Career Counseling

How to Get the Most From Professional Career Help

career counseling
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Career counseling provides professional advice about the issues all of us face regarding our careers at some point —and usually at multiple points—during our lives. They include choosing or changing careers, job searching, and dealing with work-related problems. Here are eight things you should do to make sure you get the most out of this very valuable service:

Choose the Right Professional

After deciding you need career counseling, your next step is to find the right professional to provide it. A lot of people claim to be experts in this area. Your job is to make sure to hire someone who is appropriately trained to help you.

The individual you hire may be a career counselor, a career services provider, or a career coach. Although each has different credentials, all should be well-versed in career development. For simplicity's sake, we will refer to anyone who provides career counseling as a career counselor or a counselor.

Do not get help from someone who may have an ulterior motive, for example, a recruiter. His or her goal is to fill open positions as quickly as possible, not to help people find satisfying careers.

Share Your Expectations With the Career Counselor

Before scheduling your first appointment or at the initial session, thoroughly explain what you need help with, whether it is choosing a career or deciding whether to change careers, looking for a job, writing a resume, organizing your job search, or preparing for job interviews. If you don't share your expectations with the counselor, he or she won't be able to fulfill them.

If you are unsure about your exact needs, be upfront about that too. For example, it may be unclear whether you need a new job or a brand new career. Ask for help figuring it out.

Be On Time For Your Appointment

Get the most out of your appointment by being punctual. Arriving on time allows you to utilize the entire session. The counselor probably won't be able to continue meeting with you beyond your appointment time because other clients will be waiting, but he or she will charge you for the full session.

Don't Expect a Career Counselor To Tell You What Career Is Best for You

Even the most well-educated career counselor can't tell you what career is best for you and be very wary of anyone who claims they can. Choosing a career is a process that involves self assessment and exploration. The career counselor's job is to use information gathered during your sessions—for example, your interests, work-related values, aptitude, and personality type—to help you figure out what careers are a good fit. This will be done through discussion and the use of self assessment tools. Then you will have to explore occupations and pick the one that is most suitable.

Be Honest

Career counseling can only work if you are truthful with your counselor. Don't withhold any information that may impact your ability to reach your goals. For example, if you are suffering from anxiety and you know that rushing headlong into a job search will exacerbate it, let the counselor know it is necessary to move slowly. A good counselor will be willing to work at your pace. If financial difficulties are going to keep you from getting the training required for a new career, say something. He or she may be able to help direct you to scholarships and financial aid resources.

Do Your Homework

Some counselors give their clients assignments to work on between sessions. For example, she might ask you to bring in a couple of job announcements that interest you or may ask you to research an occupation or two. Arrive for your sessions with your assignments completed. Doing so will allow you to keep moving forward.

Follow Your Counselor's Advice

You hired a counselor because you needed help. While you don't have to follow every suggestion, not taking his advice means you are wasting your time and money. If you find yourself not following through on the counselor's advice, ask yourself why. Is it laziness on your part or fear of making a change, or do you think the advice is wrong? If, after carefully thinking about it, you decide it is, find a new counselor.

Evaluate Whether the Counseling Is Working

If you are like most people, you don't want to spend an infinite amount of time in counseling. You want to resolve the problems that brought you there in the first place and ultimately meet your goals. Periodically ask yourself if you are moving forward at a reasonable pace and are you getting out of career counseling what you wanted.

While it may not be possible to achieve all your goals as quickly as desired, for example, you may not have a new job yet, think about whether you are closer to reaching them than when you started. If the answer is "yes," ask yourself if there is more to gain from continuing to meet with your counselor. If it's "no," decide if you could benefit more from trying someone new.