Considering The Services Of A Career Counselor

Beverly Baskin, MA, NCC, CPRW
and Mary H. Guindon, Ph.D., NCC, NCCC

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Part 1

The benefits of receiving career counseling are many. First and most obviously, a career counselor can help you gain knowledge about specific careers, the workplace, and future marketing trends. Second, a career counselor can help you understand who you are and what you want out of your life and your career through helping you take a look at such things as your interests, skills, abilities, values, and goals. Perhaps even more importantly, a career counselor can offer you the support you need as you make decisions about your life and your career and help you actually make the transition to a more satisfying lifestyle.

In an era of downsizing and uncertainty in American business, finding job and planning for your future is very different than it was in the past. It encompasses creativity and flexibility. Unlike in past generations, you literally have to take responsibility for your own career. If you don't, no one else will. A career counselor can help you learn exactly how to do that, she can teach you the skills you can use today and for the rest of your life.

As career counseling professionals we are often asked these questions: What exactly are the the main components of career counseling? To begin with, career counseling is counseling. It is as personal as any other kind of counseling you may seek out. If you don't know what you want to do, if you feel stuck in your career, if you are unhappy at work, and unsure about which direction to follow, then career counseling might be advantageous; it can help you find the answers already within you, answers you may not be aware are there, just waiting to break through so you can live an authentic, satisfying life. The only difference between career and personal, or mental health, counseling is that in career counseling concerns about work and career are the primary focus from the beginning.

The term career can be defined as the totality of work one does in one's lifetime. This can broadly include the sum of all like experiences including education, work, leisure activities, social and civic memberships and family responsibilities. All of life development can be viewed as an aspect of career. Contrast this to the definition of work developed by Donald Super, a well-known vocational theorist: "The systematic pursuit of an objective valued by oneself (even if only for survival) and desired by others...," or his definition of employment: "Time spent in paid work or in indirectly paid work...." Clearly, career encompasses a broad range of activities. In fact, career is no less than how we structure our time across our life span. Given this definition, then, we see everyone as unique; the issues you bring to a career counselor are your own and will not be exactly like what someone else might bring. For example, Shake Gawain, in her book, Creative Visualization, explains that people often attempt to live their lives backwards. They try to have more things or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want. A career counselor can help you find out who you are and teach you how to go about getting what you need and what you ultimately want.

Who are our clients?
Typically clients will fall into one of the four categories listed below. Remember, these are broad categories, and people may be at different stages, even if their approximate age does not coincide with the given category. Regardless of age or stage, people who tune into their natural skills and abilities, will feel they truly own their career decisions. They will feel free to explore, not one, but several career paths that they will utilize in the future and throughout their lives.

Four Groups of Clients The Exploratory Client (ages 17-27). These are people at entry level or not far removed from it. Concerns usually involve initial learning about oneself and one's place in the world of work and how to negotiate early career decisions.

The 30's Transition Client (ages 28-39). People at this stage have already been part of the world of work, may have been involved in trial and error career starts and changes; they may have been floundering; or they may have stabilized into mastery of early to mid-level career tasks. In any case, they typically are meeting and living expectations of society and family.

The Mid-life Client (Ages 39-52). People at this stage usually have experienced a fair amount of advancement in their careers. They have consolidated their knowledge about the world of work in general and their career paths, specifically. They may be experiencing frustration or they may see themselves either in a holding pattern or stagnating in their career paths. Regardless, they no longer want to meet the expectations of society and are ready to make changes to careers more in line with their internal sense of self.

The Pre-Retirement and Retirement Client (Ages 52-75). These people are beginning to see an end to their working years. They are ready to begin thinking about disengagement from the world of work. A myriad of possibilities may seem just around the corner, or they may feel a sense of despair and dread.

Regardless of which stage you are in, the services of a career counselor can be helpful in aiding you in learning about yourself, the world of work, and your place in it.

Part 2 of this article

08/07/98

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