are.”

“Correct. That’s one of the reasons you’re here. Although I’m certain you can name some strengths right now.”

“Well, I know that I’m a good, solid wife and mother. But I can’t exactly get paid for that. Although if I could, then it would be the best gig ever.” Rikki giggled. “Imagine — I wonder if I’d get paid a salary or per laundry load?”

“Yes, that would be awesome, Rikki. However, as of today, no one is paying you for the countless hours of hard physical labor and emotional energy expended for your family,” I said with a smile. “It’s excellent that you can so easily identify your strengths! There are so many individual skills and abilities wrapped up in the roles of wife and mother. It’s a great place to start.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 669)

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