If you’re putting your life and education into the hands of a career counselor, you should make sure they are capable of pointing you in the right direction. Here are some tips on how to choose the right one:
Do your research
Ask your friends and family for the names of career counselors they’ve worked with or heard good things about; sometimes word-of-mouth is the best way to find the perfect counselor. Make sure you understand the services that will be provided, your degree of involvement in the process and the financial commitment involved.
If you’re already in university, first use the many free programs available at your campus career and counseling centre before seeking help from a private counselor. If you aren’t happy with the outcome, get a second opinion. A list of nationally certified counselors is available on the Canadian Counseling Association’s website.
Qualifications and experience
Ideally, your new career counselor will have a Master’s degree in counseling, psychology or another closely related field, with at least 2,000 hours of supervised counseling experience. Your counselor should be certified to administer and interpret the results of both the Meyers-Briggs test and the Strong Interest Inventory test. You should also ask if he or she is provincially and nationally certified.
Ask career counselors for a detailed explanation of their services, fees and the time commitment that will be expected of you. Be very wary of private services that promise more money, better jobs, resumes that get speedy results or an immediate solution to your career problems. Confirm that you can end the counseling at any time and only pay for the sessions you attend.
Ask about the counselor’s familiarity with specific fields of employment. If you think you want to go into marketing, a counselor who focuses primarily on engineering programs may not be of much help. Good career counseling is an art, not a science, and the life experience, empathy and communication skills of your counselor will prove to be invaluable.
Don’t be shy
It’s never too late to start career counseling. Even if you’re in your last year of university or post-graduate degree, career counselors can help you assess which programs will help you reach your career goals and also facilitate your job hunt after graduation. Because career counselors are also trained as general counselors, they are qualified and equipped to help you with other problems that may affect your education and career, including family troubles, personal issues or learning disabilities.