How to Choose a Career Counselor or Coach

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If you are uncertain about your job or career goals, then you might consider engaging the services of a career counselor or coach to help you clarify your situation.

What is a Career Counselor?

A career counselor is a professional who helps clients to plan their career and achieve their employment goals.  

Career counselors and coaches work with clients to teach them strategies on how to successfully find new or different employment. Career counselors are employed by state departments of labor, community agencies, school systems, two and four-year college career offices, and private counseling firms.  

Services Provided by Career Counselors

  • Help clients to assess , interests and skills; investigate career options, and envision a ; identify jobs; apply for jobs; network; interview; develop resumes and cover letters, and establish a balance between work and a personal life.  
  • Use a variety of tools including assessment exercises, interest inventories, personality tests, and client interviews to help identify appropriate options for consideration.  
  • Help clients identify obstacles impeding progress towards the crystallization of career plans and coach them on ways to overcome these challenges.  
  • Make referrals to psychologists or therapists if clients are unable to engage in the career planning process or finalize decisions due to anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. 

Education, Training, and Certification

Career counselors usually acquire a master's degree in counseling or career development. Career counselors can be certified by organizations like .

Career Counselor Skills

  • Career counselors must have the ability to put a client at ease and engender trust to facilitate sharing of personal information.
  • Strong interviewing and are required to extract information from clients.  An analytical mind is required to make connections between an individual's personality type, abilities, interests, values, and appropriate career options.
  • Career counselors need strong research skills to find information about careers and educational preparations related to client needs.
  • They must be able to clearly convey information to individuals and groups about job search strategies, approaches to interviewing, and resume and cover letter development.

How a Career Counselor Can Help Your Job Search

Career counselors and coaches provide assistance with identifying and exploring career options, selecting from career choices, changing careers, resume, and cover letter writing, focusing and targeting a job search, and with helping job seekers through the job search process.

Working with a career coach is a process that can help you understand yourself and where you fit best in your career, education, and life.

Career counselors focus on achieving a work-life balance with an understanding of how a person acts in their role and how different roles interact. They can even help you explore new career options and resolve issues at work or even problems in your personal life that may be affecting your performance.

How to Choose a Career Counselor or Coach

Here are some suggestions for finding the right person to help you secure your next job:

Ask friends and family if they can recommend a counselor or coach.

Contact your , if you're a college grad, and ask if they provide career counseling or advising to alumni. If not, ask if they can give you a referral.

Reach out to a local college career office and ask for a referral to a private counselor.

Use the function offered through the National Board of Certified Counselors. Activate the "Career Development" filter to identify some prospects.

Ask for three references from any counselor before finalizing an agreement for services. Ask the references questions like "What were her strengths and weaknesses as a counselor?", "What progress did you make after meeting with her?", "Would you use her services again?", "Do you have any reservations about recommending her?"

Give preference to counselors who charge per visit as opposed to those who offer an expensive package of sessions and assessments (costs can run to several thousand dollars). Fees will range from $75 to $500 per hour. However, you shouldn't pay more than $150 per hour unless you are a high-priced executive.

Check credentials. The governing body of career counselors is the National Career Development Association. It has created certain expectations, guidelines, and requirements for professionals to acquire before entering the career counseling field.

The NCDA expects certain competencies for professionals at or above a graduate degree such as Career Development Theory, Individual and Group Counseling Skills, Individual and Group Assessment, Resourcing, Program Management, Consultation, Implementation, Diverse Populations, Supervision, Ethical and Legal Issues, Research, and Technology.

What Career Counselors Don't Do

While career counselors and coaches can help you to better understand who you are and the factors that most influence your lifestyle, they will not tell you what to do, what job to take, or career to pursue. Career coaching can benefit people at all points in their careers, from high school students approaching the next stage in their education to adults returning to the workforce after an absence, or seeking to change careers mid-life.

Finally, if you have any misgivings about the competence of your counselor after your first visit, don't feel obligated to continue.