Most people would probably rather get a root canal than hunt for a new job. Whether a person has been downsized, is changing careers, or just wants to find a better opportunity, hunting for a job can be frustrating and intimidating. And since more than 230,000 people have lost their jobs this year, the competition for employment is likely to be fierce. People who want to increase their odds for getting hired may want to consider finding a career counselor.
What Career Counselors Do
Career counselors can help people evaluate their skills and abilities to find a job that fits their goals and interests. They serve as coaches, teachers, and mentors to people with all different types of job experience. A qualified counselor should be able to assess a client’s traits and abilities to help direct them to an appropriate position. They also should be good listeners who can communicate well with people who may be dealing with a lot of stress and uncertainty about their job situation–and life in general.
Some career counselors may have a degree in counseling or a related field, but others may have experience in a particular field that gives them the expertise to help others. A master career counselor usually has the highest level of expertise in career counseling and has met other qualifications, such as being licensed by a state board.
Who Should Consider Counseling?
Not everyone looking to change jobs needs to see a career counselor. But people who aren’t sure where they’re headed in their careers and need help focusing may benefit from working with a coach. Workers who are thinking about getting help with their career should ask themselves:
1. Am I satisfied with my current job?
2. What do I like or dislike about my current job?
3. How can I improve my current job?
4. Do I have the work-life balance I want?
5. What are my short- and long-term goals for my career?
6. What other jobs can I qualify for with my skills?
Downsized in America
People who haven’t had to look for a job in many years may be ill-equipped for their search and may be perfect candidates for career counseling. Companies all across America are cutting jobs, forcing many workers to dust off outdated resumes. A qualified counselor can help put together a resume, practice interviewing techniques, administer assessment tests, or evaluate new career paths. The right coach can help a person evaluate jobs they’ve never considered that may allow them to use their current skills.
For people who are looking for a whole new career, a counselor can help them decide whether they have the necessary skills or need to continue their education. Some people may find that the type of work they’ve been doing has become obsolete. Many unskilled workers have found themselves forced out of jobs that can be done by a computer or a machine. A good career counselor should listen to workers’ needs and assess their strengths and weaknesses to help them transition to a new career. That may mean directing clients to places they can learn about new technology or employment trends in fields that interest them.
Richard Nelson Bolles writes in What Color Is Your Parachute? 2008: A Practical Manual for Job-hunters and Career-Changers that “Researchers discovered some years ago that while the typical job-hunt lasted around fifteen to nineteen weeks, depending on the economy, one-third to one-half of all job-hunters simply give up by the second month of their job-hunt.” Having the support of a career counselor may help some people stay focused on their job search and not become easily discouraged. The right coach can also redirect job-hunting efforts that have stalled or become unproductive.
Moving to the Next Level
Always being passed over for promotions is like going to a spring fling and never being asked to dance. It’s no fun! Workers who are having trouble advancing in their career may need some help figuring out exactly what they need to do differently to get noticed by higher ups. For some people it may be as simple as taking a few courses to learn necessary skills. Others may need advice from a career coach on how to dress, talk, or act more professionally.
Setting Career Goals
Counselors can also be helpful if people just want to make sure they are setting the right goals for their career. They may not be looking to change companies, but may be more concerned about protecting their future job security. A person who hasn’t bothered to keep abreast of changes in their industry, learn new skills, or network with influential peers are more likely to fall under the downsizing axe than someone who has worked to remain competitive.
Choosing the Right Counselor
It’s important for people to find a career counselor that fits their goals and is reputable. A good counselor should:
1. Disclose the terms of their service and fees upfront
2. Provide a copy of their ethical guidelines
3. Charge only for services provided
4. Let clients choose the services they want
5. Not make unrealistic promises.
They should also discuss what type of time commitment clients should expect to make to their counseling sessions and job-hunting strategies.
While career counselors can be helpful they may not have all the answers. They can help individuals assess their strengths and weaknesses to choose a career that fits their unique goals and needs. Like any other counseling relationship, it may take more than one try to find the right person. People looking for a career coach can check with their former employer, local job centers, universities, alumni groups, churches, and other organizations for recommendations.