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Career Counseling

If you're thinking about which career path is the best road for you, seeking the advice of a career counselor may help you narrow down your options -- or even point you in a good starting direction. Counselors can help you determine which college major is a good choice for a career that you are likely to find rewarding, or help you switch gears to pursue a new career after you've been working for awhile.
 

What to Expect From Career Counseling

Depending on the background and philosophy of the counselor you choose as well as your own goals, the process a career counselor guides you through will vary in terms of length of counseling, assessments, and other tools. Most counselors will conduct one or more assessments to help determine aspects of your personality and to get a sense of your interests and current skills, as well as your aptitude for new skills. Popular assessments include the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
 

A career counselor will help put all relevant factors relating to your personality and life goals and priorities in perspective with potential career paths. These will include your current experience, education level, how much you want to earn, your hobbies and interests, geographic locations you find desirable, and the job market in those locations. In addition to providing advice about compatible careers, many counselors will also offer information about how to get you on the path to those careers, as well as help conduct job searches and offer resources for helping you prepare your resume or portfolio to increase your employability.

 

Benefits of Career Counseling

Both students and career changers can gain many benefits from career counseling, including:

  • Higher sense of self-awareness and goals, specifically related to career issues and personal growth
  • Increased personal information base about occupations and education as needed for career growth
  • Improved decision-making and career-planning abilities
  • Better goal-setting and goal-clarifying skills
  • Ability to explore lifestyle issues that have an impact on career choice
  • Flexible capacity to generate career options and revise them as needed
  • Improve resume writing and portfolio building skills
  • Improve interview skills through mock interviews and practice questions
  • Develop coping strategies for managing stress that comes from job searches and career changes

 

Where to Find a Qualified Career Counselor

Career counselors come in many different forms and have different qualifications, licenses, and accreditations, so it's important to ask for the specific qualifications, licenses, degrees, certifications, and experience of any counselor you may be considering. Career counseling professionals include career counselors, career advisors, consultants, career development facilitators, and other titles. The National Career Development Association (a part of the American Counseling Association) offers a free counselor search tool that will help you find a qualified member counselor in your state. Other non-member counselors may also be well-qualified -- just be sure to ask for their references and qualification information mentioned above to make sure they offer the services and have the experience that will be most beneficial to you.

 

Free Career Counseling Resources

In addition to private career counseling resources, depending on your situation you may be able to find basic career counseling resources for minimal fees or for free.

  • High school students can seek career counseling advice from their guidance counselor free of charge. In some high schools, specific counselors are designated for career counseling. See your school's administrative offices for details.
  • College students can also get free career counseling from their college or university Office of Student Affairs, Student Services Organization, or other administrative office. If you are not sure which office provides this service at your college or university, see a representative in the admissions office for details.
  • If you are a veteran or enlisted officer of a branch of the U.S. military, you may be entitled to free career counseling services. 
  • American Corporate Partners offers free career mentoring services for U.S. veterans by business professionals. Visit http://www.acp-usa.org/ for information.
  • Return To Work is a free program that offers Americans with disabilities, including those returning from military service with injuries, services related to finding employment and re-entering the workforce. Visit http://www.rtwknowledge.org/ for information.
  • Swords to Plowshares is a non-profit organization that provides free career counseling and other services to veterans in the San Francisco Bay area. Visit http://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/ for information.
  • Texas Center Point’s Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS) project offers Persian Gulf War veterans and their family members comprehensive vocational and job-training services and other critical needs for helping these veterans return to work. Visit http://www.cpinc.org/VeteranServices.php for information.
  • The USO is a non-profit, non-political organization that offers career support to wounded soldiers and their families. Visit http://www.uso.org/ for information.
  • If you are unemployed and collecting unemployment benefits, your state unemployment agency may provide some career counseling services free of charge. Ask a representative in your state unemployment agency for details.

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