Would a career counselor be helpful to you? That depends on your needs and expectations.
When should you see a career counselor?
Whether you’ve been reorganized out of a job or you feel pigeonholed in your current position, if you’re at a point in your career where you’re wondering what’s next, a career counselor could help you in the redirection process. Keep in mind, though, that career counselors do not find jobs for their clients; recruiters and employment services do that.
Career counseling is essentially a two-part process: assessment and coaching. In the assessment portion, counselors use exercises, tests, and carefully directed questions to help clients identify skills and interests, clarify goals and chart their course.Then in the coaching portion, they assist clients in developing the skills and strategies they’ll need to plan and execute an effective job search. This can include developing resumes and cover letters, teaching networking skills, and coaching clients on interviewing and salary negotiation.
A career counselor also offers intangibles such as structure, accountability, momentum and pacing. A counselor can prevent a client from getting bogged down in the resume or any other step along the way.
Many people wish career counselors would give them job contacts, but most professionals prefer to teach clients how to make their own contacts and how to use them. Once learned, the client can use these skills for every future job search as well as for career development along the way.
The end result of a successful career counseling experience for the client–in addition to finding a job s/he loves–is not only a stronger sense of direction, but a greater sense of self-esteem. Many clients are confused and unhappy with their careers when they begin the process. After some assistance in reviewing their work history and pinpointing their skills and values, they often begin to feel more confident about themselves and their prospects.
HIRING A CAREER COUNSELOR
As you would in hiring any professional, seek recommendations from a friend or trusted business associate. If you can’t find a recommendation and have to pick a name at random, develop some questions and interview prospective counselors in person or by phone and line up a few choices for purposes of comparison. Ask each of them to supply recommendations from former clients. What Color is your Parachute?, the job hunter/career changer’s bible, contains a detailed state-by-state index of career counselors and other resources. Author Richard Bolles updates the book annually.
Once you have lined up your choices, consider these guidelines in making your selection:
EXPERIENCE: You want someone who has significant experience in the job search process and a good understanding of career development and job seeking. You don’t necessarily need someone who specializes in your profession because a career counselor doesn’t line up specific jobs for you. Skills assessment and coaching skills are most important and applicable to any field.
CHEMISTRY: The counseling relationship has to be honest and open in order to produce results. Look for someone with whom you feel comfortable, someone you can use as a sounding board.
PRICE: Price is also important, of course. Some counselors charge on a session-by-session basis at rates that might run from $100 to $175 per hour, depending on your geographic location. If you’re currently unemployed, you might ask if a sliding scale is available. Some counselors ask clients to sign a contract and pay a certain amount up front for a counseling program that lasts for a certain number of weeks or months. If group counseling is available, that can be a practical and less expensive strategy.
Choose what fits your needs and your pocketbook best.