1. What are the natural strengths and qualities important for someone considering a career in this field?
Most counselors/facilitators/coaches would agree that the ability to listen, empathize, and build a trusting relationship with the client to be bedrock for a successful career. Warmth, a non-judgmental attitude, openness, curiosity, organization, teamwork (in an organizational setting) and the ability to help people stay on task are all useful qualities. You should also be comfortable with the lack of closure and concrete results that occurs when clients do not return to let you know the outcome of their transition.
2. What will I being doing? What do I need to know?
For career counseling or job search coaching, you will be helping clients with both the psychological issues of transition (anxiety, self-doubt, and financial stresses) and the nuts and bolts of career changes (resumes, job search, interviewing and salary negotiation, etc.). Depending on the employment position and stage of client intervention, you may be identifying hidden strengths, offering support, brainstorming career possibilities, interpreting inventories, advising on job search strategies and documents, writing and editing, and providing resources. You will need to be able to identify barriers to success and consider the client's culture and personality in co-designing a plan that builds on his or her unique strengths and situation. Having training in counseling techniques, career theory and strategies, group facilitation techniques, and knowledge of the stages of change are all helpful. For private practice you will need the ability to market yourself.
3. Is there a difference between Career Counseling and Career Coaching?
As described on the National Career Development Association Website, career counselors hold a graduate degree in counseling with a specialization in career counseling. Services of career counselors differ, depending on the counselor's level of competence, the setting, client needs, and other factors. Examples of services include conducting individual or group counseling sessions, administering and interpreting assessments or inventories, and teaching job hunting skills. National Certified Career Counselors, Registered Professional Career Counselors, and other professional career counselors help people make and carry out decisions and plans related to life/career directions. In addition, a counselor might help the client consider variables such as an optimal work environment, desired/required income level, proportion of job devoted to tasks such as writing, customer contact, etc. There may also be a teaching component to the work, such as helping clients learn to construct a resume or cover letter that targets a specific type of position. Career counseling may have a coaching component included as part of the intervention.
Career coaches, on the other hand, have usually received some kind of training and certification through any number of coaching institutes or training programs. Or they may have no formal training, as the field is unregulated at this time. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the accrediting organization for coaching. There are numerous training programs for coaching and it is up to the individual as to whether they choose to seek certification. It is not a requirement, just as a career counselor obtaining the MCC designation is not a requirement to performing as a career counselor. Coaching programs are often less lengthy than those attended by counselors, and the services one receives from a coach may largely reflect the coach's particular philosophy, experience, and talents rather than a particular theoretical orientation. Some coaches may, however, have a graduate degree or its equivalent from a previous field. Coaches emphasize overcoming barriers to success or helping clients develop a clearer image of his/her career mission, and then work to develop and sustain the drive toward change. Many individuals also employ career coaches in an effort to perform or cope better in a current job. Such coaching might look at concerns such as time management and prioritizing skills, as well as more effective ways to interact with bosses and/or subordinates. Frequently coaches work by phone and may charge by the month or year instead of by the session.
4. What certifications or training are important?
For career counselors, a graduate degree is required with specialized training in career development. NCDA offers membership categories to recognize members who hold special levels of achievement in education, training, and experience in career development. Three special membership categories include the Master Career Counselor (MCC), the Master Career Development Professional (MCDP) and the Fellow. Some universities offer certificate programs in career development or career advising. NCDA offers a Career Development Facilitator designation (CDF) and Colorado offers training locally. In addition, CCDA offers twice-yearly conferences with national and local experts that offer excellent training and the regional Connections groups provide professionals the chance to gain individual support and education. Note: Refer to Education, Certification & Credentials section below.
5. What do you see as trends and opportunities in this field?
Most career counselors work in secondary education settings, in state workforce offices, government, organizations, or in private practice. Private practitioners frequently offer additional services such as mental health counseling or resume writing. A recent trend is retirement counseling/coaching, for individuals wanting to design a satisfying third-quarter of life.
6. Do you use assessments? If so, how do you select the appropriate one?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Interest Inventory, the Self-Directed Search and the Highlands Ability Battery are some of the most common. Other commonly used assessments include True Colors, SkillScan, card sorts, and for business, DISC. Qualitative (interview-based) assessments are also popular among many career counselors.
7. What resources have been the most beneficial to your success?
Nothing is as valuable as a network of like-minded professionals. Joining CCDA and NCDA, attending the trainings and conferences, and getting involved on a local or national level all help practitioners grow and thrive professionally and personally.
8. Where do I get more information?
See our list of individuals in the Find a Counselor directory who have agreed to talk to others interested in the field. We will do our best to answer all your questions.