Updated 30 October 2020
What Is Career Counseling?
70% of Americans are unhappy at work. This is because they are:
- Unsure if they are in the right job
- Feel stuck or confused about the next step
- Have no idea what they want to achieve
- Believe they have the potential to earn more money
- Don't want to work in an office, but not sure of other options.
Without the proper understanding of who we are and what we want from our lives, it is easy to feel dissatisfied.
Career counseling helps confused job seekers find the right choices for career development or career change. So the next time someone asks you where you see yourself in five years, you can confidently answer.
Traditionally, career counselors work in schools and universities to help students make the right choices. But as workplace cultures are changing and there is a greater focus on wellness, organizations are also employing counselors.
Career counselors are also referred to as therapists, life coaches and business coaches. They have qualifications in:
- Career development theory
- Counseling techniques
- Administrative and interpretive assessment
- Access to a wide range of career development resources
Will I Benefit from Career Counseling?
The short answer is yes.
Everyone can benefit one way or another from counseling. However, there are some situations where career counseling would be a greater benefit.
Let's discover how:
The most common time for career guidance is in college or university. This is the start of your journey.
Making the correct decisions here can save you a lot of time and money in the future. If this resource is available to you, then take full advantage.
In turn, this will:
- Allow you to enjoy your personal life more as you won't be worried about your work life
- Potentially lead to quicker promotions, and essentially more money
- Help you create self-awareness. If you need to change your plan, you have the tools and the knowledge to make those amendments.
Outside of the education system, you should consider a career counselor if you:
- Are unsure of what you want to achieve in your work life
- Have no idea what you want to do as a career
- Know what you want but have no idea how to get there
- Have a plan but struggle to act on it, and feel you would benefit from being accountable to someone
- You are stressed about money/work/personal life
Some may argue that a counselor is a waste of time and money; a job is just a means to an end. But your job is the thing you spend the most time doing. It gives you your income, determines how much free time you have and, statistically speaking, occupies most of your thoughts.
Working with a counselor or mentor gives you clarity and focus. They have the resources to help you understand what motivates you, which topics interest you and what your strengths are.
The financial cost of starting or staying in the wrong career can be extensive. Your student loans for a degree you don't use, for example. Or having to take a massive pay cut so you can start from scratch in another profession.
But you should also consider the non-financial costs.
Your sleep, diet, and mood are all linked to your happiness. If any part of our lives is not aligned, we lose sleep or comfort eat. If we dread going to the office Monday morning, we feel crummy all weekend, and we project our mood onto other people.
Without proper thought and planning, who knows how many wrong career moves you'll make before you get it right.
How Can Career Counseling Improve My Salary?
Now you understand what career counseling provides, who should consider it and what problems it solves, let's consider how counseling can directly improve your salary:
1. Highlights Your Strengths and Weaknesses
A lot of the initial groundwork you do with a career counselor is about you.
Knowing this information allows you to focus on roles that play to those strengths.
Applying for a position where you tick all the boxes increases your chance of being selected. As a result, your promotion leads to a pay rise, or that new role comes with a better compensation package.
2. Creates Effective Goal Setting
Working towards a set of goals keeps you focused and motivated. It also allows you to move through your career quicker.
If you know that by age 30 you want to be earning X amount of money and you know the steps you need to take to get there, then chances are, by your 30th birthday you will be earning that amount.
People who lack direction get stuck in the same position for extended periods.
3. Builds a Personal Brand
Knowing who you are allows you to show the world the same. As a result, you can create a strong personal brand by showcasing your talents.
Let's say, for example, you work in finance.
Yes, you are skilled at making money, but you discover you are a strong communicator. Your clients like the way you explain things.
You then make that part of your branding and you start sharing tips and advice across social media. Eventually, people will think of you as 'the friendly finance guy'.
That strong personal brand could lead to faster promotions or being headhunted by other banks and agencies.
It could also lead to a passive income. Blogging and social media are sources of revenue. If your brand is strong enough, it can lead to many financial and non-financial opportunities – travel, invites to speak at conferences, gifts.
4. Offers Support
Working with a career counselor comes with a lot of support. They are not there to help you define your goals and then leave you to it.
Counselors help you write your cover letters and resumes. They offer interview advice and may even run through some interview role-plays.
All this support gives you the confidence to be the best possible candidate for that big promotion.
5. Leads to Job Satisfaction
Knowing that you are in a role perfectly suited for you takes away a lot of stress. It means that you can focus on your work properly and complete tasks quicker.
For someone working in sales, this feeling of job satisfaction and happiness results in you beating your targets. You've done all the work to find out what makes you so good at selling, and you now work for an organization you love.
As a result, this fulfillment manifests in all aspects of your work drawing in more commission.
6. Shortens Unemployment Periods
Employers do not like gaps in your resume. Working with a counselor will help you focus on getting a job sooner rather than later, avoiding mass losses of income.
It also shows any potential employers that you have applied for that job because it is part of your career plan and not because you are desperate for any job.
7. Opens Up Career Options
As you are not an expert in all careers and options, you can't know all the available opportunities.
A career counselor has resources and is aware of methods you may never have considered.
They are also able to advise you on how to develop your skills in different ways.
Not every skill or piece of knowledge needs to be learned through a qualification. Not every job opportunity is found through traditional methods.
Your counselor may be able to direct you towards a promotion that was not initially available. Or help you develop skills that earn you a pay rise.
Can I Get Free Career Counseling?
A lot of universities, schools and colleges provide on-campus career counseling. So if you are in education, then yes, you can receive free counseling.
Enquire with the HR department at your place of work to see what career development services they offer.
If your organization does not offer career counseling, or you are currently unemployed, you will need to hire your own counselor/mentor/coach.
The National Career Development Association (NCDA) has a counselor finder function with a database of approved counselors.
Otherwise, a Google search will yield a considerable number of results.
The coaching/counseling/mentoring industry is mostly unregulated and has become a popular career choice for digital nomads.
To operate as an independent business coach, you don't need any specific qualification or accreditations. Many fall into those roles because they have a passion for helping people, or after learning they have a talent for this type of coaching.
Those that work with schools or in organizations are usually more qualified.
When choosing a career counselor, consider the following:
Education – Ideally, you want a career counselor with a master's in counseling. However, to receive certifications from institutes such as the National Board of Certified Counselors, a degree in related fields is the minimum requirement.
Experience – If they are accredited, it means that they have extensive, supervised experience. If they are not accredited, then ask about their experience and request two or three references.
Success – Some career counselors will claim to help you achieve six-figure incomes in six months. Before committing, check their reviews and social media comments, and ask for physical evidence of these claims.
Price – A counseling session can cost anything from $50 to $500. Depending on the level of counseling you want and the expertise of that counselor, you should aim for a budget of $150.
Some counselors may offer a free first session or call so you can see if they are a good fit. Take advantage of this, but do not feel obliged to commit to any further sessions until you are 100% certain they are the right one.
This is, after all, your money and your career.
To summarize, career counselors are a wonderful resource that can help improve your salary and quality of life by:
- Helping you discover your strengths and personality profile
- Guiding you through the career planning process
- Making you accountable for your goals and keeping you motivated
- Ensuring you stay focused on the things that will move your career forward
If you need that support or want to excel in your career, then a counselor certainly provides ROI. Not only do they help you reach your financial goals, but their methods can be applied to all areas of your life.
They encourage you to be the best person you can be, improving your mental and physical wellbeing, which is why some counselors prefer to call themselves life coaches.
Of course, you have to put in the work as well. But if you both do your part, then the results can be life-changing.