Lauren Lutz earned her B.A. in English Studies in 2014. While she was a student, she worked in the Writing Center, edited the Digital Literature Review, and served as a #bsuenglish social media manager. Upon graduation, she embarked on a career in marketing in the Cincinnati area, working for Cleriti, Everything but the House, and the American Sign Museum. Recently, we learned that she was in graduate school–not for marketing, but to earn an MEd in school counseling. Why was her “cardinal direction” changing? Was it external forces, like Covid or the economy? Or was she still looking for her “true north”? We got in touch with Lauren to find out!
What were the symptoms of your growing dissatisfaction with the marketing work you were doing? How did it “feel” to not be satisfied? What did it look like? What form did it take? How did you notice it?
About a year into my second marketing role, I began to notice that I was feeling burned out. This manifested for me emotionally and physically, and impacted my personal life, too. My anxiety was higher, I was tired, I got frustrated easily at work, and I was in a bad mood when I got home. Most importantly, I started to feel disappointed about what my future held if I stayed in marketing forever. I wasn’t motivated to keep learning and growing in my field, and that was not characteristic for me.
My normal mindset is goal- and growth-oriented, but I just didn’t envision future goals in a marketing career that excited me. In fact, I felt a bit trapped. I wanted change! I felt like moving across the country or joining the Peace Corps to escape. But I realized I just wanted the space to explore what else could be out there for me. Anything had to feel better than what I was experiencing!
How did you find the career counselor? If someone reading the article was interested in rethinking careers, where would they look for a person like this? Did it cost money? Did it take a lot of time?
When I realized I was interested in a career shift, I looked around for somebody that could help me deal with feeling stuck in my career journey. I remember googling life coaches and career coaches and being disappointed at how expensive their services were. But I kept digging and broadened my search to other types of counseling. What I learned is many mental health counselors also have training in career counseling with adults. I sent emails and made phone calls to find a counselor in my health insurance network (to help with cost) who was comfortable working with me through my career-related issues. I also needed someone who had an office close to my workplace and had after-hours availability. It took a month or so to find somebody who checked all of these boxes and who I felt understood me once I met them.
Were there are other jobs you considered?
My counselor took a wholistic approach and had a mentality that we would work from the inside out to explore my career options. We met once every week or two for a few months before I started taking action. The truth is that it was a time full of doubt and anxiety, so having support helped me develop confidence in my decision-making.
I remember it as a period of self-reflection and self-discovery, and it was actually fun to dig into other parts of myself. I took personality assessments and discussed my results with her. We talked about what I valued in life and in work, what motivates me, and what makes me feel successful. She helped me see that it’s not wrong to follow your intuition when it comes to making decisions about your life. I worked to feel more comfortable with considering leaving my career in pursuit of something different.
Once I felt like I understood who I was, what I valued, and what I wanted out of life, we discussed careers. Some of the assessments I had taken pointed me in the direction of counseling as a good fit for my personality type, and I really enjoyed my own process of working with a counselor on my career issues. But I also wanted a leadership role! So, she brought the job of school counseling to my attention. I did some research and found that school counseling would tap into my passions for leadership, helping others, and had an added bonus of advocacy work. I felt myself getting excited about potentially doing a job with purpose. This was a good sign! I was coming back to life.
Did the counselor recommend that you volunteer, or did you think of that yourself? What did you do as a volunteer?
I felt like I needed a little experience before I dove in headfirst and applied to a graduate program. I reached out to some connections I had made around Cincinnati who worked with nonprofits. I was given the opportunity to interview for a weekly volunteer position in an after-school enrichment program at a local high school. It was a great chance to shadow somebody working on social/emotional issues with a small group of students and learn more about the school ecosystem. I mainly observed but I also got to lead a few activities and plan some lessons with the leader’s guidance. I also got the chance to talk to school counselors and school psychologists and understand more about the role. I was sold!
You don’t have to give figures if you don’t want to, but did you have debt from undergrad? Are you going into more debt for grad school? That is often a big stumbling block for people—those costs.
I was really afraid of taking out even more student loans to go to grad school. I’m not going to lie, it’s expensive. I’m still grappling with my decision to take out the loans and go for it. Ultimately, the tradeoff seems worth it to me. I do worry about how big my payments will be after graduation, but I am so excited to start a new career that it makes up for it. I considered what salary I’ll be making in my new role and that helped ease my mind. I am privileged to be married and share that burden with my partner, but I honestly think I would have made the same decision if I were single.
How does being married now and almost a new mom affect your thinking about career in a different way than when you were at Ball State?
I remember attending a speaker session on campus at Ball State when I was a PR intern. The speaker quoted some predictive statistic that said something like Millennials will change their career track 13 times in their lifetime! I was shocked – that seemed so unrealistic to me. I thought I was on a path I would stay on for most of my future! But the biggest lesson I’ve learned about jobs six years out of college, is that life is variable, and your career is variable. You can pivot, and all it means is that you’ve probably grown or changed or learned something new about yourself. So here I am, one career change down and 12 to go, I guess?
Getting married was actually a huge catalyst for me to start thinking about what else was out there for me. When I moved in with my partner, I learned that the state of my mental health and the life issues that affected me also impacted him. I was sure that if I could find my path and purpose in life we would both feel more content. I am lucky to have a partner who encouraged me to keep learning about myself and growing into who I wanted to become. With a kiddo on the way (any day now!) I am so grateful I have the life experience of taking a risk and betting on my future. Hopefully I can pass a little wisdom on to my son if he ever hits a similar stumbling block in his life.
You can connect with Lauren Lutz on LinkedIn.