How to find a career counselor to get you on right path
By Kathleen Furore
Tribune Content Agency|
Nov 14, 2019 | 11:14 AM
DEAR READERS: I recently spoke with someone whose son was unhappy in his chosen career so he's taking time off and going into a career counseling program to help him figure out what type of career(s) he is best suited for. How do these programs typically work? Is there a difference between a career counselor, a career coach and a career counseling therapist? How can someone be sure they are working with a qualified individual?
"Realizing that your chosen profession is not a good fit and taking action steps to move out of that profession and into something that does fit is a level of self-actualization that few people ever achieve," says Alexandra Phillips, the founder of Alexandra Phillips Consulting. "So, first, I would pat your friend on the back for raising such a self-aware young man."
Once that potentially life-changing decision has been made, the first thing to understand are the labels that pop up all over if you Google 'career counseling'."
"Career coaching and career counseling programs can be the Wild West of self-help," says Phillips, who says it is important to work with a certified career coach when exploring career counseling options. "My preferred certifying institution is the International Coaching Federation. Not only must certified coaches pass a rigorous examination, but they are also bound by the ICF code of ethics. This ensures that your coach is required to work from a place of service, and always operates with the client's best interest at heart. A trustworthy career counseling program will always hire coaches or counselors who are either certified or in the process of certification. It absolutely pays to do your research."
Other counseling experts also emphasize doing research.
"Any of these professionals can be highly qualified, but you do need to do a little research to make sure your chosen career professional has a successful track record of guiding clients to a new career that they love," says Gracie Miller, a certified career coach with livelifepurpose.com, who has worked with career changers for the past seven years.
"Career professionals use all sorts of names to describe themselves: counselors, coach, therapist. The name is not going to help you make a decision," echoes Laurence J. Stybel, a licensed psychologist and co-founder of Stybel Peabody Associates of Boston. "Focus on the program being offered."
What should someone considering a new career path look for in career counseling professionals and programs? Here's what industry pros say.
*Look for someone who offers a free consult so you can assess if they are a fit for your situation. “When you’re in the consult, ask them to give you a few examples of people they’ve helped. Make sure to ask what exactly is included in their services — will they help write a resume? Do interview practice? Give assessments? How will they help you figure out what would be the best career path and then get you on that path efficiently?” Miller says.
*Look for reviews on a legitimate website, Linkedin, Yelp or Facebook Business pages. "Make sure the person has been in business long enough to have helped a wide variety of people with many types of professional issues," Miller says. "Someone who has only worked with a few kinds of professionals may not know about some career niches that could be most helpful for you."
*Find out what types of career abilities and career interest tests are being offered to guide your decision.
*Ask about the approach the program uses to help you network. "Are there special programs for shy people who think of networking with as much pleasure as getting a cavity filled without the use of novocaine?" Stybel asks.
Because career counseling programs can vary dramatically, it is also important to ask how each program you're considering works.
“Some coaches will do single sessions, while others only operate on a package basis. Some career professionals assign self-exploration homework to find out who each client is now versus when they first started out in the field they are now leaving. This is to determine what fields would bring the highest satisfaction, versus simply looking at salary,” Miller says. “Others aren’t as concerned about figuring out a calling for a client and focus more on transferable skills or climbing the corporate ladder. Depending on how deep you want to go with the process — total career revolution or a similar role elsewhere — you will need a different level of support.”
Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.