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When it comes to planning your career, it’s so easy to rely on the advice of friends and family, or even your own intuition, without considering getting professional advice and support. But when you do this, it’s easy to end up exploring a career that isn’t truly right for you.
Whether you’re a student with minimal work experience or an established professional with many years of experience under your belt, you may currently be in a position where you’re feeling bewildered about your career options or looking for a change.
If this is the case, you may wish to consider employing the help of a professional career counselor.
Career counseling is a process that helps an individual to understand themselves better, in order to make informed decisions about their career. Whether in person or online, there are plenty of options when it comes to obtaining career guidance and support.
Career counseling presents countless advantages. Here are just some of the many benefits of career counseling!
1. You clarify your career goals
Professional development is a lifelong process; therefore, career counseling is appropriate for everyone, from school students planning for the future (there are dedicated school counselors which can help here), right through to experienced professionals seeking to change jobs while employed.
This is a superb resource, enabling you to clarify your career goals through a range of discussions and assessments. Some key questions you may be asked include:
- What are your work-related preferences, values and interests?
- What are some of your favorite work experiences to date?
- What kinds of relationships do you have with leaders, managers and organizers?
- Have you ever disagreed with others? If so, what did you do to resolve conflicts?
- How do you learn best? When are you most challenged when learning? How do you overcome challenges?
Counseling plays an important role in choosing your career, giving you the opportunity to get to know and understand yourself and the world of work in detail, and thus helping you make more informed and meaningful career decisions.
“When you are searching for a new position or a sense of direction in your career, it is common for people to be fearful and anxious given the immensity of the challenge,” says Mike Fitzgerald, a career consultant at ClearRock.
He goes on to say: “A good career coach can help a person to know what questions to ask and how to go about the process of designing and then implementing a comprehensive but customized approach to their career transition.”
2. It helps you understand your career options
When you seek professional career guidance, you’ll be able to discuss career options that are of interest to you. Together, you’ll be better able to understand the factors influencing your career development, including your personality, interests, capabilities, values and background.
In this setting, it will be made clear to you what education or training you need to pursue in order to achieve your career goals. Your career counselor will help you to understand the scope of the career that interests you and also support you in locating the right resources and sources of information. What’s more, you’ll also be able to discuss strategies that will help you to find employers who offer internships or jobs in your areas of interest.
3. You gain support from an objective guide
A career counselor offers unbiased insights, information, expertise and advice, thus enabling you to figure out who you are and what you want from your career. A safe and casual environment is created where you feel at ease discussing your career, without any limitations.
Here, you can talk about your ideas, feelings and concerns about your career, and your career counselor will help you to make sense of those ideas, feelings and concerns in an honest, transparent and confidential environment.
4. You determine your strengths and weaknesses
A career test is an excellent way to determine your strengths and weaknesses. In this setting, you will perform a series of tests, including personality tests, aptitude tests, psychometric analysis tests and IQ tests. These will help you to discover the best career options for you based on your abilities.
Even if you excel in your chosen area and have plenty of qualifications, your career counselor will show you which areas need improvement and will teach you how to improve in those areas.
5. You learn key skills
With a career counselor, you’ll learn a range of skills that will help you to excel when it comes to applying for jobs, attending interviews and excelling in the corporate world.
For instance, you’ll have the opportunity to conduct a mock job interview where you’ll gain practice answering a variety of questions. In this setting, you’ll receive feedback prior to the real thing, from how to improve your communication skills to how to answer difficult questions.
Career advisors will also teach you how to be more assertive when it comes to getting what you need and want, whether from your current or future role. You’ll also learn negotiation skills, as well as the ability to identify gaps in your professional preparation.
6. You broaden your perspective
The right career counselor will help you to strategize your career and provide a long-term perspective that helps you to achieve your career goals faster. This will equip you with the confidence you need to master your goals and achieve true career satisfaction.
Fitgerald explains that it’s easy to lose focus, feel isolated, and become discouraged when you’re looking for a new job. He says: “It is sometimes hard to know how to interpret what is happening when you apply to a job and get no response, or when you start to lose your confidence for a time and become convinced that your age, race or gender preclude you from being fairly considered.”
