September 4, 2013
What career professionals can do for you
Several friends have contacted me recently about potential career changes. One has worked as a technical writer her entire career; she's feeling burned out, but isn't sure whether it's because of her current company or if she is ready for a career change.
Another is a stay-at-home mom looking to enter the workforce for the first time since college. She has been developing a variety of skills, but has no idea how to go about deciding on a career path.
As a recruiter, I get a wide variety of people contacting me who want help with their resumes, careers and networking skills. I usually refer them to professionals who can help them with their job searches. Several weeks ago, I clarified some of these roles; today, I'd like to focus on career counselors and coaches.
Career counselors, similar to therapists, can help with the emotional strain and turmoil associated with an unhappy career, such as anxiety and depression. They often have advanced degrees in fields such as psychology or organizational development. Career coaches typically function more as mentors and guides in self-discovery as it relates to career satisfaction.
There is a lot of confusion about what career counselors and coaches do, as well as how to engage with them. The first thing to understand is what they are not: They are not recruiters, they are not headhunters and they are not going to find you a job.
Some offer career-management options such as resume writing, interview practice or help with networking and professional branding. Their role is to help you identify and overcome your hurdles to achieving satisfaction in your current role, or to define your skills and interests to help you find or switch careers or industries.
The National Career Development Association has some great information and a search directory. The International Coach Federation, probably the most-respected association for career coaches, offers information and referrals.
Counselors will spend a significant amount of time getting to know you in terms of your interests, motivators and passions, and what is important to you (i.e., factors such as money, stability, social impact, work environment, industries, risk aversion and interest in continuing education, to name a few). They may use tools such as psychology tests or vocational assessments to help identify your strengths and interests.
After you have ascertained what you really want to do, a counselor will help you design a tailored roadmap to help you achieve those goals. It may be as simple as deciding to pursue a new degree or certification, or as complex as a several-year plan to transition out of your current career and start a business.
The best way to find a career counselor or coach is through referrals from friends, family members, colleagues and professionals (especially those in the HR field). Make sure you have a good rapport, and give yourself as much time as you need to work on your options.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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