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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

I Started My Career as a Mental Health Counselor, But Now I Work in TV

Tim Wolfe
Tim Wolfe

This is the story of how a simple mindset change served as the impetus for a career change. One day, Tim Wolfe, a counselor for children who was finding himself increasingly dissatisfied in his chosen profession, had a lightbulb moment. As he drove to work, to the job he’d held for the past three years, he listened to a morning radio show and thought to himself, “I wish I could do that.”

Instead of dismissing the idea, his next thought was, “Why can’t I do that? What’s stopping me?”

Wolfe had grown up with a passion for music, TV, movies and had, once upon a time, thought it would be cool to work in the field. But as time went on, that notion faded and he found himself working as a mental health counselor. As he explained to me: “I guess I needed to figure out what I didn’t want to do before I could finally have that epiphany in my car.”

Now, Wolfe’s a traffic producer at CBS-3 Philadelphia—in other words, he’s working in TV! He’s doing exactly what he once wistfully “wished” he could be doing. Read on to see how he made his move:

At What Point Did You Realize That the Job as a Counselor Wasn’t Working for You?

I’d always been fascinated by how the mind works, and I wanted to do something to help other people. After graduation, when I found a job as a one-on-one counselor for children with behavior health disorders (autism, ADHD, bipolar, etc), it seemed like a great starting point for my career. However, I soon realized that I may have made the wrong choice.  

The situations I was dealing with were far more extreme and difficult than what I was expecting. It was very emotionally straining, plus there were several times when I felt like I didn't know what to do. I often felt like I wasn't helping the children and their families as much as I should have been, and that was tough.

The job wasn’t exactly what I expected, and I couldn’t see myself continuing down the psychology path. My interest never faded, and I found the work fulfilling, however it just didn’t quite feel like the right fit for me. After three years, when my feelings hadn’t changed, I knew I had to do something different. I started to really examine myself and think about what I could do.

So That’s When You Realized That TV or Radio Work Was Something You Wanted to Pursue. What Happened Next?

Quitting my job was stressful. I knew that I wanted to change careers, but I had no education or work experience in TV or radio. So I went to grad school to get a degree, make contacts, get an internship, and get my foot in the door. It’d been three years since I graduated college, so I was nervous about being a student again. Student loans were also a big obstacle.

I also felt very guilty leaving the children I worked with as a counselor. I developed very close relationships with my clients. And because of their developmental issues, I was afraid that some of them would not understand why I was leaving. I didn’t want them to feel like I was abandoning them. Luckily, their families were very helpful with the transition and everything went smoothly.

Tell Me About the Internship!

I’m someone who’s interested in a lot of different things. The Preston & Steve Show is a talk show that covers every topic you could imagine. Within the span of one hour, they’ll have a funny conversation about embarrassing text messages, interview someone about drug addiction, and stream a live band performance in studio. There’s always something new happening, and that was very appealing to me. 

I enrolled in grad school at Temple University largely so I could apply for an internship at the show.

What Was the Most Stressful Part of Your Career Change?

A lot had to happen for me to make my transition. After quitting my job, I had to research and apply for graduate programs, figure out financial aid, then move out of my parents’ house in Reading, PA and find a place to live in Philadelphia. Then I had to finish two years of school before I could start working again.

So it was a long process that took a lot of time, money, and energy, but it was completely worth it in the end.

Since leaving my old job, I landed my dream internship, developed a deep network of professional connections, and worked in a top-five media market with some of the best broadcasters in the business.

As an added bonus, I met my girlfriend of five years during my first year at Temple!

Do You Have Any Career Advice for Wannabe Career Changers?

The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from Wayne Gretzky, via my parents, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I’ve found this to be true in so many different life situations, from small everyday decisions to huge life-changing ones.

I would pass that advice along to anyone thinking about changing careers. It’s not going to be easy, and there’s a chance it won’t work out, but you’ll absolutely never know if you don’t try. If you can prepare yourself for the worst while staying cautiously optimistic, there is zero reason why you shouldn’t take a shot at doing what’ll make you happy.