People often ask me what a career consultant (also called a career counselor or career coach) does. Of course we career coaches, like most other professionals, do a variety of things depending on the client’s needs, but we can surely delineate certain common areas of expertise. The ultimate goal is to help each client achieve a happy and fulfilling career.
A career counselor or coach responds to whatever career-related issues are troubling the client. One of the most commonly asked questions is how to determine a new career direction. “I’ve been doing such and such for a number of years and I’m sick of it or I really don’t like it,” they say. “But I don’t know what other career I want to pursue or even how to figure it out.”
Because this question is very perplexing to the person and because it can be a difficult question to resolve on one’s own, the career consultant can be very helpful. We don’t know what the client wants to do, but part of our expertise is to help the client define what he wants to do. The client may be too close to the issue and may lack the needed objectivity to define an answer. The career consultant is not personally involved with the issue and therefore can guide the client through the steps which will allow her/him to identify one or more possibilities s/he wants to pursue. Because the consultant has worked with a variety of clients on similar issues over a period of years, s/he can be an effective guide.
If the client wants — or sometimes needs — to choose a new direction, the first step is for him/her to define his/her favorite skills, interests, values. This can be done with exercises, various assessment instruments (sometimes called “tests”) and discussion with the career counselor. I like to give exercises as homework so the client has time to think about them before we discuss them in our next meeting. Combining the client’s favorite skills and interests, we can usually come up with one or two areas of interest–sometimes three–that the client would like to explore. This is the first and very important part of the career counseling process.
The second part is equally important but more marketing-oriented. How is the client going to sell her/his transferable skills and background to get the kind of job they have just defined? In order to begin the job search, we need first to produce a resume and some cover letters targeted towards the desired type of position. If the client is targeting more than one area, s/he may need to write more than one set of resumes and cover letters. Some coaches may write the documents for the client. Others will certainly give suggestions, samples and perhaps do some editing.
Once the marketing materials are prepared, the coach will assist the client in creating and implementing an effective job search strategy. This will involve building a network of contacts, both face to face and on-line. The coach can instruct the client in informational interviewing, as well as building a LinkedIn profile and other on-line contacts.
These connecting activities, which account for 65-75% of hirings, may be unfamiliar to a number of clients but they are very useful skills that can be mastered with a coach. Although looking for jobs on line is usually not the most effective way to search for a job, some attention can be paid to responding to some of the more useful web sites for the particular search.
As the client begins to make connections in the job market, s/he will begin to generate interviews. The career coach can talk with the client about interviews, give sample interview questions and practice interviewing with the client. As the process evolves, the coach can continue to answer questions, provide accountability and teach the client to negotiate a compensation package.