What is career counselling? This is a question I am asked all too often.
When meeting new people outside of work, I am often faced with a blank stare after I introduce myself as either an organisational psychologist or a career counsellor/career psychologist. The blank stares are generally closely followed by ‘Oh that sounds interesting. So what exactly do you do?’ Once I explain my role, people generally express delight and surprise, stating that they really need to talk to ‘someone like me’.
Given how frequently I hear this question it got me thinking – someone needs to address the concept of career counselling, for what it is, and what it isn’t. So here it is. My take on what career counselling is.
What do we usually do when making decisions?
Picture these scenarios. You are trying to make a decision about whether you should go to uni or not. Or you are trying to decide on which course to do –finance or economics. What do you do? As a first basic step, you might jump online and begin your research. After trawling what feels like millions of websites, you end up feeling even more overwhelmed by the impending decision because of all the conflicting information you have just spent hours browsing.
In a desperate attempt to gain some clarity, you might also decide to talk to some friends and family who are quick to respond with well-intentioned anecdotes, for example, don’t become a hair dresser you know what happened to Lorraine she has RSI in her arm, or go and be an accountant, you see your bother-in-law and how much money he makes! Feeling clearer with your decision? I doubt it. I know these are over simplified scenarios but they highlight my point.
Despite our best efforts to gather as much information as possible, sometimes that information is not the most accurate (despite all good intentions), and other times, it still leaves the decision-maker unable to move forward with a decision (maybe they are struggling with motivation or low confidence). So what next?
Enter the career professional AKA in the industry as a career consultant, career advisor, career psychologist and/or career counsellor. The answer to all you career questions.
If you are considering investing 3+ years (of time and money) for a uni degree (and racking up a huge government fee debt of 20K+) wouldn’t you want to check in with a professional before committing to that pathway?
Or if you were torn between two options such as a trade or a uni degree, wouldn’t you want to speak with a career counsellor for peace of mind, instead of relying on your cousin’s anecdotal advice about her friend who developed RSI from hair dressing, or basing a decision on a conversation you overhead on a bus? (Yes, this actually happens and it really is not the best way to make a decision). Just some food for thought.
Career counselling –
So what is it?
Career counselling can be thought of as a way for people to:
- Make career related decisions through a counselling process (that draws on research driven counselling practices and frameworks)
- Identify and work through barriers blocking their decisions
- Learn more about themselves, which includes getting a better understanding of what work means to them, the value they place on work and/or career and the alignment between themselves (from a skills, values and interests point of view) with work/study opportunities
- Explore and expand on suitable and realistic study and work options
- Receive accurate information about study and work pathways (this is the ‘advising’ part)
- Gain practical support with course and job applications and interview coaching
- Feel empowered about taking action through concrete steps provided
- Learn about and accept change as part of decision-making
- Acquire effective decision-making skills and build confidence with decision-making which will all tie into future decisions
What it isn’t!
Career counselling is many things, but it is not the following:
- Not about diagnosing or treating mental health concerns. Working through career related stressors or barriers can alleviate certain mental health symptoms (mostly associated with anxiety and depression/low mood), but career counselling does not claim to provide clinical treatment
- ‘Just’ advising – Yes, career counselling involves advising through the provision of accurate and reliable information (for example, information about a specific industry or information about how to write an effective resume) but it is more focussed on the process of facilitating decision-making through counselling (this means things like working through problems with motivation and building resilience and confidence). Although career counselling is sometimes referred to as career advising, many in the field would argue this is an inaccurate title.
The benefits – So why bother?
The benefits of career counselling are undeniable. I have worked with many clients who have referred to it as ‘magic’. The process itself is not quite so elusive and there is no crystal ball or fortune telling involved. It is however, a process. A process which provides each client with the respectful ear of a professional and someone to help them work through the complex interplay between work and life by asking the right questions along the way.
Some friendly advice – How to find a career development professional
A basic search online (with keywords such as career advisor Sydney, career consultant, career advisor, career psychologist, and career psychologist Sydney) will reveal a number of career development professionals.
Before looking for a career development professional, consider exactly what you require and evaluate your needs against the professionals approach and background (including qualifications if you are interested in this – probably most important if you are seeking career counselling). It is important you find a career professional you ‘gel with’ and feel comfortable talking to so it is a good idea to call up and have a quick chat about your situation. This way you can get a vibe about how well you could work with the professional as well as a better understanding about how they can potentially help you.
If you are at a crossroads with your study or work, or thinking about your next career move, do yourself a favour and speak with a career professional. What are you waiting for?