Woman’s job satisfaction is in helping others find theirs

Growing up, Melissa Fireman never thought she would become a career counselor. Instead, she always wanted to be an entrepreneur and own her own business. As she got older, she spent some time in human resources, working for Time Warner and in recruiting, developing an interest for career counseling.

Now, Fireman is founder and CEO of Washington Career Services, a career management firm specializing in organizational and career consulting for individuals, academia and industry. Fireman, who has an M.S. in Organizational/Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University, works out of her office with Susanne Maurer, founder and COO of Washington Career Services. Maurer has an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Marymount University.

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“I am really lucky to do what I love,” Fireman said. “It’s always a good reminder to myself that everyone is unique; what makes me happy may not necessarily make someone else happy in their career.”

The type of people that visit Washington Career Services varies, Fireman said. The firm gets young people right out of college, those re-entering the workforce, stay-at-home parents and those who are working and now want a career transition, as well as those who are unhappy with what they do and want a change.

“We work with a lot of people who’ve just been laid off,” Fireman said. “I tell them it doesn’t mean they don’t have marketable skills. They just have to recognize and realize the value they added to the organization.”

Fireman also added that she works with clients to help them know that maybe it wasn’t the career but the workplace or environment that wasn’t right for them.

Career counseling is beneficial to people because they can step back and think about their career, Fireman said. “Working with someone who’s objective can help them facilitate from change or lack of change,” she said.

Fireman sees five clients per day for 50-minute sessions. Some attend once a week, others once a month, and it all depends on what their needs are. After the initial session, Fireman and the client decide on the next session. “Some of my clients come in knowing exactly what they want and others need a job-search strategy or help with their resume,” she said. “Self-assessment is the first step in career counseling.”

Fireman also added a little piece of free advice for working professionals. “Really believe that you need to know, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why do I like to work?’ and ‘What do I like to do it?’” she said. “The who, why, what and where is so key, it’s what’s overlooked most.”

Everyone wants to send out a resume, Fireman said, but answering how you’re different compared to other people who will be competing for the same job is key.

Fireman has seen a big group of people coming in because they’d like to work for the Obama administration.

“They want to work here because of all the new things happening with this administration,” she said.

Fireman has seen sporadic Capitol Hill clients over the years, but noticed they are no more or less than any other segment. “D.C. is more diverse than people think,” she said. “I’ve seen everything from federal to consulting to profit and nonprofit organizations.”

Fireman’s offices are located off the Woodley Park/Adams Morgan Metro, right across the street from the National Zoo. Washington Career Services offers a free 15-minute phone consultation before the initial face-to-face appointment.

Washington Career Services is celebrating its sixth anniversary this month. The firm also offers workshops at the Montgomery County Commission for Women Counseling and Career Center in Rockville.

To set up an appointment with Washington Career Services, visit www.washingtoncareer services.com. There is also a blog the firm runs at www.washingtoncareerservices.com/blogspot.com.