A Day in the Life of a Career Counselor
Career counselors serve as teachers, confidants, and advisors to their clients. They help
people examine their interests, styles, and their abilities to find and enter the profession that
best suits them. They can be helpful to people who have yet to choose a career and people
who are unhappy with their choice.
Career counselors spend most of their day meeting with clients. Early sessions explore the
history and behavior of the client to help the clients understand their own motivations and
desires more thoroughly. Working with younger people,
especially, career counselors must understand and appreciate
the role of parents and the student’s home environment.
An understanding of the client’s peer and familial pressures,
along with a familiarity with current events and culture, allow the career counselor to make contact
and earn the trust of his or her clients. Most career counselors have a degree in counseling
or another mental health field.
After conducting a thorough evaluation of the client’s personality traits, counselors must
use their expertise to help clients assess their skills base and direct them to a career wherein
those skills may be most profitably employed, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction.
Counselors are responsible for knowing what skills are needed in a broad variety of
professions, how much they pay, and what a hiring authority will want to see in a successful
applicant. They then coach the client through the process of researching fields that match
their interests, setting up informational interviews with people to supplement their research,
and finally targeting or creating specific job positions that meet their needs. Counselors try
to empower the clients to become as active as possible in their search.
Paying Your Dues
Most career counselors have a master’s degree in a field such as mental health counseling,
psychological counseling, or community counseling. At the moment, career counseling
is an unregulated field, but most members of the profession are licensed in their state of
business as a professional counselor. Nevertheless, people come to the profession through a
variety of paths. Some counselors come from social work or human resources management.
Others come to career counseling from a discipline such as law or medicine and then use
their industry expertise to counsel people in their former field. Many professionals embark
on continuing education courses in counseling or psychology.
Familiarity with basic personality, interest, and skills tests, such as the Holland Code, the
Myers-Briggs Analogy Test, and the Birkman Personality Assessment (a customized version
of which appears in this book) are invaluable aids in assessing clients’ occupational aptitudes.
Usually, a successful career counselor works as an independent counselor but receives references
from other services, therapists, or agencies. The profession may entail long hours,
intense listening and assessment, and the ability to think objectively without being swayed by
Present and Future
Many occupations, such as high school vocational counselors, job retrainers, and psychotherapists,
used to have career counseling as one part of their overall job description. The
Internet has allowed counselors and potential clients to troll for one another with seeming
ease; however, the uncertain provenance behind some career-counseling sites and the tools
they offer makes the public wary, as it should be, of snake-oil salesmen with no training in
Indeed, career counseling is a rapidly growing field. At their core, legitimate career counselors
depend on the funding from government agencies to do the bulk of their work. It’s
now estimated that the average person will have as many as half a dozen distinct jobs in the
course of his or her career, and the need for this service is likely to increase.
Quality of Life
PRESENT AND FUTURE
Typically, career counselors start out by working with established professionals who
have an existing client base. Many counselors are still moving through training programs
associated with established testing authorities and spend significant time attending professional seminars and keeping up with professional reading. A number of career counselors come into the profession as psychotherapists, and many professionals make the transition to career counseling gradually.
Many career counselors are hired by local school
districts, private schools, rehabilitation agencies,
and social welfare organizations.
FIVE YEARS OUT
By now, most counselors have begun to see progress among their clients—many of
whom have successfully shifted careers in these first five years. Among the more
successful counselors, client bases have broadened through word of mouth. Salaries
have gone up, hours are significant, and satisfaction is strong. Those professionals who began
with more established counselors break off between years four and seven to establish independent
practices. Marketing skills become important. Many career counselors become
involved in professional education seminars, conferences, and other professional establishments
to train in cutting-edge counseling techniques.
TEN YEARS OUT
Those who’ve survived 10 years in the profession have earned solid reputations and
have shepherded many clients to new occupations. Many established professionals
begin scaling back hours and professional commitments during these later years.
Many 10-year veterans of this profession are prolific contributors to professional journals
and mainstream publications. Salaries level off as professionals work fewer hours at higher