Here’s What You Should Know Before Entering a Helping Profession

If you’ve decided to enter a helping profession, making a real difference in the lives of others is an important life goal for you. That’s great — society needs more people who are ready and willing to dedicate their lives to helping others. But there are things every aspiring teacher, social worker, psychotherapist, or human services administrator should know before entering one of these helping professions. Otherwise, you run the risk of burnout.

You may already be aware that your chosen helping profession doesn’t pay well, but you’ll need to spend some time also coming to grips with what that’s going to mean for your financial life. Some solid personal finance skills and financial planning tips will do you well over the course of your career, especially if you’re in one of the lower-paying helping professions. You’ll also need to know how to set a good example for those you’re helping, and if you’re working as a therapist or counselor of any kind, how to keep your own issues from interfering with the help you give clients.

You May Not Have a Lot of Money

Now, this isn’t true of every helping profession. Physicians, surgeons, and family doctors are considered helping professionals, and they bring home six figures. But if you want to be a psychotherapist, a teacher, or a social worker, your pay will be a lot more modest.

If you’re like most people who are drawn to the helping professions, money isn’t your primary motivator. You’re probably already willing to accept that you’ll have to learn to live on less. That means you’ll need to develop good personal finance skills and a solid financial plan before you even start school.

Blogger Andrea Whitmer advises aspiring teachers to minimize their educational costs, and that advice could just as easily be extended to aspiring social workers, human services administrators, and psychotherapists. One way to do that is to forego a traditional brick-and-mortar school and choose an online degree program, which will allow you to keep working and minimize costs.

You’ll also need to prepare yourself psychologically for the day, some years out of college, when your friends start pulling ahead of you financially. You’ll get raises and promotions, too, but you still might not be able to keep up with friends who chose more lucrative professions. Life milestones like buying a home might take longer for you to reach, but you’ll get there. Cultivate patience.

You Must Set a Good Example for Your Clients

For many in the helping profession, setting a good example can make all the difference to the people you’ve dedicated your life to helping. If you’re a psychotherapist, making time for self-care shows that you practice what you preach, and enables you to provide the level of compassionate care your clients need. If you’re a teacher, avoiding compromising situations, and keeping a clean social media profile helps ensure that no one will call your character into question.

Make sure you adhere to the ethical standards set forth for people in the helping professions, which include:

  • Respecting the client’s right to privacy and confidentiality
  • Protecting the safety of the client or others
  • Avoiding personal relationships with clients, including sexual or romantic relationships
  • Refraining from imposing your own moral values or biases on the client

By adhering to these ethical standards, you can establish and maintain the trust-based relationship clients need to make the most of your services.

You Should Care for Your Own Psychological Needs

People in the helping professions, especially those who administer therapy, may be less effective in their work if their own unresolved issues are interfering with their ability to help their clients.

This is the reason why social workers and psychotherapists are typically advised to do their own self-work in therapy. Even individuals who have had mostly good experiences in childhood enter adult life with some psychological and emotional issues.

Usually, these issues become a problem when you’re treating a client who has the same problem that you have failed to recognize in yourself. Even if you don’t think you need therapy, however, going through the process can help you develop a greater understanding of and sense of empathy for the people you’re trying to help.

If you’re planning to enter a helping profession, you should know what to expect. Entering a helping profession typically means learning to live on a smaller salary, upholding ethical standards, and committing to self-work. But when you’re prepared for the challenges of your chosen helping profession, you’ll be sure to find that its rewards are all the sweeter.

Related posts:

  1. Is your brand really helping you?
  2. Three Skills To Master Before Entering The Workplace
  3. Entering the Professional World in 2012

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