Career Counseling: Who needs it?
Part 1 of 2

“I chose my career very early in life,” says a Lexington, Kentucky resident, “My parents liked telling the story. One day, when I was just a baby, they placed three objects on the floor —a dollar bill, a whiskey bottle, and a Bible. Then they put me down on the floor to see which one I would crawl to. If I crawled to the dollar, that meant I’d make a lot of money. If I chose the whiskey bottle, I’d turn out to be an alcoholic. And if I chose the Bible, I’d become a preacher. Supposedly, I crawled directly to the Bible.” 

Of course, this superstitious tradition really had nothing to do with this man’s career goals. But, as it turned out, he really did become a preacher—at the age of 19—and remained in his profession for 46 years.

Not everyone chooses a career so early in life. In fact, many people struggle with choosing a profession or changing professions. 

If you’re a young adult trying to plan a career, you might find yourself floundering. Maybe you’re torn between two career options. Maybe you don’t know the best route toward your ultimate goal. Or maybe you have no idea what you want to do with your life. That’s okay. Many people, even in their late 20’s, are still trying to figure it all out. Maybe you’ve been working for many years, but you need a career change and you’re trying to figure out that part of life all over again.

Whatever your situation, you don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. Your family and friends can help, but they may not offer the objective advice you really need. So where can you turn for this kind of specific direction? The answer…professional career counseling. Contrary to common thought, a career counselor provides guidance to people in a variety of situations.

Students looking toward the future…

If you’re a high school junior or senior, you’re probably thinking about what you will do after graduation. You may be considering particular colleges or universities. Perhaps you’re receiving ads from various schools, each declaring that it’s just the place for you! The more you think about it, the more questions you have: should you stay in-state or go out of state? Should you look at a small private college or a large public university? Should you go for a liberal arts education or a more focused program? 

Maybe you’re not even sure you should go to a traditional four-year school. Perhaps you can get all the education and training you need at a technical or vocational school. 

Counseling can help you decide what sort of training or education you need. You’ll be able to identify specific schools that fit your needs.

Perhaps you hesitate to choose any path at all for fear of discovering you were meant for something completely different. One college freshman, confident in his choice to become a medical doctor, declared a pre-med major his first semester. When the grades came out, however, he quickly changed his mind. He’d flunked biology. 

There’s nothing wrong with setting a goal, choosing a path—and then changing your mind. At least this young man wasn’t afraid to shoot for his dream. The fact that he tried something not suited for him says nothing about his character, his determination, or his success. Although he failed one class, he hadn’t failed in his effort to discover his career. He had merely discovered one path that wasn’t right for him. But could career counseling have saved him some anxiety? Probably.

In these beginning stages, a career counselor can save you time and money by placing you on a path suited for your personality and circumstances. Counseling doesn’t guarantee you’ll choose the right direction from the beginning, but it can help you avoid initial mistakes—such as attending a school that doesn’t meet your expectations or wasting hours in a field of study that doesn’t really fit your personality. Guidance from a professional can provide you with a sense of confidence that you’re at least headed in the general direction that’s right for you.

Young people who’ve made a false start…

Joseph got a late start on his college application process. He felt so overwhelmed with information that he procrastinated. By the time he had decided which schools fit him best, he had missed many of the application deadlines. He settled for a large university where he was unhappy. He made mediocre grades and ended up dropping out after the first semester. Now he doesn’t know what to do.

Brittany has begun her third year of college and has already changed majors twice. Because of her uncertainty, she may end up having to attend one or two extra semesters in order to complete a degree program.

After earning a degree in something he loved, Charlie was ready to jump into the business world right after graduation. He envisioned sending out his resume to a few places and finding employment with no problem. But now after eight months of silence, his vision has turned to disillusionment and he’s beginning to panic.

A career counselor might help any one of these young people with college applications or transfers, choosing a major, or getting a job. 

Folks looking for a change…

What if you’re way beyond just starting out? Maybe you’re established in a career but in desperate need of a change. Maybe your family situation requires you to be home more often  than you are now. Or maybe you’re looking to increase your income. Maybe your current job is robbing you of good health. Perhaps you’re simply tired of what you’ve been doing for 20 years. Maybe you’ve even lost your job.

Does a career development professional have anything to offer you at this point? Absolutely! Laura Hall, career counselor and founder of Career Compass Global, notes varied methods of helping people in these situations, from career assessment and job search assistance to negotiating salaries and managing lay-offs.

Making a Late Entrance…

Perhaps you’re entering the workforce later in life or after a long absence from working. Mothers who stay at home to raise their children, for example, sometimes want to re-establish a former career or start something new after their children have left home. A mother who suddenly finds herself single through divorce or through the death of her husband may also find it necessary to enter the workforce for the first time. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try a career development professional who can get you back to work with a powerful resume or coaching for interviews.

So, who needs career counseling? Maybe you do.

Whether you’re just beginning to explore your career options, you’ve made some false starts, you’re looking to make a change or making a late entrance, it isn’t too late to seek the guidance you need. Career counseling can lead you toward a career you love and one for which you are especially suited.

Maybe you don’t need a new career; maybe you’re just struggling to stay in the one you have….

Read more about this topic in the next part, when we’ll take a closer look inside the career counseling process.

Written by Beth Prassel-Sieg


Part 2:
Inside Career Counseling

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A healthy outside starts from the inside. Robert Urich