Inside Career Counseling
Part 2 of 2

If you’ve read Part 1, you can see that career counseling isn’t just for high school students. Although if you are a high school student, you should seriously consider counseling as you head toward graduation! But whether you’re a student or a business executive seeking a change, you’d probably like to know what career counseling is really like before you plunge into it. So, here’s your chance to step into the Counselor’s office…  

Get Acquainted

If you’re meeting with Robin Fleischer, your first session begins with filling out a form to provide background information,“The better I can know you, the more efficient I can be in helping you reach your goals,” says Fleischer, a Career Coach and Master Career Counselor in Lexington, Kentucky. 

After the preliminaries, your session progresses quickly as your counselor begins to consider the most important issues. Fleischer says she focuses on three main questions: “Where do you want to be? What’s stopping you? Where do you go from here?”

Dr. Rhonda Sutton, owner of InnerSights Counseling and Consultation, Inc., in Raleigh, North Carolina, begins with discussion. If Sutton’s your counselor, she first discovers your interests, “What things bring you the most joy in life?” she asks you, “I always caution clients that although a salary is important, finding out how they want to spend their time and talents is most important.”

Even if others have pressured you in the past to be or to do something in particular, you can let go of all those expectations. What do you really want? Be honest with your counselor.

Regardless of the initial approach, a good counselor takes time to get to know you. Building a relationship with you allows her to become your partner in finding the right path for you.

Test Time

Your next step includes personal assessment and career testing.

*The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for example, uses valid testing to discover your personality type, based on Carl Jung’s theory. 

*The Strong Interest Inventory matches your interests with possible careers. When interpreted properly, it can reveal your real interests, let you know that you’re on the right track, or help you discover options you haven’t thought about previously.

*Similarly, the Career Key test uses a scientific method of matching your skills and abilities to careers and college majors. Based on Holland’s Theory of Career Choice, the Career Key test has been used and trusted for over 20 years.

*As the title implies, Gallup’s Strengths Finder assessments help you discover the things you do best and ways to use your strengths on a daily basis. When you can focus on the things you do well, you’ll be happier and more productive.

After you’ve completed your counselor’s suggested evaluations, she processes and interprets the information. You learn some things about yourself, and your counselor is ready to set you on the course best suited for you.

Down to the Hard Work

Depending on your situation, your counselor gives you specific assistance tailored just for you. 

*Confused by the vast choice of colleges? You emerge from your session with a specific list of schools crafted to match your personality, your budget, and your career goals. 

*Does your resume need an overhaul? Your counselor helps you develop a powerful, effective resume, because she knows what employers look for.

*Do you freeze up and seem to say the wrong things during your job interviews? You complete a “mock interview” during your session and your counselor provides a critique. She offers great advice for relaxing throughout the interviewing process.

*Are you feeling ignored by everyone in your chosen career field? You finish your counseling session with a list of resources and strategies for expanding your network.

*Are you feeling overwhelmed with your job search and getting no results? You learn the most effective job search methods, and your counselor finds a few particular jobs that match your skills.

*What if you want to switch careers—maybe even after an absence in the workforce? You might doubt that your particular skills can be used elsewhere. But your counselor helps you discover otherwise.

Sutton recalls a favorite counseling session with an older man interested in working again. For the past year, he’d been on a boat, traveling around the world, and he had no idea how to proceed, “We discussed the skills he’d used to navigate the boat, to determine his course, and to deal with unplanned issues, and how these skills were transferable to the type of work that interested him,” Sutton says, “It was a pleasure to talk with him about the work involved with sailing the open waters and what he had learned about himself, his skills, and his interests.”

Building Relationships, Building Your Career

According to Fleischer, the National Career Development Association (NCDA) identifies “career planning” as those services directly related to securing a job.  In other words, they’re designed to meet specific, immediate needs. “Career counseling” on the other hand, goes a bit further, she explains. As she guides you in planning your career, a good counselor establishes a deeper professional relationship, dealing with issues on a more personal level.  “In counseling, we get to know the person we are working with. First and foremost, we build relationships.”

A counseling session designed to discover skills and abilities, for example, isn’t so much about making a list. It’s more about discovering potential and purpose, “I’ve seen so many people who are limited in their knowledge about the world of work and their own possibilities,” says Fleischer, “Yet when they realize how truly terrific they are, their self-confidence builds, and they are ready to look for career opportunities….My favorite stories are the ‘aha’ moments, when a client discovers what her purpose may be, and she gets really excited about the possibilities for doing what she does best!”

Once you move beyond the information-gathering and meeting some of your immediate needs, counseling sessions become part of your entire career plan, “Most people do not realize that having a career involves a process,” explains Dr. Sutton, “a process that includes exploration, planning and goal-setting.” The specifics such as skills assessments, interviewing, and finding education or training are “just a few of the components of planning—and managing—one’s career.”

Problems on the Job

You might be struggling to stay afloat in the career you have. As promised at the end of part 1 of this series, let’s see how a session with your counselor could help you with some of the difficulties you face at work.

“First, I assess the nature of the problem, and then I help the client determine how much he can change the situation,” says Sutton. Let’s say you’re having problems with your employer. You can never change your boss, Sutton explains, but you can change the way you respond to or communicate with him or her, “I often use…person-centered therapy,” she says, “to help clients identify the real problem and establish action-oriented goals….”

Fleischer agrees, “Career coaching is very action and outcome-oriented. We often use a lot of solution-focused counseling. We are going to disempower the problem and empower the person.”

