Careers counsellors are teachers,confidants and advisors to their clients. They help people examine their interests, their styles, and their abilities to find and enter the profession that best suit them. They can be helpful both to those who have yet to choose a career and those who are unhappy with their choice. They are also known as vocational guidance counsellors.
Careers counsellors spend most of their day meeting with clients. Early sessions are used to explore the history and behaviour of the client to help the clients understand their own motivations and desires more thoroughly. This process can be hard work. Some people expect to achieve a perfect understanding of what job they should do for the rest of their life within a very short space of time. Unfortunately, it is not that simple or quick. Career decision-making is a process, rather than an overnight event. Most career counsellors have degrees in psychology or are licensed therapists.
Therapists and counsellors alike are facilitators - the client must play the most active part in the process. After conducting a thorough evaluation of the client’s personality traits, the counsellor must use their expertise to help the client assess their skills base and direct them to career fields wherein those skills might be most profitably employed, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction.
Counsellors are responsible for knowing what skills are needed in a broad variety of professions, what level of pay can be expected and what hiring authorities look for in a successful applicant. They then coach the client through the process of researching fields that match their interests, encourage them to set up informational interviews with people to supplement their research, and finally target or create specific job positions that meet their needs.
Counsellors try to empower clients to become as active as possible in their search. A lot of people tend to be rather passive and expect counsellors to find them jobs. Counsellors can only guide clients in the decision-making process and, in some instances teach them the skills they need - how to write effective letters, highlight their skills in an interview, negotiate a salary, and make people remember them; however, in the end, the clients have to do it themselves.
Most careers counsellors have some degree of higher education, often a masters degree in a field such as mental health counselling, psychological counselling, or community counselling. Careers counselling tends to be an unregulated field, so people can come to the profession through a variety of paths. More recently, however, career guidance counselling is now beginning to come into its own as a discrete profession.
Some come into careers counselling from social work or human resources management backgrounds. Others come from such disciplines as law or medicine and then use their industry expertise to counsel people in their former field.
Familiarity with basic personality, interest and skills tests, are invaluable aids in assessing clients’ occupational aptitudes. Usually, a successful careers counsellor works as an independent counsellor but gets references from other services, therapists or agencies. This entails long hours, intense listening and assessment skills, and the ability to think objectively without being swayed by emotion.
Careers counsellors have skills that involve helping other people to understand themselves better and take proactive steps to improve the quality of their working lives. Many careers counsellors are able to transfer these skills into the realms of teaching, vocational counselling in schools and social work; others go on to get advanced degrees and become therapists. Those who are more interested in the business applications of their craft go into employment recruitment, outplacement and professional headhunting.
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