What Is Career Counseling? And How to Know When You Need It
Career counseling is a service that helps people begin, change, or advance their careers. It can include one-on-one conversations between a counselor and a career seeker, as well as assessments, activities, and projects designed to help career seekers make the most of their strengths.
A career counselor is similar to a career coach in that professionals in both roles can help you navigate your career path and understand your career goals. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, professionals may identify themselves as one or the other and describe their services in very specific ways.
You may find that career counselors have degrees in psychology, counseling, or human development, while career coaches may have coaching certifications or education in specific fields that they coach people to enter. Another difference you may come across is in the nature of the career support, with counselors helping you with career exploration and coaches helping you with specific career-related steps.
4 signs that career counseling is right for you
There are many factors to consider before hiring a career counselor, including the cost of counseling, what the experience is like, and the outcomes you can expect.
The following signs may mean that getting a career counselor is a viable next step for you:
1. You are about to take a career leap.
Entering a new phase in your career can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. For example:
Choosing a major can mean enjoying the coursework and learning about subjects you find interesting, but what careers will a given major lead to?
Graduating from college or university could qualify you for a number of careers, but what if you want to pursue a career that is unrelated to your degree?
Changing careers entirely could provide you with improved work-life balance, better pay, and fulfillment, but what new skills will a new career require?
Launching a business could mean working on your own terms, but what financial risks will you be taking on?
If you’re about to take a similar leap, you might be a good candidate for a career counseling program, as working with a counselor can boost your confidence when making decisions.
2. You are reflecting on your passions and purpose.
Do you find yourself thinking about what you’re really passionate about and what you want to achieve in life? Do you wonder what careers would enable you to explore your passions? If so, you may benefit from working with a career counselor to learn more about the following:
How to turn a creative pursuit into a career
How to improve work-life balance
How to explore your passion in any professional role
How to make career decisions based on your values, belief systems, and life philosophy
3. You want a more focused mentoring experience.
There are many ways to get career support, including:
Taking group classes alongside other career seekers
Reading books on professional development
Hiring a mentor in another discipline, such as a life coach or emotional intelligence coach
Mastering technical skills and acquiring experience pertaining to a specific career
Conducting informational interviews with people who work in the industry or career field you want to enter
As you glean wisdom from these sources, you may find yourself wanting to have more in-depth conversations about your career and pointed guidance as to what actions to take. If that’s the case, it may be time to find a career counselor.
4. You are making space in your life for counseling.
Depending on the counselor you find, going through a career counseling program will likely involve an investment of time, energy, and resources. If you’re making space in your life for counseling, you may be ready to take this step.
Take some time to evaluate the following:
Your growth mindset: Are you teachable, open to feedback, and welcoming of fresh perspectives?
Your budget: Are you freeing up resources to invest in your career growth?
Your schedule: Are you freeing up time to invest in the work of developing your career?