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Put Yourself at the Helm: Charting New Territory, Correcting Course, and Weathering the Storm of Career Trajectories


What bearing have you set you set your sights on? How do you navigate the ever-changing swells and winds of our professional landscape? Are you feeling a nebulous desire for change, that your career is not going in the direction you were expecting, worry about lack of future opportunities, or even a deep dissatisfaction in your current position? You are not alone. The formation of the Committee on Advanced Training for Certified Genetic Counselors (CATCGC) was partly in response to such sentiments, expressed within a vibrant dialogue amongst members of the genetic counseling community. The CATCGC sought to understand how genetic counselors chart courses for their careers by conducting a Decision Points exercise during a pre-conference symposium (PCS) at the 2014 NSGC Annual Education Conference. Participants were asked to identify a decision point at which they were most satisfied with their careers and one at which they were least satisfied and to describe the situation, their personal goals and intentions, any actions they took, and the outcomes. Qualitative analysis in the constructivist tradition was conducted on participants’ responses and facilitators’ notes from the PCS to explore what personal meanings were made of the decision points; twelve themes related to Career High Points, Low Points, and how genetic counselors made career transitions were identified. Using a constructivist framework, themes are presented in the context of the authors’ personal experiences, and the authors’ share their reflections on these data. We wrote this article to offer you a window into your peers’ experiences - the good, the bad, and the ugly - hoping to encourage and challenge you to reflect deeply, no matter where you are on your career journey.

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We’d like to thank all of the PCS participants and all of the members of the CATCGC. Thanks also to Jehannine Austin, Bonnie Baty, Anne Matthews, and Angie Trepanier for supportive reviews of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Catriona Hippman or Claire Davis.

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Author CH and Author CD declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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All procedures performed as part of the work for this publication were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. No animal studies were performed.

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Catriona Hippman and Claire Davis are joint first authors.

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Hippman, C., Davis, C. & on behalf of the Committee on Advanced Training for Certified Genetic Counselors. Put Yourself at the Helm: Charting New Territory, Correcting Course, and Weathering the Storm of Career Trajectories. J Genet Counsel 25, 720–730 (2016).

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  • Career
  • Reflection
  • Trajectory
  • Ladder
  • Advancement
  • Change
  • Genetic counseling
  • Genetic counselor
  • Professional development