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4 things to ask your career counselor

A career counselor can be a powerful tool in helping you assess your current situation, explore options, and ultimately achieve your educational and professional goals. Career counselors are ready to assist you, but you are in the driver's seat. Here are four things to ask your career counselor before you begin working together:

1) What kind of job can I do with my education, experience, and expertise? Your career counselor will have extensive knowledge of the world of work and can connect you with reliable resources of information to clue you into valuable salary information, educational requirements, daily tasks, and expected job growth for various industries. By reviewing this information with your career counselor, you'll create a map for your next steps.

2) What kind of training do you have? A certification such as Certified Career Counselor (CCC) demonstrates your career counselor's commitment to professional, ethical practice, shows that your counselor has met educational and experiential requirements, and has been supervised in their work as a career counselor. Your career counselor should also participate in continued training through an organization such as the National Career Development Association or American Counseling Association.

3) Tell me about your counseling approach and previous results. Beyond professional training and certification, you may want to ask your counselor if they have experience with other individuals who have shared your concerns. For example, you might ask "Have you worked with other stay-at-home parents transitioning back to work? What did that look like?" Your career counselor will have a general framework they use to help address career concerns; they should share this with you so you are comfortable with the "roadmap" for your work together. My typical process includes gathering background information, assessing interests, personality traits, and values, expanding then narrowing down options based upon fit, creating an action plan, and executing next steps with feedback.

Career counseling is a highly individualized process, you may see results in one session, or you may find that multiple sessions are needed to untangle a tricky issue. There is no "one size fits all" approach to career counseling. Ask your career counselor what type of results you can generally expect, and in what timeframe, based on your initial concerns.

4) How will I know we are making progress together? At times in the career counseling process, you may feel confused, overwhelmed by all your options, and unsure of your next steps. This is typical: career decisions are some of the biggest decisions we will make in our lives. You'll know you are making progress with your career counselor if you feel that your concerns are understood, you are receiving valuable feedback and suggestions of options and careers to consider, and each session feels productive and useful to you. You'll also know your are making progress if your career counselor assigns you homework outside of session to get you to your goals more quickly!

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