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Career Autobiography

I grew up in Ahoskie, North Carolina, a small town in the northeastern corner of the

state. It lies directly in between the two small towns my parents, Don and LuAnn, grew up in.

My maternal Grandmother was a registered Nurse but had to stop working because of a

hearing deficit. She then worked as a stay at home mother. My maternal Grandfather was an

entrepreneur of sorts. He was very involved with local and state politics, despite not having a

college education. He actually did one semester at Wake Forest but had to drop out and start

working due to finances. He was the manager of a local gas company and also made very smart

stock investments. My mother grew up in a stable middle class household in which education

was highly valued. She attended Meredith college, getting her degree in political science. She

now works in public relations for a local hospital system.

My father also comes from a line of entrepreneurs. His mother was a school teacher

until she married my grandfather. They started Joyner Trucking Company together, and my

grandmother was a pivotal part of the company. She handled a lot of the financial aspects,

something that was not common for women at the time. My father and his twin brother were

born a little later in my grandparent’s lives and they grew up around the trucking company. My

Dad also grew up in a stable, middle class household. My paternal grandparents also highly

valued education and sent both boys to Wake Forest University for college. My father was a

history major but got into the banking industry when he moved home after undergrad. He is

now a financial advisor in town.

I grew up in a very middle class household, in a small rural town. Education was also

highly valued in my home and I was expected to work hard academically. My brother and I both

attended Wake Forest University for our undergraduate degrees. Growing up, I was never told
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Career Autobiography

that I could not be anything. My parents enjoyed and supported all of my early dreams. Very

early on, I wanted to be an artist. My father is very talented artistically, but I realized within a

few years that I did not inherit his talent. I moved on to writing, I wrote little fictional stories for

years. It was an interest of mine really until late middle school. However, I also developed an

interest in marine biology in lower school. My favorite animal is an Orca – something that still

holds true – and I dreamed of learning more about them. As I got into late middle school, I

realized that I don’t particularly enjoy science so it wasn’t a viable career path for me.

My educational experience is somewhat unique. I attended a small Pre-K through 12

private school and graduated in a class of 18, most of which I had been in school with at least

since middle school. While this was the best educational option in my immediate area, it lacked

many resources and classes to truly prepare me for college. By the time I got to high school, I

had an inkling that I wanted to be a psychologist. A dream born out of my tough relationship

my own Mom and pointed comments from friends that I was always the person they turned to

for advice. However, I didn’t really know what that goal would entail, my school didn’t have

psychology classes. Despite that I kept this dream in mind.

When it came time to apply for colleges, I knew my parents would love for me to attend

Wake Forest. We have such strong family ties here and it is a fantastic University. I resisted a bit

at the beginning, but ultimately, I applied early decision and got in. I had some reservations

myself because I knew the financial strain it would put on my family, especially after my brother

had just graduated two years prior. We belong to the part of the middle class that often is

screwed by financial aid, my parents make too much to qualify but nearly enough to pay out of

pocket. Especially when other debt (my brothers education at Wake) is taken into
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Career Autobiography

consideration. I felt guilty about attending Wake, and still do at times, but ultimately it was the

best decision I have ever made. My parents were thrilled and supportive, even though they

knew the financial strain it would cause. They were proud of me and wanted me to continue to

work hard and get a good education. Although my brother attended Wake Forest, he didn’t

apply himself at school and has also floundered since graduating. I received messages overtly

and covertly from my parents that they worried about my brother and were disappointed at

times. I have internalized these messages, and I know it contributes to the pressure I place on

myself to achieve and be stable. I do not like to ask for help, especially from my parents as I

know my brother often does.

When I got to Wake Forest, I floundered a bit my first semester. However, I came back

second semester and set a goal to make the dean’s list. I did this and continued on to graduate

with honors. I followed my dream from high school and started taking psychology classes my

freshman year. I loved it, however, I hated the research heavy courses. I knew by junior year

that I didn’t want to be a Psychologist. I didn’t want to spend years researching, I wanted to

learn how to be a therapist and go out and do it. Along the way, I also fell in love with

anthropology. Finally, at the end of my junior year, I learned what counseling really was. It

combined all my passions – mental health, therapy, diverse cultures and populations – and I

knew I wanted to get my masters in counseling.

