Where 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
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
* 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.