What Is Career Counselling? (With Benefits and Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Finding and growing in a job that aligns with your interests, personal goals and core values can help you feel fulfilled in your career. Occasionally, it can feel challenging to recognise and attain the right opportunity. If you're unsure which professional direction to take, visiting a career counsellor might help. In this article, we answer the question, what is career counselling?, list the responsibilities of a career counsellor are and provide a list of steps on how a career counsellor can provide guidance as you pursue your professional goals.

What is career counselling?

Career counselling is a service designed to help people find the right professional path. Career counsellors, also referred to as career coaches or job coaches, provide guidance to professionals from varying fields, backgrounds and experience levels. Clients of a career counsellor 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 counsellor's role to help you understand your options and evaluate challenging professional decisions. Career counsellors also support professionals by providing resources, administering tests and recommending tactics for securing a great job.

Career counsellor responsibilities

Career counsellors 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. Most career coaches work with clients one-on-one, but may also work in team settings with other professionals. 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 utilising 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

  • Developing an action plan to help the client reach their career goals

  • Creating referral lists of professionals, agencies and potential employers

  • Working with agencies to find available jobs for the client

  • Providing useful suggestions, feedback and practical guidance to the client

  • Demonstrating continued interest in the client's career development

  • Helping to set goals and track progress

  • Connecting the client with potential employers and experiences such as internships, mentoring programs and leadership opportunities

  • Helping clients to make informed career decisions by helping them analyse their strengths, weaknesses and interests

  • Providing support related to goals and goal setting

  • Encouraging and assisting with the career planning process, such as a business plan or resume writing

  • Outlining effective communication methods, such as presentations, writing and speeches and social networking sites

  • Collaborating on dealing with setbacks or other obstacles that may arise during the client's career development process

  • Career counsellors 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

How a job coach can help you

If you're wondering whether a professional career counsellor can provide the guidance you need, it can be helpful to understand the job services coaches typically offer. Here are the key ways a job coach can help you:

Career guidance

Whether you're choosing your first job or considering a change, a career coach can guide you through the process. Your career counsellor 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 counsellor. Your job coach may 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 behavioural questions that aim to evaluate your worldview and decision-making process.

Resume writing assistance

No matter what career you want to pursue, an effective resume can capture the attention of an employer. Job coaches often collaborate with you to optimise your resume. They can help organise an easy-to-read format, identify key skills to highlight and shape results-driven professional experience descriptions. They may also help you create resumes for specific types of positions in which you're interested in applying.

Related: Tips from a University Career Coach: How to Succeed in a Virtual Internship

Interview advice

Interviews are a critical step in the hiring process that gives you the opportunity to make a strong first impression with employers. Career counsellors 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 job coach can also advise you on the structure of an interview, effective answers for common questions and the uses of body language to give the best impression. They offer comprehensive tips for a successful interview and guide you through the follow-up process.

How to find a career coach

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

1. Think about the industry or type of job you want to pursue

Many career counsellors focus on helping candidates excel in certain sectors, so it's worthwhile to evaluate whether you can benefit from more targeted guidance. For example, you may want to learn more about a specific industry if you want to pursue a career in that area. In that case, it's important to understand the core competencies needed for success in that industry or job type. This kind of review can help you focus your career goals on more realistic targets.

2. Conduct an online search

An online search can help you find the type of coaching that suits your needs. Simply type in the keywords related to your desired career goals, industry or job group and you may get an idea of counsellors that are available to coach you. You can search for people who have experience in certain sectors or roles. For example, if you want to find a career coach who specialises in the financial sector, you can search with the words financial sector career counsellors in the search box.

3. Get in touch with professional organisations

Another way to find career counsellors is to contact relevant industry associations. Most offer career management resources, including job search support and mentoring services for members. Many also offer events and training courses that you may attend. Numerous organisations are interested in attracting candidates who possess the particular competencies needed for success in their organisation. It's often advisable to ask them if they have resources available for individuals who possess the competencies they're seeking to hire.

Related: How To Overcome 4 Common Job Search Barriers

4. Get referrals

You may also find an appropriate career counsellor using referrals. A good place to start is by contacting people who work in the industry you want to pursue and who may already know of a career coach that might be able to meet your needs. You may then contact them and ask if they can recommend a suitable advisor for you.

5. Evaluate the career coach

Once you have identified a few potential coaches, it's important to review their website or CV carefully to determine if your needs align with their expertise. For example, an experienced manager may be able to help you prepare for a management position, but may not be able to help you prepare for an entry-level role. Similarly, someone with strong research skills may be able to help you learn how to find good job leads but might not know as much about how to write an effective resume.

To evaluate the coaches' credentials, it's also advisable to contact them and ask for details of their career experiences and educational backgrounds.

Related: Job Search Guide: Finding Companies That Value Diversity & Inclusion

6. Set goals for the relationship

Before hiring a career coach, review what you really want to get out of the relationship and how much time and effort you're willing or able to commit to your coaching program or project. This is important because it may help ensure that both of you agree on expectations. For example, you may want to set up a coaching program that lasts for three months. You can then decide whether to continue working with the career coach after that period of time.

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