How To Choose the Right Career Counselor

Updated February 3, 2023

Career counselors provide useful tools to help evaluate and propel the career paths of their clients. Hiring a career counselor is an investment in your success and your future, and it is becoming increasingly popular in all stages of career development. If you're thinking about consulting a counselor, it's important to learn how to choose the right one. In this article, we discuss common reasons for hiring a counselor and explain how to select a professional whose approach best suits your desires for the future.

What is a career counselor?

A career counselor is a professional who works with people in various stages of life by sharing related career advice. Career counselors typically hold advanced degrees in counseling, and they use their education and skills to help those in need of professional guidance. Also known as job coaches, these counselors evaluate skills, personality, interests, education and long-term goals to help their clients find careers or career paths best suited to each person's needs. Additionally, career counselors work with clients who wish to further advance in their current career paths.

Related: Your Online Career Coach: Advanced Job Search Tips To Get the Job

Reasons you might need a career counselor

There are various reasons to seek a professional's help in advancing your career. If you are still in school or just starting in the professional world, you may feel uncertain about what direction to go in. There are so many facets surrounding career choice, including fulfillment, financial reward, commitment to certain ideals and work-life balance. A coach is there to help you determine your priorities. Once you have identified what you are looking for, your counselor provides you with actionable steps to help you reach your goal.

Here are a few situations in which you might consider consulting a career counselor:

  • You are in the last year of your degree program or you have recently graduated. Many colleges and universities employ career coaches to help guide their students toward success. It's wise to take advantage of these services while they're available to you—especially if they're free.

  • You entered a field that isn't fulfilling your needs. Perhaps you went to school or earned a certificate in a specific trade so that you could start a career in the industry of your choice. If you have recently started that career and the experience isn't living up to your original hopes, you may benefit from the guidance a career coach can offer.

  • You aren't sure how to advance in the job you currently hold. If you love the industry you are working in but feel stuck in one role or at one level, a counselor can offer specific advice to help you advance in your current position.

  • You are looking to make a career switch after many years in one industry. Not all of your major life choices happen right after finishing school. Career changes are increasing in popularity. Counselors can help direct you toward a career that's better suited to your needs or interests. They can also point out which skills and experiences to highlight when transitioning from one job to another.

  • Your career goals have shifted due to a change in life. If your personal circumstances have led to a sudden need to change careers, you may want to enlist a coach's help to find direction. Maybe you are transitioning from a two-income household to one income, or perhaps you need to care for an elderly family member. A counselor can help you find a path that meets the needs of your new situation.

Related: 8 Reasons To Hire a Career Coach

How to choose a career counselor

If you know that you would like to elicit a career counselor's help, the next step is to find the right counselor for you. As with any relationship, finding someone who is a good match is likely to impact your success. Here are five steps to take to make the best possible choice for you:

1. Look for accreditation

While many career coaches have master's degrees and counseling certifications, some do not. This profession is not regulated at the state or federal level, which means anyone can claim to be a career counselor. To find someone whose training best aligns with your goals, look for a counselor with national or international certification. Here is a list of reputable certification programs:

  • The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC)

  • The National Career Development Association (NCDA)

  • The Association of Career Professionals International (ACPI)

  • The International Coaching Federation (ICF)

2. Determine the type of counseling you are looking for

Some counselors offer packages, while others schedule one session at a time. Depending on your goals and finances, you may feel like an outlined package is best for you. If you want to test out a career coach or aren't sure how many sessions it will take to achieve your goals, individual sessions might be your preferred option.

3. Look for a strong personality match

Skills, certifications and counseling programs are important things to consider when choosing the right career coach for you. However, it's equally important to find a counselor whose personality best compliments your own. Some people may want a counselor whose approach is direct and concise, while others may be more drawn to a counselor who takes a few sessions to deeply assess personality. Whatever your personal preference, a counselor should be positive, realistic, knowledgeable and able to give actionable advice.

Related: When to Consider Getting Help With Career Coaching

4. Assess expertise in your field of interest

If you are unsure about the direction you want to go in, most certified career counselors should be able to guide you. However, if you have a specific career in mind, you may prefer a career coach who has experience helping people with similar goals. If a professional has been coaching people for years with a primary focus that doesn't match your career aspirations, you may want to continue searching for a counselor who has more experience in your field.

5. Ask questions

You may be able to find out a lot of information about a professional counselor by doing research online. They might have a work-related social media account, professional website or online ratings from previous clients. This information is undoubtedly useful in narrowing your list of potential counselors, but you should also chat with the person before hiring them as your career coach. Ask them questions to determine if they are the right counselor for you.

Related: Learning Styles for Career Development

Questions to ask when choosing a career counselor

The coaching and advice you receive will likely take some time, so you should be sure the person you are working with is a good fit. Here is a list of questions to ask when choosing your career counselor:

Are you a certified counselor? If so, where did you receive your credentials?

Someone who is nationally or internationally certified should be able to answer this with ease. If the coach is not certified, they may still be a strong fit—they might have an excellent reputation for giving your colleagues or friends advice. Either way, it is important to know whether the person is certified or not.

By what means do you assess your clients? Do you perform specific tests before suggesting career paths?

Each counselor will have a unique answer to this question. Some may want to complete various personality tests, while others will focus on skills tests. Some coaches might not use rigid evaluation methods and instead may want to speak with you over several sessions to gain insight through your conversations. Knowing the types of assessments a coach uses and their rationale for using them will help you make an informed decision.

How many sessions are typical for a client in my position?

Your available time and financial commitment are important factors when it comes to finding success with a career counselor. This question will give you an idea of whether or not the counselor can help you achieve results in a timeframe that matches your goals.

Do you have experience in guiding someone who has career goals similar to mine?

It will benefit you to find out if a counselor has experience coaching people with backgrounds similar to your own. It's a good sign if the person says that they've helped guide many people with experience and goals like your own. You may also want to ask for testimonials from previous clients.

How do you value fulfillment and financial reward concerning success?

Career choice is multifaceted. This question will give you an idea of whether or not the counselor has priorities that match your standards.

Do you think you will be able to help me?

This question may seem obvious, but it is vital to ask. If you briefly explain what you are hoping to do and the coach doesn't believe they can guide you there, you should know. Ultimately, the person's confidence in you—and their own ability to help you—is of great importance in finding success.

Read more: How To Find a Career Change Coach in 7 Steps (Plus Benefits)

Explore more articles

  • How To Become a Board Member of a Nonprofit: 5 Steps
  • 13 Jobs You Can Get With a Multidisciplinary Studies Degree
  • What Does a Chaplain Do? (Duties, Salary and Workplaces)
  • 10 Jobs That You Can Do With a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • 15 of the Highest-Paying Graphic Design Jobs
  • The Pros and Cons of Being a Software Engineer
  • 10 Pros and Cons of Being a Robotics Engineer
  • What Is Work-Study? How It Works and Benefits Students
  • 14 Types of Botany Jobs (Plus Duties and Salaries)
  • Understanding the Advantages and Disadvantages of Employment-at-Will
  • Requirements for Becoming a Day Care Worker
  • 13 Jobs To Work in Publishing