How to Get Help From a Career Counselor

How to Choose a Career Guidance Professional

two businessmen having discussion

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Throughout our careers, we encounter many situations when we could benefit from unbiased advice. We may be in the process of choosing a career, deciding whether or not we should change careers or jobs, re-entering the workforce, job hunting, or recovering from a job loss. We come to the realization that this is an overwhelming process and we want and need some help.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Career counselor, career development facilitator, career coach, job coach, and vocational counselor are just a few of the names you might come across as you look for someone to help you with your career. It can get very confusing if you aren't an informed consumer.

Let's begin by saying there are some unscrupulous individuals out there who are misrepresenting themselves. You may see advertisements from those who guarantee you a higher paying job, a more fulfilling career, and ultimately a better life. In reality, no one can guarantee you any of those things.

A good career development professional can help you explore career options, can inform you of labor market trends, and can assess your skills, interests, and work-related values. A career development professional can help you sharpen your job search skills, and can help you learn how to move up the corporate ladder.

While credentials are not the only thing you should look at, they are a good starting point when you are choosing someone to advise you about your career. Just as you would never consider seeing a doctor who does not have a medical degree, you should never pay someone for career advice unless they have professional credentials.

Once you have determined that the person from whom you are seeking advice has the proper credentials, you must then find out if they are "right" for you. Is this individual knowledgeable about your particular field, and do you feel comfortable talking to them?

Is this person promising only what they can deliver? A career development professional can't guarantee you success. No one can. A brief interview with the career development professional is well worth your time and should be worth theirs.

Career Counselors

Many career counselors are members of the National Career Development Association. The NCDA offers special membership categories to recognize those who have reached certain professional levels of achievement. Master Career Counselors, for example, hold master's degrees in counseling or related fields. NCDA members are listed on that organization's Web site. Career counselors may have local licenses from state boards of licensure.

Career Development Facilitators

There are many people who provide career guidance but are not professional career counselors. This fact was recognized by several professional groups who banded together to develop the Global Career Development Facilitator (or GCDF) credential, which provides standards, training specifications and credentialing for those who provide these services.