It’s easy to underestimate the impact of career counselling services. Career counsellors help people find work that is not only financially rewarding, but also satisfying and meaningful. When you consider that the average person spends 90 000 hours of their life working, the significance of professional career counselling becomes apparent. Simply put, counsellors have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
What exactly is career counselling?
Career guidance is commonly associated with students choosing the right educational programmes for a particular career or entering the workforce after a course of study. However, counsellors also perform a number of other tasks:
- They help students find financial aid
- They conduct aptitude and personality tests to identify people’s skills and interests and find suitable careers
- Advise people who are considering a career change
- Assist in the preparation or improvement of resumes and cover letters
- Teach job interview techniques
4 skills a career counsellor needs
Good communication skills
Counselling is a two-way process. Therefore, a good counsellor must be able to express their thoughts and opinions clearly, be an attentive listener, and glean important details and insights from what a client tells them.
Using insights from conversations with a client and personality and aptitude assessments, academic records, and job profile information requires the ability to organise, prioritise, and analyse data.
Career decisions are among the most important decisions people ever have to deal with, and that importance brings a lot of stress and anxiety. It is an essential career counseling technique to recognise this and respond to it without judgement.
It is easy to be guided by one’s feelings and biases when it comes to judging others. A good career counsellor should recognise possible biases and know how they can influence the counselling of others.
Career counselling techniques cheat sheet
Now that we’ve established what sort of skills a career counsellor needs, let’s review some helpful hints on how to provide the best possible career consulting services.
Understand your client
Career counselling services go beyond simply matching your someone’s skills with some potential occupations. In order to provide the best possible service, you need to form a holistic view of your client. Good career counsellors will already have an idea from research and pre-assessment, which are important to do before meeting with someone for the first time, but it can also be helpful to get the client to describe themselves. Their views of their background, cultural identity, financial background, family status and the like can provide insights into their values and needs.
It’s also helpful to understand where the client is in terms of their career development. The FIRST framework has been used for decades to help assess this:
Focus: How far has the client narrowed down their potential career options?
Information: How much do they actually know about these careers?
Realism: How realistic are their ambitions, taking into account both ability and external factors?
Scope: Are they fully aware of the range of alternatives?
Tactics: To what extent have they established the practical steps needed to achieve their goals?
It’s good for the client and good for you. As much as we may talk about the difference between our professional and personal lives, career choice is ultimately a deeply personal matter. That’s why it’s important for counsellors to build mutual trust with clients and develop a deeper, more therapeutic relationship than simply explaining the results of aptitude tests or the like. The more a client trusts you, the more likely they are to open up to you, follow your advice, and – as a bonus – recommend you to others.
Define career goals
This may seem obvious, but it’s critical to help your client clearly articulate their career goals – or, if they don’t have any, help them figure out what they might be. Consider breaking them down into short-, medium- and long-term goals to keep things manageable and help develop a roadmap for achieving each. More direct guiding questions might include questions about their dream job or where they see themselves in five or 10 years, while less direct questions might include what they value in life or what success means to them.
Give emotional support
People want to feel that they have a future, that they can be useful and matter in the world of work. An important part of a career counsellor’s job is to dispel self-doubt and indecision so that people can make clear decisions about their goals and how to get there. Use the acronym PLEASE to address your clients sincerely and honestly.
Protect: Make sure you provide all the benefits and help expected of a counsellor.
Listen: Be attentive, patient and active in your listening in order to get the full picture.
Enquire: Show interest and curiosity in your client by asking questions and remarking on things they say.
Acknowledge: Make the client feel noticed through both verbal and non-verbal signs.
Support: Stay positive, be encouraging and provide constructive feedback.
Exchange: Share information you think will be helpful, including your own stories or experiences.
Keep your finger on the pulse
The labour market is undergoing unprecedented change: mass resignations, changing skill requirements, remote work, and the impact of automation and digitisation are upending many long-held principles of work and employer-employee dynamics. Keeping track can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it’s up to career counsellors to keep up with key developments and ideally predict future trends (good sources include LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Forbes, McKinsey and Gallup).
Remember to instil in your clients a sense of agility and adaptability, as well as a culture of lifelong learning, which are increasingly important to succeed in today’s ever-changing workplace.
Use the right tools for the job
Career counselling is about so much more than skills and aptitude tests, but these tests are still an important tool in your career guidance arsenal. To give your clients the definitive, comprehensive list of potential occupations, you should work with them through a personalised report from Career Fit. This scientifically validated process compares the results of the Career Interest Inventory and three aptitude tests to more than 1,200 potential occupations and produces a list of 16 possible options.
Contact us for more information.