Empowered For...

  • Stress Relief

Many aspects of your job create stress, which, in turn, lowers your productivity, your creativity, and your overall sense of satisfaction. As you discuss your stressors with your counselor, he or she offers particular strategies, such as relaxation techniques to use on the job, as well as suggestions for dealing with particular issues. For example, let’s say your workload is too much. Your counselor suggests the most effective ways to discuss the issue with your boss. She leads you to hone your assertiveness skills, so that you can make positive changes.

  • Better Work Relationships

Do you work with people who don’t want to pull their own weight? Know any back-stabbers? How about whiners or hot-heads? A good career counselor gives you insight into the different personality types you encounter in your work. She offers tips for dealing with difficult people and for improving your communication skills. 

  • A Balanced Life

Does your job consume more of your personal life than it should? Do you bring work home? Do clients, customers, or co-workers contact you at home or elsewhere? If you work out of your home, is your job interfering with home life? In this session, your counselor deals with prioritizing and time management skills, “We will often look at a typical day and determine what the client is experiencing,” says Sutton, “what is most important, and what can be compromised so that a better work-life balance can be established.”

  • Decision-making

Do you ever feel like your inability to make wise decisions keeps you from success? A career counselor does not make decisions for you, but a good one helps you make the right ones. As you learn to make better decisions, your counselor provides support and encouragement along the way, “I’m going to assist my client with defining his or her goals,” says Fleischer, “I will monitor and validate your progress, as well. My goal is to help my client take action….”

  • Career Advancement

Becca enjoys her job as a retail manager, but she feels stuck in her position and underappreciated. She has no idea how to move forward. If you find yourself in a similar situation, your counselor helps you discover the real barriers to your advancement. She offers a new perspective and helps you find some different opportunities. She also offers ways you might refine your career, so that you can do more of what you really love. A good counselor enjoys helping you achieve job satisfaction: “I like to see each person doing what he or she does best every day,” says Fleischer, “…and [I want my client to] find an employer who values and pays him or her to do that!”

The Search for a Counselor

Some professionals list career counseling as part of their services and may have some experience in general career guidance. And if you’re a student, you can probably get some general advice from your school counselor, although staff counselors usually have little time to move beyond the immediate focus of getting into college and choosing a suitable major. 

So don’t choose just any counselor. If you need serious guidance, seek out a professional with particular training and expertise in career development.

Where do you look?

Start with professional organizations that provide counselor names and information. Fleischer notes several: the National Career Development Association (NCDA), the National Board for Certified Counselors, the Career Coach Academy, the Career Coach Institute, and the International Coach Federation. Take the time to check a counselor’s credentials and experience, she advises, so that you can find the person best suited for your particular goals. 

Even when you’ve found a qualified counselor, remember that different professionals have different areas of expertise, such as resume development or personal relationships. Notice a counselor’s title, says Fleischer: Job Coach, Career Counselor, Business Coach, Career Coach, Leadership Coach…. “Knowing the niche can be important in deciding if that professional is the right person for your desired outcomes.”

Check the counselor’s website, reminds Dr. Sutton, and make sure he or she offers the services you need—more than just resume development or interview practice, “True career counseling includes an exploration component!” says Sutton. You may even want to interview your prospective counselor, she suggests. Inquire about a free consultation.  During this initial meeting, you can ask directly about the counselor’s experience and judge your compatibility with him or her. 

Where Will Counseling Lead You?

“I’m glad to have this job,” says Julian, a student who works part-time as a car-wash attendant, “But it makes me realize how much more I want to do with my life. So many people probably have jobs they just have to endure. They just try to get through the day. And that’s sad. I want to do something I really love, something I can get excited about!”

At times, you may “just have a job.” That’s okay. You need to work and be responsible. But a career counselor may be able to help you move beyond just working a job—to living a career. Your career can express who you really are.

Dr. Sutton relates the story of a man who’d spent many years working for a large IT company. When she spoke with him, he was retirement age, but he needed additional income. He presented his resume to Dr. Sutton, thinking he needed to find work in the IT industry again, “I could tell he was not happy with the thought of returning to an IT job, so I asked what made him happy. His face lit up as he discussed the metal artwork and sculptures he enjoyed creating for lawns and gardens.” After Dr. Sutton explored with him the idea of selling his creations to local garden shops, he left the meeting with a new career plan—a plan that involved his passion!

“Anyone can have a job,” says Dr. Sutton, “but a true career involves a thoughtful and nurturing planning process so that one can identify a way in which to share his talents, interests, strengths, and skills with others….career counseling helps to identify these in a way that benefits the client and leads to a life of meaning and fulfillment.”

How about you? Have you found your passion? Are you ready to use your unique talents and gifts in a career you love?  If you need some guidance, let career counseling lead you toward fulfillment.


Our special thanks to the following
who provided interviews in support of the development of this article:

Robin S. Fleischer, Robin S. Fleischer Counseling, LLC
National Certified Counselor (NCC)/Master Career Counselor (MCC)
Lexington, KY

Rhonda Sutton, PhD, LPC, LPC-S
Private Career and Mental Health Counselor
Owner of InnerSights Counseling and Consultation, Inc.
Raleigh-Durham, NC

Written by Beth Prassel-Sieg


Part 1:
Career Counseling: Who Needs It?

©Copyright 2014 / Good Choices Good Life, Inc. / All Rights Reserved

A healthy outside starts from the inside. Robert Urich