When someone asks kids what they want to be when they grow up, it always seems like an easy answer. Kids shout, “A teacher! A Scientist! A doctor!” right on command.
But things change as we grow up. Now, choosing a career path that aligns with our values, interests, and skillsets isn’t as simple.
Luckily, we have people to lean on for support, and we aren’t just talking about our friends and family. Career counselors can help us choose a career, plan our careers, and more. The purpose of career counseling goes far beyond taking aptitude tests, so let’s dive in and explore all they can do.
What is career counseling?
A career counselor — also known as a career coach — helps people find careers that work best for them. They can help people with career changes, job search, weighing their career options, and career development.
Counselors can be similar to mentors, but they focus more on professional decision-making situations and planning. They teach clients strategies to help them land the job they want, give them resources to succeed in their current careers, and offer aptitude tests to help people understand their interests better if they’re thinking of a change.
Career counseling can be an option for people of all ages and stages of their careers. Someone who’s still in high school could see a career counselor (often in the form of their guidance counselor) or someone who’s been working for 30 years. There’s nothing wrong with changing careers later in life, and a career counselor can help with that.
9 benefits of career counseling
While someone unemployed may find their experience with their career coach different from someone who’s looking to make a career change, a career counselor can offer everyone something beneficial.
Here are nine benefits you could experience when seeing a counselor:
- Learn the importance of career development and planning for future development
- Know what the right career is based on your personality type, skill sets, and lifestyle goals
- Finding out if a different career path is better suited to you
- Have an expert to talk to about concerns, ideas, and planning
- Unlock more information and resources to make informed career decisions
- Strengthen interviewing skills
- Improve communication skills for interviews and positions
- Learn how to write convincing cover letters and resumes
- Create and carry out a plan for a career transition
How can career counseling help you to develop your career?
Your career coach is there to help you develop your career into what you want it to look like. Right now, you could be happy with your career. But at some point, you might feel like you want a change or to level up in some way.
A career counselor can show you what some professional development goals are in your industry or how to set goals for your career development if you’re ready for change. To develop your career, your counselor might show you how you can start networking within your industry.
They’re also there to help you overcome the challenges you face as you go about developing your career. It’s common to feel stuck or unsure of what to do, even if you know you want a change.
Perhaps your counselor will suggest grad school or other new skills and qualifications to acquire to help your career move along. They could even help you navigate the anxiety that can come with changing jobs.
When should you hire a career counselor?
There aren’t any rules or guidelines that you have to follow when deciding that you need to see a career counselor. If you need help, you need help. But there are a few specific scenarios where it would be a good idea to put the effort into talking with a career coach. Here are four examples of when you should see a career counselor:
1. You’re looking to make a huge career change: If you’re going to jump into a whole new career and industry, a coach would be a great person to ask advice from. They’ll help you know how to settle into your new job and succeed in doing it.
2. You’ve put in the work, but you don’t see results: If you’ve sent resume after resume and you’ve heard nothing back, a counselor can help you make your resume pop and develop skills to help your job search.
3. You’re overwhelmed and confused: You could be putting in a lot of work without progressing. Your counselor can help you focus your energy on strategies to improve your productivity and be happier with the results.
4. You’re no longer happy in your field: It happens. We get bored of what we’re doing, and we need a change. A career counselor will help you figure out what career will satisfy your intellectual curiosity.
What are the duties of a career counselor?
Career counselors are responsible for helping their clients make career choices that satisfy them. Through whatever path or strategy, they want to see you succeed. There are a few duties that most career counselors share, regardless of why you need their help:
1. Teaching clients what platforms they can use to best network and search for jobs
2. Working collaboratively with clients to make a career plan full of action
3. Handing out aptitude tests and evaluations to help people match their interests and values to their careers
4. Offering tips on how to have successful interviews
5. Editing and proofreading resumes, portfolios, and cover letters
6. Helping with applying to programs
7. Discussing how to negotiate salaries
8. Resolving any conflict or questions clients have about the world of work
9. Mentoring you throughout your career to keep you on track
How to choose the right counselor for you
A career counselor’s purpose is to help you make informed decisions to develop your career into something that makes you happy. Whether that’s investigating a new career, weighing your career options, or helping as you’re on your job search, a coach is there to help.
Whatever stage you’re at in your working career, it never hurts to ask for help and guidance.
But choosing the counselor that’s right for you isn’t something you should blindly do. You need to make sure your coach is the right fit for you. Here are some tips to help you as you choose a counselor:
- Budget accordingly if they cost money
- Ensure they make you feel comfortable while talking about your needs
- Ask questions beforehand about their experience or expertise in your field
- Choose someone who’s certified
- Listen to recommendations from friends or family
You might have to try a few different coaches before you find someone that’s the right fit for you and your career goals.
Your next move
Now that you understand the purpose of career counseling, you might think it’s right for you. But who should you choose to coach you, and what do you need to focus on during your coaching?
At BetterUp, we do more than offer career guidance. Our coaches will take a Whole Person approach to help you make your next career move. Finding a career that lets you bring your complete self — emotional well-being, growth mindset, and impactful outcomes — to reach your full potential.