Career Counseling: What It Is and How Job Counselors Help

Updated April 7, 2023

an illustration of a person deciding which path they want to take

Finding and growing in a job that aligns with your interests, personal goals and core values can help you feel fulfilled in your career and truly achieve job satisfaction. However, it can feel challenging to recognize and attain the right opportunity. If you’re unsure which professional direction to take, a career counselor could help. 

In this article, we'll look at how a career counselor can provide guidance as you pursue your professional goals.

What is career counseling?

Career counseling is a service designed to help people find the right professional path. Career counselors, also referred to as "career coaches" or "job coaches," provide guidance to professionals from varying fields, backgrounds and experience levels.

Clients of a career counselor may seek advice on their ongoing job search, perspective on a mid-career industry change or guidance on general professional development. It's the career counselor’s role to help you understand your options and evaluate challenging professional decisions.

Career counselors also support professionals by providing resources, administering tests and recommending tactics for securing a great job.

Related: Career Centers: Types, Benefits and Tips for Using One

Career counselor responsibilities

Career counselors are well-educated researchers, advocates and communicators whose education and training qualify them to guide their clients. Most career coaches complete master’s degrees, and some even pursue doctoral degrees.

This comprehensive education in career development helps them navigate the essential responsibilities involved in helping a client follow the best personal career path. The duties of a career coach include:

  • Administering and evaluating tests for aptitude and character traits

  • Collaborating on developing actionable career goals

  • Teaching job search techniques such as utilizing search platforms and building a professional network

  • Demonstrating effective interview techniques and tips

  • Assessing and improving resumes, cover letters, portfolios and professional networking profiles

  • Assisting in applying for professional development programs such as certifications, higher education and professional associations

Career counselors use skills such as research, active listening, critical thinking and problem solving to shape your goals, preferences, abilities, experience and education into a clear professional plan.

Related: Career Coach vs. Life Coach: What's the Difference?

How a career counselor can help you

If you're wondering whether a professional career counselor can provide the guidance you need, it can be helpful to understand the services a job coach typically offers. This include:

1. Career guidance

Whether you are choosing your first job or considering a change, a career coach can guide you through the process. Your career counselor can help you assess your skill set, identify your professional goals and advise you about potential career matches.

In some cases, you might have a series of guided conversations with a career counselor. Your job coach could also administer an aptitude test or a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment to pinpoint the best career options for you. The MBTI is a questionnaire of situational and behavioral questions that aim to evaluate your worldview and decision-making process.

Related: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: 16 Personality Types in the Workplace

2. Resume writing assistance

No matter what career you want to pursue, a strong resume can capture the attention of an employer. Job coaches often collaborate with you in order to optimize your resume. They can help organize an easy-to-read format, identify key skills to highlight and shape results-driven professional experience descriptions.

Read more: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

3. Interview advice

The job interview is a critical step in the hiring process that gives you the opportunity to make a strong first impression with prospective employers. Career counselors know that a compelling professional story forms the foundation of a great interview, and experienced job coaches can help you identify and craft your own story.

Your career counselor can also advise you on the structure of an interview, effective answers for common questions and the uses of nonverbal cues to give the best impression. They offer comprehensive tips for a successful interview and guide you through the follow-up process.

Read more: How to Prepare for an Interview

4. Salary negotiation tips

One important aspect of the hiring process involves securing a salary within your target range. While a prospective employer might not offer your target salary right away, strong negotiation skills can increase your chances of receiving satisfactory compensation.

Salary negotiation takes knowledge and practice, but a job coach can help you acquire both quickly. For salary-related guidance, seek out a career counselor who offers negotiation tips and advice on compensation packages so you can approach the hiring process with confidence.

5. Job change counseling

Many professionals encounter the need for or interest in changing careers. A career counselor can help you thoughtfully approach job changes or re-evaluations of your professional goals.

If you are considering a new career, advice from a job coach can help you identify and assess your options. Many job coaches excel at helping clients set professional goals and navigate new industries.

Read more: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

Could you benefit from career counseling?

Whether you are just beginning your professional career or looking for your next step, it is not always easy to know when you might need career guidance. Here are some common reasons that people seek job counseling:

  • You do not know where to begin: If you are not sure what to do with your college major or want to learn more about your career options, a job coach can help. Talk with a career counselor to get resources and advice that will help you get started.

  • You're not happy with your field: If you are looking for something different than what your industry currently offers, a career coach can help you find your professional passion so you will know how to get more out of your current job or decide which field might be better for you.

  • You no longer have a defined career path: While you might have started out with a career path in mind, it is normal for your long term-goals to change. A career counselor can help you map out a career path so you will feel more in control of your professional life.

  • You seek advice on progressing your current career: If you want to maximize your potential for growth, you could benefit from career counseling. An experienced job coach can help you explore options for advancement and advise you on how to get the most out of your career.

Related: How To Find Your Passion

How to find a career counselor

Job coaches often specialize in different areas of the job search process. Consider the following factors to find the right career counselor for your needs:

  1. Think about the industry or type of job you want to pursue: Many career counselors focus on helping candidates excel in certain sectors, so it is worthwhile to evaluate whether you can benefit from more targeted guidance.

  2. Consider whether the fees fit into your budget: Make sure you understand whether you are responsible for paying a one-time fee or an ongoing monthly fee.

  3. Find a compatible career coach: Job coaches take a variety of approaches. Identify which personality type and counseling approach you prefer, and use those factors to guide your search.

  4. Study their work: Read the job coach's published articles and their past client reviews to assess whether that counselor will work well for you. This can also help you discover their approach and philosophy.

  5. Decide what you want to achieve together: Once you've found the right career coach, it's important to establish concrete goals. After ensuring you and your counselor agree on these ambitions, make a list so you can keep track of your progress and accomplishments along the way.

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