My parents were very supportive of this decision, it was logical and even followed the

career trajectory I had set for myself in high school. In retrospect this decision screams stability

to my parents, and myself in many ways. Choosing this path gives me career options that I am

passionate about and provide stability and security for the future, something my brother has
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Career Autobiography

struggled with. I’m sure in many ways that has influenced my work ethic and

educational/career decisions. Although my parents have been supportive, it was made very

clear to me that this degree was on me, they could not financially support me. I knew this and I

have worked hard and successfully supported myself thus far. Looking back on my career

development – which is really just educational decisions – I can really see influence from my

parents. They supported my early dreams but they soon turned to very logical, stable dreams

that my parents could see supporting me for rest of my life. My father is particularly loving and

a well-known helper in my community. Seeing all the good he has done for other people also

influenced my desire to be a helper. He has been especially proud and supportive of my career

path. I also know that being a white female has opened a lot of doors and opportunities for me.

The counseling field is not one where my gender or ethnicity is an obstacle.

As I wrote the self-reflective pieces of this paper, I realized that I experienced quite a bit

of Linda Gottfredson’s Circumscription and Compromise Theory. In terms of the stages of

development, the first orientation to size and power, my thinking about occupations was

concrete (Zunker 2016). I knew that adults had jobs, but no concept of what a job may actually

entail. My initial dream was to be an artist, but I didn’t yet understand the skills I would need to

make this happen. As I got older and moved in the second stage of development, orientation to

sex roles, my occupational aspirations did not shift too much(Zunker 2016). Gender roles are

particularly salient at this stage and influence self-concept, however, I did not have exactly hold

the traditional view of gender roles (Zunker 2016). My mother always worked a full-time job

outside the home and often my father cooked dinner in the evening. My brother was my idol at

this time and I was very much a tom-boy.

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Career Autobiography

I see much more change in my career aspirations in the third stage of development,

orientation to social valuation (Zunker 2016). At this point I became interested in writing and

marine biology. I understood that I did not have the skills needed to become an artist and I lost

interest. At this point, I started to develop a sense of social space for my future career (Zunker,

2016). I began to understand that financial stability was important, some occupations require

more education than others, and that going to college was important in my family. I developed

interests in writing and marine biology, two very different areas, but both on target for the

social space I began to create. Both required college education, would pay well enough, and

were interesting to me. I also dumped a great deal of career options during this stage because

they were masculine or below my perceived level of prestige, for example working in a bakery

or becoming an architect (my brother wanted to be an architect at this time).

Once I moved into high school, I see the transition into the last stage of development,

orientation to the internal, unique self (Zunker, 2016). I realized that prior career ideas weren’t

appropriate because I’m the best writer and I didn’t enjoy science classes. My range of classes is

high school was limited but I knew that I didn’t like any of the subjects I had been taught, so

they weren’t viable career choices. My social space started to change, and I thought more

about what I was good at and enjoyed. I knew I wanted to be someone who helped other

people, much like I saw my father do in our community. I also knew that I enjoyed giving advice

to friends trying to understand why people think/act/feel the way that they do. This lead me to

psychology, a subject I had never actually learned. But, in my cognitive map of a psychology, it

seemed to fit my self-concept and social space (Zunker, 2016).

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Career Autobiography

When I started college I started taking psychology classes and found that I did like it,

however, there were aspects I didn’t enjoy as much as others. I soon found that I would need to

get a PhD in psychology to do therapy within that field. For a while that was still my aspiration

but as I continued in classes, I realized that I really didn’t like research courses. That would be a

major part of getting a PhD and I didn’t think I wanted to spend that long doing something I

don’t enjoy. In some ways, finding counseling was a compromise. I let go of the image of getting

a doctorate degree in psychology, I didn’t have the research experience, financial resources, or

desire to apply to PhD programs. I had to realistic about my resources and what I really wanted

to do, which was therapy. Then, I learned about the counseling field and found that I could get

a master’s degree in counseling and do the aspects of psychology that I loved in a career.

Getting a master’s degree and entering the work force also made more sense for my financial

resources (Zunker, 2016).

Now that I am in the counseling program, I still see myself shaping my cognitive map of

the occupation and what it really looks like for me. I am continuing to narrow my areas of

interest and hone in on my sweet spot in social space. Circumscription has been important in

helping me get to the path that I’m on and I know it will continue to help me narrow my focus

moving forward (Zunker, 2016).

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Career Autobiography


Zunker, V. G. (2016). Career Counseling: A Holistic Approach. (9th ed.). California: Brooks/Cole.