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Employment Counselor  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotWhere are the jobs? What skills do I need to succeed? How do I advance in my field once I have a career? These are the kinds of questions that employment counselors help answer.

Employment counselors work in a number of different areas. Some provide guidance to those looking for work or looking to change careers. They may identify employment trends or provide job hunting and interview skills training to clients.

Other employment counselors or consultants work for businesses, matching the business's needs with job hunters.

Employment counselors go by many names. A few examples include career coach, career consultant, career advisor, employment specialist, career choice consultant, career counselor and career practitioner.

The majority of professionals in private practice call themselves "career coaches" or "career consultants," says Anthony Spadafore. He's a career choice consultant in Alexandria, Virginia. The term "employment counselor" is typically used in unemployment offices, while the term "career counselor" is used mostly in the context of high schools.

"Employment [and] career counselors do not make the decisions for the people," says Karen Girard. She's a high school career advisor, as well as an independent career consultant and coach. "They need to be able to help people conduct self-assessments, and ask the questions to help people think more deeply about their values, skills and traits -- what is important to them."

Girard says the following personal qualities are important for employment counselors:

* A desire to help people without being attached to the outcome

* Respectful of people

* Patient and able to listen

* A visionary, able to see the bigger picture, think outside the box and help put pieces together

* Motivational and inspiring

* Tactful and able to explain and plan out details

* Comfortable working one on one and facilitating larger groups

* Outgoing and confident

* A networker, able to build working alliances

Whatever the workplace or job title, some of the best job opportunities today are in the field of helping other people find work. Employment counselors can find work with the government, educational institutions, associations and big business.

Many have their own consulting firms. They do contract work with government, business and private individuals.

"A career practitioner is like a coach," says Carolyn Campbell. She provides career guidance at several high schools. "We help set a game plan, we teach skills of self assessment, exploration, evaluation and planning, while building a teen's knowledge of themselves and their self-esteem. Each teen is unique and has particular fears, needs and concerns."

Demand for employment counselors' services is growing as people require more specialized insight into a changing labor market. People from a wide variety of backgrounds -- counselors, teachers, economists and marketing agents -- have found new careers as employment counselors.

Employment counselors working for government or educational institutions tend to work a traditional 9-to-5 day. But they also attend a lot of workshops and seminars to keep their career counseling skills sharp.

Those working on a contract or consulting basis take work when it is available, including weekends and evenings.

"People who excel at career consulting, especially in private practice, have the mind of a behavioral scientist. They are naturally insightful and highly curious about what makes people tick," says Spadafore.

"They often have heightened empathy, where they can read people's feelings instantly," says Spadafore. "It's also important to be a problem solver by nature, with strengths in analytical and diagnostic reasoning."

Like employment counselors, career center specialists help job seekers figure out what careers they're interested in and coach them on their job search. They work in career centers, providing labor market information as well as tips on workforce preparation and training. They can also administer aptitude and skills tests.

It takes good listening skills to do the job, and a deep commitment to help others with their problems.

At a Glance

Help others meet their career aspirations

  • Work with the government, schools, associations or businesses
  • Many schools offer degree or certificate programs in career development or counseling
  • Excellent listening skills and a commitment to help others are essential traits