Career Counseling for Not-Career Counselors

Five things to know.

Posted May 08, 2018

Nick Youngson, CC 3.0
Source: Nick Youngson, CC 3.0

In the course of a counseling session, you may find yourself wanting to offer career counsel rather than refer the client to a career specialist.

If someone put a gun to my head and say, “Gimme the five things I need to know that I probably don’t already know," here’s what I’d say:

1. Forgo the tests.  The Myers-Briggs’ predictive validity is not much better than a horoscope. The Strong Interest Inventory fails because it only addresses interests—There’s a Grand Canyon of difference between what I’m interested in and can expect to get paid for. I’d love to replace Steph Curry as starting guard for the Warriors but I have a better chance of getting bitten by a rattlesnake in my bed.

2. Trust self-report.  Ask questions such as

  • Deep down, what do you think the problem is?
  • If there were no career advisors and you had to trust the wise man  (or woman of course), within you, what career should you pursue?
  • What else should I know about you or your situation for me to be as helpful to you as possible?

3. Stay practical.  Career counselors tend to believe, “Dream it and you can do it.” In reality, especially the reality that the next generation will inherit, desirable jobs—full-time, benefited, secure, in “cool” areas like the environment, media, sports, the arts— will become ever scarcer. As when high school students choosing a college, have them pick a reach career, a probable career, and a safety.

4. Use The Meter.  When you or the client is contemplating the wisdom of pursuing a particular career, ask them to rate it on a meter from 0 to 10, with zero meaning the career makes them puke and 10 means it gives them ecstasy. Then ask the more useful question: What keeps it from being a 10? That can generate a better idea.

5. Realize that people move slowly. The pool of people who seek career counsel are more likely to procrastinate, ruminate, anything but act now. That’s a difficult attribute to change. It’s usually wise to accept their pace and assign homework that’s an easy, pleasant, baby step or two.