A good counselor has the ability to adjust your mindset and make you realize that you have what it takes to make a career move (if that’s what you’re considering). As Fitzgerald further asserts: “Much of the work is focused on mindset and attitudes — with a leaning toward cultivating positivity, resilience, confidence and hope for what will be next.”
7. You develop the right strategies
The job search is a unique process that differs based on the individual in question, their experience and the type of job they’re seeking.
Career counselors will help you to craft a strategy that suits you specifically. They will teach you a range of strategies, from how to network to improve your career to how to find a job using social media.
They will also help you to find training and development opportunities, whether that involves course options for college or university students, or adult learning opportunities for professionals seeking a career change.
8. You gain job search support
Once you’re ready to begin your quest for a new job, your career advisor will be able to provide you with job search assistance, which is one of the most common reasons why people visit a career professional.
They’re highly trained to handle all aspects of your job search and are fully aware of the jobs in the market, therefore offering excellent support throughout the entire process.
They can point you in the right direction with resources and provide you with tips on how to locate specific job openings or research specific companies. They will also help you to identify your network and develop your networking skills in order to discover job vacancies. In our fast-paced world, networking can prove critical for accelerating career development, connecting you to leaders within the industries that you are passionate about.
9. You capitalize on a range of resources
With the support of your career counselor, you’ll be able to determine which areas you need to focus on and will have access to career workshops and other resources. You’ll also benefit from:
- Résumé and cover letter writing services
- Admission guidance
- Education planning
- Placement assistance
Together, you’ll be able to identify which resources will best suit you. You’ll also learn how to use these resources most effectively to gain better access to job opportunities.
For instance, Tony Robbins’ coaching programme [paid link] can help you discover the tools, strategies and distinction you’ll need to achieve your career goals.
10. You get better at negotiating
Though career counseling will teach you many skills, we feel that this one deserves special attention. The reason for this is that effective negotiation is the one skill that can open doors, minimize conflicts, and help you advance your career the most.
After the process of illuminating strengths and uncovering weaknesses, your counselor will show you how to use this information to your benefit. This will come in handy not just in the job offer stage, where you’ll manage to negotiate more valuable contracts, but also in taking next steps in your career.
Whether you want to negotiate a higher salary, better benefits, or your job title, career counseling will do more than just teach you how to back up a request with evidence. It will also help you cultivate the confidence you need to consistently go after what you deserve.
11. You become equipped for change
Whether you’ve recently found yourself out of work or feel that your job doesn’t suit you, navigating change on your own can be difficult. Stressful and confusing emotions can arise with any sudden change or realization, which can make moving on to something new even more challenging.
Career counseling can help you stay afloat at a time of uncertainty with practical job-hunting advice and guidance. This is particularly beneficial in the case of wanting to do a 180-degree turn and explore career options in an unfamiliar industry.
12. You maximize your potential
Internalizing shortcomings, feeling inadequate, and losing hope in a work setting are things that most people will experience at some point. While this is normal, harboring these emotions for too long can really harm your confidence. And without confidence in the job hunt or the workplace, it’s unlikely you will ever achieve your goals or fulfill your potential. This holds true not just for experienced professionals, but also for students and young adults just entering the workforce.
Your career counselor will guide you in better defining your aspirations, understanding your potential, and setting the bar higher. In other words, no more questioning and underselling yourself! Instead, you will start entering your career negotiations with sharpened focus.
Even if you feel confident about your career path and don’t plan on taking the advice of a career counselor, think again! From creating multiple career options and plans to connecting with industry professionals, this is the perfect way to empower yourself with the resources you need to begin your dream career. You’ll also gain access to the resources you need to gain a promotion or ask for a salary increase.
The type of experience you will gain from a career counselor — and the network that will come with it — will be truly beneficial.
Have you visited a career counselor? If so, how did it benefit your career? Let us know in the comments section below!
Originally published 25 December 2014. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.