What is Career Counseling?

Career counseling provides you with guidance, coaching or advice on steps you can take toward finding the right career path for you.

Whether you are a student, a recent or soon-to-be graduate or are looking for a career change after years in an industry, career counseling can be a helpful tool to finding your footing and moving toward a new job path.

Choosing a career means spending decades of your life working in a particular field or industry, so you certainly want to make sure it is a career path that is sustainable for you. Sustainability in a career is not just about the salary or wages, but also about the benefits, the work hours and style of work, your coworkers and management, your promotional growth opportunities and so much more. Choosing a career path means choosing your life path. Your job will be a huge part of your daily life and will impact everything from your family finances to your healthcare options to your vacation or personal time to do other activities. Choosing the right career path is of vital importance, which is why using the services of a professional career counselor can be the right choice to help you make that big life decision.

What is Career Counseling?

When you work with a career counselor, you could be working with a therapist, a life coach or other certified professional in the field of career and personal growth. That professional will be able to listen to your thoughts on your current career or your hopes for a future career and then advise and guide you toward making the right career choice. This professional is not likely to help you with actual career services, such as resume-writing or interview preparation, but rather, the career counselor will work with you toward identifying the best potential career choices based on a variety of factors.

During career counseling sessions, you might be asked to take a variety of self-assessment tests to better determine your current strengths, attributes and work options and to also identify your potential options based on your personality, your previous experience, your interests and your values. You can do a self-assessment and take online tests on your own, but the professional guidance to take those results and make an actionable plan if necessary.

Why Use a Career Counselor

A career counselor will help you to see things more clearly. We often struggle to identify our own attributes or to see the big picture when we feel confused or frustrated with our current situations. A professional career counselor can be useful in helping you to step back and to see your options before you. While taking a self-assessment can be helpful, having a professional go through those results to help you determine new ways to maximize your strengths or to steer your experience into a new direction can show you different career path opportunities.

Considerations the counselor might review with you could include your education and professional experience up to this point, which can highlight your strengths and aptitude, plus your ability to be hired within certain sectors that require specific degrees or certifications. Additionally, a counselor will review salary and benefits options in particular career options so you have a realistic view of what you can expect. The daily aspects of that career should also be discussed so you have a comprehensive idea of your potential fit within that role.

A career counselor’s goal is to facilitate your career choices, so you need to be ready to make the decision at the end of the day. Whether that means changing your career trajectory entirely by doing training or even an internship or if it means you can choose your first job in an effort to step into the career path you want, career counselors will help you to make the right decision based on extensive detailed information and resources at their disposal.

Finding a Career Counselor

When you consider working with a career counselor, it is important to find the right person for you based on your needs and on how that counselor works. While there are no legal certifications necessary for career counselors, you could opt to find a counselor who is certified through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) to assure professionalism and ample access to resources.

Finding a career counselor can be done through online resources or through a variety of job-related resource centers in your local area. Some of those job centers might offer free or low-cost services, while others might offer higher-cost services for more personalized and extensive professional guidance.

A career counselor should ultimately help you to uncover the reasons for your career change or for identifying the right career path, so the most important aspect of finding a career counselor is your comfort with and trust in this professional. Counseling should be all-encompassing and include every aspect of a career opportunity so that you do not miss any components and so you fully understand the options and opportunities before you. The right career counselor will take into account all of your needs and wants, allowing you to determine those for yourself and then to use those in advising and guiding you.

How to Find Free or Low-Cost Career Counseling

The U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop resources include everything from online occupation profiles to local American Job Center offices where you can access help and guidance, including career counseling. Provided by the federal government per Congressional legislation, these resources aim to get the United States’ workforce into the professions that can offer sustainable long-term opportunities. You can get free help through that program in your local area or online at any time.

Other free or low-cost career counseling options can be found within your network. For example, if you are still in school or college, contact your career services or guidance departments for assistance and resources. Your local library or your local Chamber of Commerce might also offer career services for free or low-cost, or you can look at state-wide service options under the Department of Labor.

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