My First Date with Centerpoint

Before I get into my recent visit to the Centerpoint Institute, I thought I’d share a couple other related bits of news that don’t fit in elsewhere.

First off, the HR person from the Career Support group sent me some pages from a book called Do What You Are, specifically listing out likely career possibilities that fit with my Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ). Some of what it says in abstract seems like it matches my personality. But the specific jobs seem less like a good match. I half wonder if they mean the same thing I do when I think “introvert.”

A lot of the things listed are very social: career counselor, teacher, social worker, “director, social service agency,” crisis hotline operator, “diversity manager-human resources.” A lot of these leave me with a feeling of cold dread in my stomach. “I have to talk to how many people?!”

There’s also a part of me that wonders if my general stress level is exacerbating my social anxiety, making it harder for me to think about jobs that require a lot of human interaction.

Second, in the interest of trying to offset some of my expenses (especially related to Mad Scientist Journal), I’ve started a Patreon page. So you can show your love with moneys:

So anyway, let’s talk about my visit to Centerpoint.

I admit, I was a bit iffy about the whole thing starting out. Between involvement with New Agey/Buddhist organizations and hard-sell “free” introductory things, I’ve become pretty cynical as I’ve gotten older. So an organization I’d never heard of, headed by a charismatic founder, with a “different” way of helping people in their careers. A lot of red flags went off for me.

Really, I probably would not have even gone if I wasn’t at the end of my rope. After sitting through their spiel, I feel less like it’s a scam. But I felt I should note up front I was wary going in.

The Centerpoint offices were in a beautiful 18-acre campus belonging to Talaris Conference Center. It’s in a stretch of Seattle I’ve never been before, and well off the beaten path. From the way the County HR person described it, I thought Centerpoint owned the whole shebang. I’m less confident of that now, but I’m not sure who owns what.

The meeting space at the Centerpoint offices was more like a very large living room, with really soft sofas arranged in a circle. There were potted plants in every window (the kind regular people take care of instead of some firm), a library of books on career planning, a bulletin board, and a water cooler. Overall very comfortable and homey.

I barely arrived on time, as I had to haul myself from work to there (and get dinner on the way) in under an hour. I’d missed introductions as I filled out my visitor card, and so I didn’t realize that the person giving the talk was the Executive Director of the place until I looked her up on the website later.

All told there were six attendees present, myself included. One person had a career goal but didn’t know how to get there. One person was the daughter of the first person who got dragged there by her father. The rest were in my situation: No clue what they wanted to do with their lives.

I don’t know that I can adequately recap what they talked about, but I’ll give it the old college try. (Or maybe it’s the new college. I lose track.)

Their whole thing starts with a general philosophy of change cycles, which they arrange in a circle. They describe it as being true of any sort of change in your life, whether it’s a divorce or a death in the family or a job change situation. But they specifically apply it to career management there.

I haven’t looked into it closely yet, so I don’t know how universal their philosophy is. The Buddhist in me wonders how it compares to the Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life. Having just been subjected to A3 Lean Training, I’m wondering how well it maps out the PDCA process as well. If nothing else, I want to compare them for my epic bureaucratic fantasy novel I’m going to write in November.

They primarily have three workshops that they spoke about.

There’s “Navigating Change,” which is supposed to help you understand their philosophy and understand where you are in the cycle. “Vision Into Action” is a workshop on bringing your vision into interviews, networking, understanding the 21st century workworld. These are each $165.

The other one, “Passion Search,” is the one that was recommended to me and the one to which I paid the most attention. It’s built around six people and a facilitator. Rather than going with mere personality tests and stock lists, it’s meant to be a collaborative sharing thing where you do exercises at home by yourself and then share and interact with the other workshoppers. The homework includes doing informational interviews with people in different fields. The workshop time is 20 hours over the course of either 5 or 8 days. It costs $625.

It’s an intimate sharing your feelings sort of thing. Which instantly makes me panic a little bit. Sharing my feels with five strangers…? *And* doing informational interviews with people in different career fields?! I have trouble with the thought sharing my feelings with five people I know pretty well. I’m inclined towards a big “NOPE.” But they swear by the concept, so I’m a little hesitant to dismiss it outright. I’m struggling with the question of where social anxiety balances against the need to change.

They do offer one-on-one counseling at the cost of $95/hour for one of their staff trainers and $175/hour if you want to meet with their resident expert. For comparison, I spent $125 to see a professional career counselor.

They don’t hard sell the thing. At the end of the spiel, they left you to your own devices. However, they *did* give coupons for discounts on their services if you act within two weeks of the introductory thing. (And then a week later I received a follow up email from the Executive Director checking in on me I gave her the same answer I decided on here and seemed to agree with my reasoning.)

There was also an out that they offered which will probably be my first step: the founder of Centerpoint has a book, The Time Between Dreams. Which is significantly cheaper than attending a workshop. It’s $21.95 if you buy it directly from Centerpoint, plus $5 for shipping if you want it shipped to you.

It’s available through Amazon for the bizarre price of $27.43. Not discounted to that price. Just set at that price. My best guess is that it’s a price set by the author to offset whatever cut Amazon takes from selling it as opposed to them ordering physical copies and keeping on hand.

Though it appears to be published through Amazon, there is a bizarre lack of an ebook version. Which is a shame, because I’d really rather read it on my Kindle iPhone app. (And I’d like to pay less than $25-$30 for what Amazon describes as a a 165-page book.)

My strategy at this point is to try and buy the book when I can afford it, and base any decision I make on workshops from the written description of their process. I won’t be able to take advantage of their two-week discounts, but I figure it’s worth a shot.

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